AAL is a No Brainer

By Middlebury Campus

If someone asked you if all six inhabited continents should be equally represented in our distribution requirements, what would you say? There is not much our editorial board agrees on, but on this point we agree. We would maybe distinguish North America, as it is the continent on which we reside, but as for the other five, it seems like a no brainer. This is what students Daniela Barajas ’14.5, Adriana Ortiz-Brunham ’17, David Ollin Pesqueira ’17 and Jiya Pandya ’17 have been pushing through as Midd Included — a reform that would change the AAL credit, one of the four “Culture and Civilizations” requirements, which stands for “Asia, Africa and Latin America,” in a way that would not prioritize Europe over other world cultures. The bill would still require one class on North America, one comparative credit and then two credits from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Oceania or Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, the initiative has 673 votes on We The Middkids and has been widely accepted by the SGA. Now, it will go to the education affairs committee to become a bill. It will likely be voted on by the faculty early next fall.

If, as our handbook says, our students are truly to “have a broad educational exposure to the variety of the world’s cultures and civilizations,” we must allow for that in our graduation requirements. As a school that prides itself in teaching students to “understand and appreciate difference, commonality and connectedness across cultures and societies around the world,” we should not be privileging European culture over all others. Middlebury needs to move beyond decades of traditional thought and move into the modern world, as we have by expanding our international student population and our number of schools abroad.

As we saw with the internships for credit bill a few weeks ago, these curricular initiatives take tremendous time and push, and the ultimate power to change lies in the hands of the faculty. Internships for credit failed due to a lack of student and faculty commitment. We cannot let that happen again with the changing of the AAL requirement. This is an issue that most people know about on campus, and it is all of our second chance to show that Middlebury students and faculty can effect change around issues we care about at our school.

Credit for internships did not pass because people did not care enough to make sure that it did, or else because everyone was so sure it would pass that no one took the responsibility to see it through. Most of the faculty assumed that the initiative would pass, to the point where most people who showed up were the ones strongly opposed to it. The fact that very few people knew what was happening was a failure itself, and the reason it did not pass. Now, immediately after that failure, we must learn from our mistakes. We need to continue putting pressure on the administration to pass the AAL initiative and on faculty to vote for it.

Some people may argue that at a certain point it is out of our hands, but that kind of thinking is nothing but a lack of motivation. When the students have done all we can to push through the bill, we can start talking to our professors. We see them every day. We are a part of their daily lives, so engaging them in discussion and constantly reminding them that we care about this is the best way to make them care about it too. If they hear enough from us, and if enough of us tell them to vote, perhaps we can make sure there is a higher turnout for this initiative than on the last one.

Popular bills such as this one have the potential to lose momentum over the summer. We at the Campus intend to do our part to make sure that does not happen. We will continue to cover the bill as it progresses through the Middlebury bureaucracy, and we will write about it again in the fall when it needs renewed support. We encourage the rest of the student body also to step up to pass the things we believe in. This is our school, and if we want to get the most out of it, we first have to invest in it ourselves.


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