An Open Letter to the Faculty

By Guest Contributor

To the Faculty, 

We write to you as the student leaders of the group MiddIncluded. We are spearheading the campaign to change Middlebury’s current cultures and civilizations requirements. This letter is an effort to clarify what our campaign stands for, to explain why these changes are necessary and to ask for your support. 

We are not the first to find the cultures and civilizations requirements problematic. In 2007, the category “Other” was officially changed to “AAL.” While this is a step forward, it is not the end of the journey to create a more egalitarian and rigorous curriculum. We consider our proposal another necessary step towards making Middlebury what it should be, what it claims to be and what we want it to be: an institution that provides a thorough education for global citizens who come from many walks of life and will become world-class leaders.

Under the current requirements, every student must take one class in Comparative (CMP), North America (NOR — excluding Mexico), one class in Europe (EUR) and one class in the rest of the world: Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean (AAL). We suggest that instead students should be required to take one class in CMP, one class in NOR (including Mexico) and a choice of two classes from any two of the following regions:  Africa (AFR), Asia (ASI), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the Middle East (MDE), Europe (EUR), or Oceania (OCE). In our proposal, Europe becomes an option rather than a requirement, North America expands to include Mexico and AAL is divided. While these eight categories cannot fully capture the complexity of our world, we think it is a legitimate, attainable and positive adjustment.

Middlebury’s mission statement says that the college will “strive to engage students’ capacity for rigorous analysis and independent thought within a wide range of disciplines and endeavors, and to cultivate the intellectual, creative, physical, ethical, and social qualities essential for leadership in a rapidly changing global community.” The college’s handbook says that “students should have a broad educational exposure to the variety of the world’s cultures and civilizations.” However, the current cultures and civilizations requirements do not reflect these goals and values. If Middlebury as an institution aspires to produce conscientious global citizens after their four years here, it must reconsider the structural shortcomings of its curriculum. Reforming the cultures and civilizations requirements will better prepare students to explore avenues across cultures and will add an element of academic rigor yielding graduates who are both more competitive in a global setting, and are more aware of the nuances of that setting.

A reform in the cultures and civilizations requirements will affect more than students’ academic lives on campus. Middlebury is making increasing (and appreciated) efforts to diversify. This reform is a logical addition to the initiatives that Middlebury has taken thus far. Students and faculty need to see themselves and their cultures valued in their curriculum. A community which sees itself — all of itself — represented in the curriculum is an engaged and empowered group. The current requirements prioritize Europe, the United States, and Canada, while delegating the rest of the world to a simple three letters. Together, we can implement a reform, which challenges Middlebury students and faculty to think in more complex, interconnected ways and enables Middlebury to become a more complete community.

We ask you to think about this issue in depth, to talk to your colleagues, administrators and students about it, and to reflect on these conversations. We need your help to make Middlebury the institution it claims to be. You have the power to help us bring this to fruition. Middlebury has seen change in the right direction before, and with your support, we can make it happen again.

Thank you for your time,

Adriana Ortiz-Burnham ’17, Daniela Barajas ’14.5, David Ollin Pesqueira ’17, and Jiya Pandya ’17.

To learn more visit go/aal, or feel free to reach out to any of the four of us with any questions or concerns. Students, please keep an eye out for information about how you can get involved, beginning this weekend.