A Chance to Work Together


Last Friday, the SGA announced the creation of a new program called Middworks. “Middworks,” an email sent to all students explained, “is a new program created […] to share information and experiences and to build a greater common understanding among students, faculty and staff.” In short, the program aims to foster better relationships among students and staff at the college. As the email attested, “this process starts not only with sharing our worldviews, but also with sharing our different lived experiences at Middlebury College.”

In addition to outlining the new program, the email called for students to sign up for Work Alongside One Another. This, the first Middworks-sponsored event, offers students the opportunity to work shifts with Dining and Facilities services staff on April 16 and 19. Held in concert with Staff Appreciation Day (April 30), the event provides students with the opportunity to “learn more about the challenges and rewards experienced by the staff who help the campus function day-to-day.”

Those who sign up for shifts on April 16 will join President Patton and the facilities staff to learn about the work done by facilities workers to maintain campus cleanliness and safety. On April 19, the opportunity likewise exists for students to work with treasurer David Provost and the dining staff to learn about the challenges of preparing meals for over 2,500 students. After shifts, participants are invited to share a meal and discuss community interests, issues and experiences which arise. This is a great idea, and the SGA and administration deserve credit for putting it together.

This paper’s March 22 editorial “Our Staff Deserve Better” called for students and administration to increase efforts at recognizing the value of our facilities and dining staff. In light of widespread mess and vandalism in dorms, dining halls and other locations, we asked that students be more thoughtful about their treatment of the college environment, particularly spaces whose cleanliness forms the supposed responsibility of wage-earning staff.

For years, the staff members in question have shouldered preventable messes in dining halls and dorms. This reflects poorly on the student body as a whole. Simply put, we can do better. In recognition that true improvement necessitates collective effort by students and the administration, the same editorial called for improvements in staff wages. Just as students can do their part, so too can the administration. Only then can we demonstrate to Middlebury’s wage-earning staff that they are more valuable to our school than current conditions suggest.

We believe that both Middworks and Work Alongside One Another constitute the first step in such a project. As was pointed out in the March 22 editorial, inconsideracy and carelessness on the part of students formed the core of the problem. As such, students themselves must take the initiative in order to reverse these trends. Work Alongside One Another provides students an opportunity to appreciate firsthand the work that wage-earning staff perform.

Listening as staff explain the intricacies, difficulties and joys of their job cannot be anything but rewarding for both parties involved. It allows the worker to convey the challenges involved in the tasks they perform, so that students might better understand the ramifications of their actions. If enough students attend, a tangible difference might be made in the system of student-staff relations on campus.

Although there are many more steps that our administration can and should take to better convey the value of our dining and facilities services staff, the most obvious being wage increases, the fact that Patton and Provost have chosen to dedicate their time to this program deserves recognition. We hope that their decision to participate is an indicator that more substantive action will come soon.

And so we call upon students to sign up for Work Alongside One Another. Put simply, it is the least we can do. Workers in facilities and dining services take pride in their jobs and are often eager to share their experiences, and the Work Alongside One Another presents us a valuable opportunity to listen.

Students can sign up through the survey in the email sent out by the SGA on April 6.