Learning to Take No for An Answer

By Guest Contributor

Dear my fellow students: I encourage you to lay down your passions, lay down the issues you care about and learn to take no for an answer. I have seen all this “so-called activism” around campus, and yet it is clear that the administration is unwilling to change — accept it. The administration has not responded to your demands in public, and behind closed doors with Investure they say they will never divest. Isn’t that clear enough? It is clear that all you need to do is get over your ego-driven selves and accept that these issues are clearly not important, just as our administrators have told us time and time again.

Most importantly, accept that you have no power — there is a reason that administrators were hired, to make the decisions for us! Let them do their jobs. Moreover, how dare you uppity college kids think that you know better than President Ronald D. Liebowitz, who is being paid $750,000 for his work. Once you accept that you have no power to change anything, then you can get on with realizing that your ideals of “protecting human and planetary life” through “divestment” are also worthless. So, moral of the story, 1) sit down; 2) get over yourselves; and 3) give up.

The following was submitted to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, the Treasurer of the College and the President of the College over three weeks ago. None have responded.

Title: Middlebury College Ethical Endowment Resolution

Whereas, in his address to the Middlebury community, the Dalai Lama stated, “You are the people that will shape the new world, […] This century should be the century of peace;”

Whereas, the college mission statement reads: “The College’s Vermont location offers an inspirational setting for learning and reflection, reinforcing our commitment to integrating environmental stewardship into both our curriculum and our practices on campus. Yet the College also reaches far beyond the Green Mountains;”

Whereas, the College “reaches far beyond the Green Mountains” in both its community and its investments;

Whereas, the College has a long-standing “commitment to integrating environmental stewardship into both our curriculum and our practices” through our pledge to become carbon neutral by 2016 as well as dozens of sustainability initiatives on campus;

Whereas, we recognize that investments in fossil fuel companies undermine the College’s commitment to carbon neutrality and do not reflect our mission statement in “integrating environmental stewardship into both our curriculum and our practices;”

Whereas, Middlebury College supports numerous projects for peace around the globe every year, serves as the world headquarters for the Davis Projects for Peace, and is consistently ranked among the top colleges that send students on to work in the Peace Corps after graduation;

Whereas, we recognize that being invested in companies that make weapons and engage in war undermines Middlebury College’s commitments and efforts to create peace in the world;

Whereas, divestment is a proven strategy for implementing an institution’s values and standing against unethical practices around the globe, divestment has been used in the 1980’s at Middlebury College to stand against South African Apartheid and in 2006 to stand against genocide in Darfur, and other liberal arts colleges have already divested from companies involved in the destruction of the planet and human life;

Whereas, Middlebury College’s endowment is currently invested in armament manufacturers, fossil fuel industries and companies that support war efforts;

We, the Investment Committee of the Middlebury College Board of Trustees, hereby resolve that we will commit to screening our endowment to ensure that the College’s investments are in line with its mission and values;

We, the Investment Committee of the Middlebury College Board of Trustees, hereby resolve that we will ensure by March of 2013 that Middlebury College is no longer invested in fossil fuel companies, companies that produce weapons or companies whose products are used directly in perpetuating violence and conflict.

Respectfully submitted,

Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee

We have become exceptionally good at taking no for an answer. Or maybe. Or we’ll see. Or we’ll hold a panel to discuss the issue. Or come to my next office hours to discuss the issue further. In fact, we have become exceptionally good at it because we got to Middlebury not because of our ability to challenge authorities, the status quo or hypocrisies, but rather to listen to what we’re told, fly straight between the lines and excel at whatever we are told to do. So when administrators tell us to hold a panel, we rock that panel. When teachers tell us to write assignments, that’s no problem because we have already figured out exactly what they want to hear. Moreover, when we have ideas that challenge the status quo, we have become exceptionally good at shutting up and taking no for an answer. Or maybe it’s time to realize that we need to hold us all accountable to the professed ethics of our institution.

Written by SAM KOPLINKA-LOEHR ’13 of Ithaca, N.Y.