What is Panther Pride?


Graphic by Millie Von Platen.

Last Saturday, the college hosted its first-ever Panther Day. The main event of the day was the parade, which started at the Kirk Alumni Center and ended at the Mahaney Center for the Arts. After the parade, students could attend the second annual Harvest Festival, the opening of the Continuity of Change exhibit and the Harsh Armadillo concert. 

During these events, some of which were better attended than others, we found ourselves wondering: what does it mean to have “Panther pride?” 

Perhaps, showing Panther pride means waving a banner supporting your cultural organization or commons at a school parade. Or, maybe Panther pride means attending a football game and cheering for Middlebury. 

But maybe Panther pride also means actively working to better the college community by critiquing the institution and protesting when it’s necessary. 

Self-reflection and criticism was a structured part of the Continuity of Change exhibit at the Kirk Alumni Center, but the exhibition opening was not as well-attended as we had hoped. With a full class schedule and midterms to contend with, the time crunch meant that students were forced to choose which events to attend and which to skip. But students found other ways to make their voices heard. 

Student protesters stood peacefully by the Mahaney Center for the Arts during the parade, some holding signs, some standing with their mouths taped and some offering informational sheets to those that wanted them. 

They were protesting Middlebury’s treatment of sexual assault survivors. The protesters were not necessarily there because they hate Middlebury; rather, they were demonstrating through protest that they care about this community and want to make it better by standing in solidarity with survivors of  sexual assault. 

Protests can generate pride among alumni as well. Several alumni who were visiting Middlebury for Panther Day and Homecoming Weekend thanked protesters for raising awareness about issues surrounding sexual assault they felt were not properly addressed during their time on campus. 

Similarly, after publishing articles about student protests and efforts challenging the college to do better, The Campus will often receieve comments and letters from alumni expressing support. 

This Panther Day showed that Middlebury is not entirely unwilling to face its history, but the focal point of the day remained an enthusiastic attempt at a parade that overshadowed the day’s opportunities for self-reflection. We are not arguing for the dismissal of the parade. We recognize that parades can be fun, unifying and empowering events. 

Instead, we ask the college to consider other ways it can encourage manifestations of school pride. The juxtaposition between the parade and the protesters showed that pride manifests in different ways and that all forms can be impactful across the broader Middlebury community.

For example, last May several Middlebury students organized the first “Nocturne: A Middlebury Arts Festival,” in which students displayed their artwork to the public from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. throughout campus, from the Gamut Room to The Knoll. 

The festival was a success: many students stayed out late to see their friends’ work, and the campus buzzed with discussion about the striking exhibitions for days to follow. 

Nocturne constitutes another example of an event that encourages its own breed of Panther pride. During Nocturne, students rallied together to organize an event centered around supporting peers’ creative ambitions. We think it is important for the college to consider how it might support these student-led pride events. 

Being proud of this institution requires continuous reflection and critique of its past and present in order to facilitate a better future. We are grateful that the college is attempting to unify the student body by fostering Panther pride. We simply ask that as we continue to find ways to celebrate that pride, students and the college administration alike practice an awareness of the various spheres of campus life that inspire it, and the many different forms it can take.