What I Have Learned At Middlebury College

By JOEL MACHADO

Editor’s Note: This speech was performed live for the Cook Commons Spencer Prize Championship on Jan. 27, 2019.

I wish I loved myself as much as the institution of Middlebury College loves itself because then I would also provide a monetary incentive for people to talk about all the wonderful things I have taught them.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy attending Middlebury, and I am fortunate to be here, but so far as a first-year student with just one full term under my belt, I have learned some rather unsettling things about this college that I would like to take the opportunity to highlight.

I have learned that Middlebury, much like other schools, is an institution of higher learning second and a business first. The role of the Board of Trustees as the gatekeeper to our education is one of financial gain, not educational. If the priority was for us as students to truly prosper, then the colossal endowment that this school possesses would be used to better accommodate the student body instead of sitting in dirty stock and moved around by dirtier hands.

If the forces that be at the top of this college were not incentivized by personal profits, it would mean students with financial aid problems would actually have their needs met and not be rung dry for every last penny, and then pressured to write thank you letters to individuals who they will never meet but are indebted to just because they are less-privileged. Likewise, Laurie Patton would take a pay cut from her nearly $600,000 salary before imposing one on professors if the school’s budget was genuinely struggling. And lastly, the excuse that living in an old, run-down dormitory is a rite of passage would not be used to cover up the asbestos-ridden walls of Battell, because it is not a valid reason not to improve standards of living for students who pay some of the highest fees in the nation.

I have learned that Middlebury is the only place that can get away with tackling the issues of protesting students by banning protests altogether. Middlebury College, as far as my knowledge goes, has excelled at performing the bare minimum in order to counter major societal problems. One example is rape culture, which not only has an infamous connotation with one of the dorm facilities on campus but also has seen nothing done to counter changes to Title IX rules which now offer protections to perpetrators and make it harder for victims to speak out. Another example is race relations, which has left students of various non-white backgrounds not feeling accepted in various spaces on campus, both academic and not, without many opportunities to talk about finding a solution.

Despite these negative things, I wanted to take one of the few opportunities that students have left to speak out on this campus to say that I have not learned much yet, but I hope that I can contribute to conversations and discourse that actually improve this campus and actually teach us something constructive for the future of our student body.

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