The Middlebury Campus

Letter to the Editor

By LAURIE PATTON

Re: A New Presidential Tradition Is Needed,” Jan. 18.

I was delighted to read The Campus’ editorial calling for a new presidential tradition of an annual address to students. It is exactly the spirit of constructive, solutions-oriented engagement that will help us move forward. I also greatly appreciate the acknowledgment of the bind that frequently happens on campuses such as ours: if administrators reach out, they’re co-opting, and if they don’t, they’re unresponsive.

Opportunities for conversation are part of expanding and growing the public sphere, and we should make more of them. The president speaks at the faculty gathering at Bread Loaf at the beginning of the school year, and I have added a mid-year conversation with faculty that we conducted just this past Friday. In February, I’m also beginning a new tradition of holding an annual conversation with all staff. On our campus there are many small scale opportunities for students to engage: in any given week I am meeting with SGA representatives and other student groups, holding open office hours, hosting lunches for students in the dining hall or at 3 South, running workshops, or teaching classes. But The Campus is right that, apart from Convocation, Baccalaureate, and Commencement, there is no large-scale occasion to converse with students.

In the next few weeks I will reach to students who would like to engage in a discussion about how this might work. If you would like to join that conversation, please email my office at president@middlebury.edu. I have some ideas about format and approach, but I’d like to hear yours first.

I thank The Campus again for a constructive and forward looking suggestion.

Laurie Patton is the president of Middlebury College.

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