Our Community in Context

By KYLE WRIGHT

Last spring, I was elected by the student body to co-chair Community Council. This is sometimes surprising to me given how few students know what Community Council is. I can’t help but also notice that Community Council is sometimes nebulous for faculty and staff. In this column, I will share and reflect on conversations and questions that arise weekly in Community Council. I welcome you to work through them with me and my partners from Community Council.

I want to begin this week’s column by explaining what Community Council is. Community Council is “a forum in which all segments of the college community have a voice on nonacademic issues on campus.” We are a diverse group of students, faculty and staff. We meet weekly on Mondays at 4:30 in Axinn 104. We deliberate over current issues. We recommend action to members of the administration. We are committed to having conversations that include all segments of our community and propose specific, well-considered and actionable solutions. We are uniquely effective in our ability to bring together the many experiences that constitute Middlebury and pursue positive, community-based change.

Our forum is underutilized by community members who are seeking to air grievances and propose solutions to issues they have experienced. Part of this, I’m sure, is due to bad advertising and a general lack of common knowledge surrounding governance at Middlebury. At this time in particular, I find it important to encourage a greater awareness of forums like Community Council.

Middlebury, at present, faces both a crisis of identity and a crisis of connection. Neither are mutually exclusive. Our lack of capacity to create what associate dean of students Doug Adams calls “effective vehicles” for people to express their needs facilitates our crisis of connection with one another. This, in turn, facilitates our crisis of identity which is further stoked by a refusal to acknowledge our institutional history of overt exclusion.

We need better conversational spaces to reflect on that history, to understand it and apologize for it. We also need to reconcile our current culture of exclusion and division. This part must be a conversation. It must be conversation that acknowledges power and privilege. It must be a conversation that acknowledges who is unable to participate. It must be a conversation that is founded on a willingness to understand, not an eagerness to retort.

I enthusiastically encourage you to work towards those conversations with us, in person or otherwise, and to participate in coalition wherever it may occur, be it in your teams, clubs, dinners with friends, or meetings with colleagues. You can contact us at ccouncil@middlebury.edu. We eagerly await your participation.

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Our Community in Context