Notes From the Desk: Why Zeitgeist?


There are some things we know about Middlebury. That more than a tenth of all its students are Economics majors, that more than a fifth come from families in the richest  1 percent of the U.S. and that the college has an 8:1 student–faculty ratio. 

What we don’t know as clearly is how race is perceived on campus, what work-life balance looks like for the average Middlebury student, or what students truly think of party culture. These questions are left undiscussed because they are uncomfortable, nuanced and often difficult to approach.

Zeitgeist, The Campus’ first annual student survey, aims to change that. 

As a forum for the Middlebury community, The Campus’ role is to tell its stories, whether they be conspicuous truths or underlying narratives waiting to be discovered. Combining data analysis and journalism, we hope to present these stories quantitatively and qualitatively in this project. 

We want to explore topics that will not appear in an admissions brochure — how accessible mental health resources are, how the experiences of students of color differ from those of white students, and the realities of sexual health and relationships. We hope that Zeitgeist will create new openings for students to engage with difficult topics and that our findings will spark dialogue and lead to productive conversations within and between communities.

When we asked you for input in an email last week, we noted that “Belonging” emerged as a prominent theme, as indicated in the graph.

Sorted responses to the all-student email The Campus sent last week, requesting ideas for questions to ask in the Zeitgeist survey.

Students submitted questions for the survey such as: What made you feel othered? Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? Do you feel like you miss out due to financial limitations? Do you want to transfer?

These questions tell us that many of us grapple with issues of affinity, acceptance and inclusion in a wide spectrum of ways. Our hope is that Zeitgeist will help each of us understand how we fit into the Middlebury puzzle. Please help us by participating in the survey that will be open for responses beginning April 2.