A Statement from the Faculty Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

These past two weeks, a number of incidents both inside and outside the classroom have made clear that we as a campus have a great deal of work to do in achieving our ideal of inclusivity. We have witnessed the trivialization of acts of historical oppression and genocide, as well as the invitation of another speaker whose bigoted views and public statements are in direct conflict with our values and have caused great harm to our community and the future Middlebury we envision. These incidents are painful violations of the trust that students place in us to teach with integrity and respect. In the case of Jeff Byers, because he served on the Health Professions Committee, he was an institutional gatekeeper for students who major in STEM and who hope to pursue careers in medicine. He created an environment in which students understandably felt that an important gatekeeper trivialized institutionalized anti-Semitism and violent racism. In the case of Legutko’s visit to campus, students planning to protest the event –i.e. to exercise their rights to free speech– were prevented from doing so, and are now the target of national media who are obscuring the real intentions and plans for a peaceful, non-disruptive protest.  Situations like these threaten the academic and professional futures of many of our students. They work against our efforts to create a climate in which learning, growth, and community-building can take place.

As the primary faculty governance body tasked with addressing institutional and social diversity in the broadest sense, we–the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (CDEI)–view these incidents as symptomatic of what many students of historically marginalized groups have to endure on campus: that is, a faculty in which professors are too often unwilling to examine how their position insulates them from engaging with the kind of bigotry that students have to negotiate continually, both inside and outside the campus community. We refuse to take the easy route by dismissing these incidents as merely outliers. Rather, we advocate embracing a broader historical perspective, and we recognize these examples of current institutional practices and policies that systematically harm students of marginalized communities. Transforming Middlebury into a truly inclusive community means taking a hard, honest look at how our institution protects the status quo and reproduces mechanisms of marginalization by failing to address adequately a climate of alienation within our community.

As a committee, we advocate for concrete steps to strengthen Middlebury’s commitment to the ideals, practices, and policies through which we collectively seek diversity, equity, and inclusion. These include:

  1. Greater transparency into the institutional processes and procedures used to both identify and sanction perpetrators of bias. Clarity about institutional decision-making is essential to building the community’s trust in how the college handles and responds to reported incidents of bias.
  2. Increased efforts to diversify both the faculty and curricula as critical steps toward decolonizing spaces and interactions on campus.
  3. Mandatory training for all faculty members to raise their awareness of bias in the classroom and to learn effective strategies to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their syllabi and pedagogy.
  4. Creation of a long-term institutional infrastructure by which cultures of knowledge at Middlebury may shift toward self-reflection of disciplines and actions, critique of how these are complicit with existing systems of marginalization, and embedding mechanisms of equity and inclusion into all aspects of college life.

As a platform for faculty voices and concerns, this committee believes it is imperative that the college actively works to rebuild the trust of our students. All faculty should be committed to improving our classroom environments, so that they better reflect Middlebury’s stated core values and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. By taking the above steps, we will be demonstrating to our students that their voices actually matter and that their existence at Middlebury is both valued and valid.

The Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:

Kemi Fuentes-George, Associate Professor of Political Science

Chong-suk Han, Associate Professor of Sociology

Laurel Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Dance

Shawna Shapiro, Director of Writing and Rhetoric Program, Associate Professor Writing and Linguistics

Daniel Silva, Assistant Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies

Trinh Tran, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Editor’s Note: The above faculty members comprise the entirety of the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Learn more here.

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