Making Mountains Out of Knoll-Hills

In response to the Editorial Staff’s ‘Wanted: Student Spaces’ from October 18th: We agree that there are fewer spaces on campus now with converted lounges and changes to the Crest Room. We take issue, however, with the use of the Knoll as the “best example” of this trend.

The Campus claims that the Knoll was rebranded without student input and without reason.  The stated result was that the Knoll somehow became less accessible through the name change. The article further reported that students and garden staff were surprised by the new name. This is wholly untrue.

Sophie Esser-Calvi ‘03.5, Director of Global Food and Farm Programs at Middlebury, says that her and Jay Leshinsky, the lead gardening instructor since its founding, “have been discussing the renaming of the farm for years with students, especially the interns and student leaders of MCOF.”  Last year, they hosted an open brainstorming session to discuss the name change with students. They decided on the Knoll because “students felt that it was the most inclusive name that goes beyond students only interested in gardening.”

The name change was necessary and long overdue. Fifteen years ago, before the first garden was planted there, the student founders of the farm first called the site the Kestral Knoll. Next it was the Organic Garden, until students changed the name to the Organic Farm. Because the Garden/Farm has always been experimental, students have used not only organic growing techniques, but also permaculture, biodynamic and regenerative methods. This made the “organic” label not only inaccurate, but reductive. Student-led initiatives on the site, aside from tending the crops, have included the construction of a classroom and an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven.

Not to mention, The Knoll is a literal name; the garden sits atop a “small round hill,” which is the actual dictionary definition of a knoll.  Leshinsky added that the Knoll is “clearly descriptive of all that goes on there.”

Esser-Calvi is far from a bureaucratic, commercializing administrator. She is a member of the original team of students who spearheaded this project during her time as a student. Her current job exists because of an ongoing student initiative to create new community spaces that provide academic and social benefit.  When we commemorate the Knoll, we are commemorating the College’s support of student-led spaces and initiatives, not the opposite.

When we reached out to Esser-Calvi and Leshinsky for this letter, we heard back within 45 minutes. If the Campus had asked these staff members or any number of students involved with The Knoll, they would know that the rebranding was a move towards a more accessible, open student space on campus.

Let’s address the serious problems in our community before we look for them where they don’t exist.

The Campus editorial board gratefully endorses the clarifications made in this article. We regret the corresponding error.

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