College Administration Revokes MiddView Funding Request

By NICK GARBER

On Feb. 19 at the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, President Karina Toy ’17 revealed that President of Middlebury Laurie L. Patton had previously informed her that the administration would be capable of funding the $50,000 for MiddView orientation trips without help from the SGA.

Toy’s announcement, made during the SGA’s most recent meeting, brought about an abrupt and surprising end to the funding issue, which the SGA had been debating since the administration’s initial request on Jan. 15. Toy explained that this initial request — that the SGA assist in funding for three years, beginning in fall 2017 — was the result of a miscommunication with President Patton.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott, one of the three administrators who made the original request to the SGA, emphasized that the administration regrets the misunderstanding. 

“Unfortunately, our initial communication with SGA created an impression that the College could not afford to continue the program and, perhaps worse, was not committed to it,” she wrote in an email to the Campus. “This was never the case. We believe MiddView is an important experience for incoming students.”

According to Toy, the misunderstanding arose from Patton’s previous experience at Duke University. At Duke, budget specifications are re-negotiated each year, which was a process that seemed unfamiliar for many at the College. 

“From a Middlebury SGA/student perspective,  being asked for money by the administration is a giant red flag that sets off a lot of alarm bells,” said Toy in an email. As a result, President Patton’s original intent — to informally inquire whether the SGA would be willing to assist in funding — was interpreted as a formal request.

Instead, the administration’s inquiry to the SGA regarding the potential for funding MiddView was intended to be an invitation to a renewed partnership. 

“We understand why that message was received differently, and once we saw that was the case, we reaffirmed our commitment to MiddView and clarified that the program was not at risk,” said Smith Abbott. 

“Communication on MiddView Trips funding went sideways,” Toy said. “President Patton was not here and we didn’t get the chance to talk so both of us could better understand the situation; where I was coming from and where she was coming from.” 

It was unclear where the administration was able to locate the additional funds. 

“While the College is reviewing its operating expenses carefully, as it should every year,” Smith Abbott said, “it is important to acknowledge and recognize that Middlebury is fortunate to have the resources it does. Among the many things this makes possible is a high-quality orientation program for incoming students.”

“In the future,” she continued, “we will be more mindful of the impact a well-intentioned proposal might have even as we continue our practice of inviting students to discuss issues when they have concerns or questions.” 

“I think both SGA and the administration learned a lot from this experience,” Toy said, “especially how to interact and communicate in the future. I am very optimistic for the future of our relationship.”

With this assurance that the administration will supply the $50,000 that was originally asked of the SGA, MiddView trips will remain a mandatory requirement for incoming students free of charge. It also means that the SGA did not have to vote among a series of proposals that would have forced the SGA to decide between raising the student activities fee, dip into the SGA’s reserve funding, or decrease the budgets of existing clubs. 

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