The Middlebury Campus

Old Chapel Provides Update on ‘Common Agenda’

By BEN DOHAN

The president’s office shared with students a list of committees and advisory groups formed under its “Common Agenda” with the Student Government Association. The document also included future plans for the semester.

In an all-campus email on Feb. 23, President Laurie L. Patton and SGA President Jin Sohn ’18 lauded the actions completed under the agenda, including assigning administrators as liaisons for several issue-specific committees and working together with the SGA.

The SGA and the SLG created the Common Agenda this past fall as a joint effort to improve various aspects of the college. The SGA announced its formation in an email sent to students on Oct. 17.

“This is in the hopes that the SGA and members of the administration will have a more routine check-in, less of a call and response form of communication, so that students and the SGA can have a better understanding of what members of administration are working on, and so that the administration will know what the students need and what the SGA is working towards,” the email read.

The Feb. 23 email included an attachment outlining nine Common Agenda “action items,” the status of each, and the SLG and SGA “leads” for each item.

The first action item involves dining. A 17-member student advisory committee met with head of dining Dan Detora every month and will continue to throughout the spring. David Provost and Jack Goldfield ’20 will continue to lead this initiative.

The next item, “Transparency and Communication,” is led by dean of students Baishakhi Taylor and Varsha Vijayakumar ’20.  There are five student groups that work with SLG members to promote collaboration between administrators and students regarding college policy on issues like diversity and investment. Taylor currently meets with two student advisory groups. Chief diversity officer Miguel Fernández and dean of faculty Andi Lloyd each work with their own student advisory groups. Treasurer David Provost advises two student investment clubs.

Future steps on this action item will include the formation of a student advisory group to Bill Burger, the college’s spokesman, additional student representative appointments to the alumni board and annual fund committees, and greater student engagement with the board of overseers.

To address the next item, “Talking, Listening and Better Admin Access,” SLG members have hosted dinners for students at their homes and have met students for lunch in the dining halls. Both practices will continue in the spring semester.

Two other items involve McCullough improvements and “Public Spaces & Art.” Both the McCullough team and the public art team cited the approval of a new mural on the first floor of McCullough as an accomplishment. “Public Spaces and Art” is led by Patton’s special assistant Dave Donahue and Violet Low-Beinart ’19. Low-Beinart will work with director of the arts Pieter Broucke this spring.

Provost, John Schurer ’21 and Diego Garcia ’20 led the “McCullough Improvements” project, which spearheaded the redesign of the Crest Room as a student and faculty lounge. Provost has maintained regular communication with the SGA in order to further improve the building as a social space for students and will continue to do so in the spring.

The “New Traditions” action item has involved the announcement of a new college traditions competition. This item is led by Patton for the SLG, with Rae Aaron ’19.5 and Adiza Mohammed ’18 leading for the SGA. Since going live Feb. 19, the competition has already received 12 proposals. The winner will be announced on April 25.

The “Summer Communications” item is led by Burger, Taylor, general counsel Hannah Ross and Laura Castillo ’19. The team decided to send updates to the college in both late June and early August detailing the SLG’s activities during the summer.

“We the Midd Kids,” the eighth action item, was a system used by students to petition the Middlebury SGA. The team, led by Annie Cowan ’18, with the SLG lead to be determined, hopes to revive this program in the future with support from the SLG.

Lastly, Provost and Ishrak Alam ’18 are spearheading efforts on “Midd Works,” which aims to increase students’ understanding of administrative and facilities functions, finances, alumni engagement and non-profit governance. Strategies to accomplish these aims included talks for the student body in the fall and winter. Ross, Donahue, Provost, vice president for advancement Colleen Fitzpatrick and philanthropic advisor Mike Schoenfeld will participate in “Midd Works” presentations this spring. Provost will also try to arrange for SGA and SLG members to take shifts in dining and facilities, and for SGA members to shadow administrators.

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