Letter to the Editor: We Have Jobs, Governor Douglas

By ARABELLA HOLZAPFEL

I write in part to thank the editors of The Campus for devoting an entire recent issue to concerns of the staff at Middlebury. As the daughter of an old newspaper-man (my father reported for the Associated Press for over a quarter century and was a ‘stringer’ for The Wall Street Journal for a few decades), I appreciate that you chose to devote many column-inches to recognizing and valuing the contributions of staff members.

I found it ironic that this recognition followed the issue in which Middlebury’s executive-in-residence, Governor Jim Douglas, was quoted dismissing “activists” with the words “I used to look out the window of my office and see these people demonstrating for or against something, and I wondered – Don’t they have a job?” He’s further quoted as saying that he believes that demonstrators “will take whatever position they’re asked to.”

 Yes, we do have jobs. As one of many Middlebury staff members who consider ourselves local political activists, I found his statements humiliating.

 More than a few Middlebury staff members use some of our CTO (CTO is combined time off, and includes earned vacation time, sick time, etc.) to travel to Montpelier to voice our opinions at the Statehouse — a place that I frequently hear referred to as “The People’s House” — because we believe our elected representatives are willing to listen to us and take us seriously.

 And that’s not all. In order to take that CTO day, we arrange ahead with our supervisor and colleagues to make sure essential services are covered. On the day of the protest or the legislative hearing, we often get up an hour earlier than usual, drive for an hour and a half each way to get to Montpelier, and spend an additional 30-45 minutes parking the car and taking the shuttle to the Capitol. If the event is a hearing, we may spend time beforehand crafting an oral statement. We do this because we care about our fellow citizens, our towns and the state of Vermont. I personally feel very fortunate that my employer and my position here gives me the flexibility to participate in our democracy this way.

 I wonder if Governor Douglas was reflecting on the time he looked out his window and saw protesters who opposed his veto of Vermont’s marriage equality law. I reiterate: Yes, Governor Douglas, we do have jobs. In fact, some of those protesters with jobs are now your colleagues right here on this campus.