Thirteen Proposals for Community Healing

Editor’s Note: The below letter was sent to all college administrators this morning with all students cc’d. It has been reprinted here with permission. 

To the administrators of Middlebury College,

The Student Government Association (SGA) exists to be the democratic vehicle of the will of the student body. We believe that students and administrators are a partnership, a two-way street working toward a collectively better future for Middlebury College. Through conversations with alumni, students, staff, faculty, and various community groups, it has become evident that the connection between the administration and students has been reduced to a one-way street. The administration has failed time and again to listen to the desires of its students.

Administrators’ neglect of students’ wishes has been the consistent trend of the past few years.

On November 20, 2016, four hundred students met outside Old Chapel to rally in support of making Middlebury College a sanctuary campus. In response, the SGA passed a bill echoing the call for sanctuary campus status. The Community Council followed suit. Middlebury ultimately refused to meet the demands of protesters, the SGA, and leaders in Community Council.

On March 2, 2017, President Laurie Patton introduced Charles Murray despite a recommendation from Community Council and separate petitions from alumni, faculty, and students requesting that she not give him the service of introduction.

On April 12, 2017, the SGA passed a bill asking for specific changes to protest policies in the aftermath of the Charles Murray incident. The bill’s request languished in committee for a full academic year. In the end, the requested changes were not adopted in the protest policy draft announced in late 2018. Rather than a prohibition on violence by Public Safety officers, the final draft included a prohibition on civil disobedience itself.

On October 8, 2017, the SGA passed a bill to protect the right of students to request an open disciplinary hearing. The bill was panned by the administration.

On April 8, 2018, the SGA passed a bill requesting a second student representative, in addition to the SGA President, be added to the Board of Trustees. Despite sponsorship by the SGA President and endorsement by the Middlebury Campus Editorial Board, no second student representative was added to the body that is ultimately responsible for all decisions at Middlebury College.

Even innocuous requests, like that for more accessible exercise equipment, have not been fulfilled.

While we have cited a series of slights against student wishes, these represent only a fraction of many. The SGA and Community Council are only two avenues by which students appeal to the administration. Individual students, organizers, and organizations have all implored the administration for a variety of requests. Many requests have been ignored, most notably last week, when student desires to both listen to Legutko and protest what he stands for were overridden in administrative decision-making. The cancellation of Legutko’s talk and the protest led to yet another crisis on campus in the national media. We are extremely disappointed that only after hearing threat of SGA’s dissolution did an administrator publicly clear organizers of blame as the unnamed security threat that led to cancellation of the Ryszard Legutko event.

Repeatedly, we have been asked to abide by a “Conversations First” approach, which has been used to berate student leaders for taking swift action. Yet in crucial decisions, the administration has not used its own “Conversations First” model in engaging the student body. We find this intolerable and unsustainable. Our tuition funds the College, and the College’s purpose is our education. Middlebury College is first and foremost a school, not a corporation. Why is it that decisions are often made with little to no consent or involvement from us in our own school?

The SGA refuses to be a mouthpiece for the administration; we represent the students and students alone. We are reminded of our predecessors in the Student Association, who disbanded their organization in 1967 because it served as a “sounding board […] with little power.” Their disbanding resulted in the creation of our SGA. When circumstances mirror those faced by student leaders half a century ago, we must consider options similar to the ones they faced. In the words of Brian Maier, the equivalent of an SGA senator at the time,  “we must take power rather than ask for it.”

We desire transparency and accountability. We desire real democratic participation by students in decision-making. We desire the enactment of the following proposals for community healing:

 

Structural Changes:

  1. The SGA President and the Co-Chair of Community Council will be admitted to all Senior Leadership Group meetings.
  2. One student, staff member, and faculty member will be elected as representatives by the student body, Staff Council, and Faculty Council to the College Board of Overseers.  Each of these representatives will be responsible for compiling a report for their constituencies on relevant information from each meeting.
  3. Any organization or academic department that invites a speaker to campus will be required to fill out a due diligence form created by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in coordination with the SGA Institutional Diversity Committee. These questions should be created to determine whether a speaker’s beliefs align with Middlebury’s community standards, removing the burden of researching speakers from the student body.
    1. Additionally, administrators will ask Faculty Council to require all academic departments to have Student Advisory Boards which will have access to a list of speakers invited by the department at least a month in advance. The Student Advisory Boards’ purpose will be to ask the student body for potential community input when necessary.
  4. The administration will communicate explicitly to students about ongoing projects, progress on these proposals, and the development of programming. This must be communicated on a monthly basis to the entire student body. Students who work on these initiatives alongside faculty must receive credit for their work, and will not be excluded from these initiatives once faculty begin working on them (i.e. Divest Middlebury, It Happens Here, JusTalks, etc.).


Improvements to Existing Programs:

  1. Recurrent bias training will be provided to all hired staff, faculty, administrators, as well as all students, with implementation beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. The names of any faculty, staff, or administration members who do not participate in bias training should be publicly available to students so that they can make informed decisions on courses and interactions.
    1. In this bias training, participants must learn about the importance of preferred gender pronouns. All faculty must ask students’ names and pronouns on the first day of each new semester, and preferred names and pronouns must be respected.
  2. The administration will reconsider the current protest policy, in line with SGA’s previously passed bill. The improved proposal must accurately reflect the will of the student body, especially in ensuring protections for all staff members to protest as they see fit.
  3. The Green Dot Training Program on campus will be improved. We ask that the video currently used during orientation be replaced with a serious informational session that discusses/defines the following terms/policies/procedures on campus:
    1. The definition of consent, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
    2. The process of reporting sexual misconduct both at Middlebury and outside of Middlebury (to local officials).
    3. The disciplinary process and repercussions of committing sexual misconduct on and off campus.
  4. Progress in bringing all buildings up to the standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be accelerated. These buildings must prioritize the implementation of gender-inclusive bathrooms in all future construction and also make restrooms in existing buildings gender-inclusive.
  5. Student representation on the Community Bias Response Team (CBRT) will increase, as will direct communication with the student body regarding the causal reasoning for the cancellation of campus events.


New Initiatives:

  1. A clearly outlined plan for the implementation of an LGBTQ+ Center, with faculty support and modeled on the Anderson Freeman Resource Center, will be implemented within the next two years on campus. While we recognize that the entire campus should be made inclusive of queer identities, we believe the positive example of the AFRC illustrates the power of a center through which programming can be centralized. We call for current faculty/staff or new faculty/staff to serve as advisors and programmers for this space, similar to those who work at the AFRC. This space can be taken from the new office spaces which will be created from the elimination of the Commons Heads houses, or another space.
  2. All organizational expenditures at Middlebury will be available on the College website, including the names of both organizations and specific individual donors. We recognize that certain donors will be anonymous; we request anonymous donors be included as “Anonymous” on the publicly available information.
  3. A strategic plan to hire more counselors who are femme, of color, and/or queer and provide a more robust health service for transitioning people will be created. New counselors will work closely with students at the new LGBTQ+ Center and the Anderson Freeman Resource Center. The strategic plan must include a better incentive package than the one currently offered. These counselors must be hired within the next two years before the creation of the LGBTQ+ Center.
  4. The administration will support the development of a Black Studies department. We also request a specific faculty-student group dedicated to developing the Black Studies department, working alongside the Faculty Educational Affairs Committee during the academic year (2019-2020) in order to ensure its successful implementation for the following academic year (2020-2021). There must be appropriate funding allocated to the department, and sufficient tenure track positions must be made available for the immediate development of the department.


These proposals were created in consultation with the student body and we expect each to be fulfilled as stated. We would like to give the administration time to consider adequate ways to address our proposals. As such, we ask the President to address students at a town hall on Tuesday, April 30. If tangible plans to implement these proposals are not released, a majority of SGA Senators will resign such that the SGA Senate will no longer be able to make quorum, effectively dissolving the body. More importantly, students will witness again the continued inaction of the current administration.

We await the administration’s response.

SGA Senate

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26 Comments

26 Responses to “Thirteen Proposals for Community Healing”

  1. Molly on April 23rd, 2019 11:35 am

    This is an absurd list of demands. Students at our college for four years shouldn’t demand such sweeping reforms from adults who do this for their careers. I hope you all resign. What a disgrace to our alma mater.

  2. Laura on April 23rd, 2019 2:05 pm

    I disagree. If the students, who pay massive amounts of tuition, don’t have say in what happens on campus, then the system is seriously backwards. The employees of the college are tasked with providing an academic environment that allows students to succeed. That is what students are paying for. If the students aren’t getting what they pay for, it is absolutely in their right to ask for more. To suggest that the college is responsible for its employees’ careers above it students’ success is laughable. This is a school, not a business.

  3. T on April 23rd, 2019 2:13 pm

    What a sad, short-sighted take, Molly. These students are trying to make Middlebury a better place for coming generations of students, not just for themselves. And they represent generations of alumni, too, who have been marginalized and ignored by the administration in the same ways as current students. They have more of a vision for the college than you, clearly, and I commend them for taking steps to shape the world around them into a more inclusive, progressive place. The true disgrace here is not the SGA’s conduct but the haste with which administration and alumni condemn students’ dissent because it disrupts some idealized notion of what Middlebury represents. I hope you can use some of the critical thinking skills Middlebury purports to teach, to think through the long-term impacts of these proposals and consider the positive change they might bring, rather than dismissing them because they don’t come from “adults”.

  4. S on April 23rd, 2019 3:36 pm

    Would it be possible to add links to the referenced SGA bill for #6 above related to changes to the protest policy? As well as a link to the current protest policy?

  5. This is hilarious on April 23rd, 2019 5:00 pm

    I would imagine if students paid tuition they may have more bargaining power. But as an alumna, I love the energy here! And I think there’s an opportunity to redirect it so that the college may stay relevant in the future. Keep up the passion, glad that there’s so much potential learning ahead.

  6. IT on April 23rd, 2019 5:42 pm

    Incredible. So proud of these students for standing their ground and forcing these issues. This generation is going to save us all.

    I eagerly await the college’s response. As an alumni, I can speak with my donations, which will disappear if these demands are not met.

  7. Benji Thurber ('08) on April 23rd, 2019 5:46 pm

    While I appreciate some of the concerns raised in this letter, there is surely no way the Administration could or would enact this very lengthy list of sweeping reforms in one week’s time. There doesn’t seem to be any pretense on the SGA Senate’s part of trying to resolve things by meeting with the Administration to discuss their concerns and desires for reform.

    As noted in the letter, one of the SGA Senate’s concerns is that “in crucial decisions, the administration has not used its own “Conversations First” model in engaging the student body.” Seems like a valid point, but it’s a bit hypocritical for the Senate to then take an adversarial approach by posting a list of demands it knows won’t be met, and not request a meeting with administrators to discuss them. I’m going to hazard a guess that the proposed “Town Hall” after the President has, with no space for dialogue with the SGA, met all of its ransom demands, is probably not going to happen?

  8. Such hate in their letters on April 23rd, 2019 6:52 pm

    Middlebury experienced its worst fundraising year in dollars per alum in history after students assaulted Charles Murray. So I guess the administration should agree to the SGA’s demands in an effort to stop students from assaulting ppl? That way the school can avoid any potential endowment risk moving forward?

  9. Fake news on April 23rd, 2019 7:29 pm

    Dear Middlebury Campus newspaper,

    You block all comments that don’t fit your narrative. You are fake news.

  10. Lisa on April 23rd, 2019 9:47 pm

    Re: this statement from #3 above–“These questions should be created to determine whether a speaker’s beliefs align with Middlebury’s community standards,”
    Requiring certain beliefs of speakers could be problematic. How does one determine beliefs? They are not always stated directly. And might there not at times be merit in having to confront beliefs with which one strongly disagrees?
    Perhaps the policy could be written in such a way as to limit invitations to obvious provocateurs (although even that limit might reasonably be questioned) without requiring a beliefs test.

  11. Please Resign SGA on April 23rd, 2019 11:57 pm

    My household will not donate another single penny to Middlebury College until the Administration installs a zero-tolerance policy against the use of violent and intimidating protests to silence thinkers they don’t agree with.

    College should be a place where you are challenged, and can grow.

    Rather ironically, these types of childish outbursts from students have resulted in donations to the College plummeting. The College is doomed to bankruptcy if they do not prevent students from having a hissy fit whenever they are exposed to an idea which goes against their narrow-minded narrative.

  12. No Longer Donating on April 23rd, 2019 11:58 pm

    Middlebury is not the College I remember. I will remember this list of outrageous demands the next time I see a fundraising letter in the mail.

    Don’t worry, I’ll recycle it.

  13. Don on April 24th, 2019 12:33 am

    It’s good to see these student body demands out in public, makes it obvious which schools are extended day cares where students are ‘allowed to succeed’ as Laura puts it instead of being challenged to grow and reach their potential.

    Makes it easier to sort resumes at least.

  14. Killer Marmot on April 24th, 2019 5:38 am

    Apparently this “partnership”, this “two way street”, means the administration must do whatever the SGA tells them to do.

  15. Midd '14 on April 24th, 2019 11:29 am

    Sounds like there are a few more kids who will be spending a lot more time on their school work.

    Seems to be a trend that students have too much time on their hands lately. As a result, Middlebury must figure out whether it’s a social club or an educational institution

    One requires a certain humility and respect for those with greater understanding and experience. The other is there for ‘fun,’ ‘inclusion,’ and ‘support.’ Maybe some students will consider transferring to an institution more in line with their needs:

    “Imagine a place where who you are, where you’re from or the circumstances that surround you don’t determine your access to experiences or opportunities. Through your support, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America are making that vision a reality — in your community and communities around the world.”

    Let’s all remember that College, and Student Government specifically, are all just ‘practice.’ This group of students is not and should not be involved in any real decision making. They serve at the pleasure of the institution and are a ‘nice to have.’

    To use the Street analogy, they are a bike lane.

    I’m all for bike commuting but lets not pretend that the life they are preparing for is one big bike lane. It’s a freeway.

  16. Randy Lahey on April 24th, 2019 1:20 pm

    Is any consideration given for how new programs will affect tuition? The rising cost of college has a lot to do with colleges hiring way too many administrators. Isn’t it also interesting that the SGA is taking a stand against administration while demanding new programs be made that require more admin to be hired?

  17. Bob Pack's Legacy on April 24th, 2019 1:30 pm

    The embarrassment of alumni seems like a sport on campus these days. It is bizarre and profoundly destructive to the College. Please stop. Resign because you are idiots, not because your demands weren’t met. At least then, you’d have your integrity.

  18. John Brown on April 24th, 2019 2:20 pm

    I’m an old grad and a member of the “not the school i went to” cohort.

    Pres Patton needs to tell them to pound sand. Maybe alum contributions will then come back.

    Midd should take a page from Silicon Valley and establish a Terms of Service. Tell prospective students (and their snowplow parents) that the Chicago free speech rules apply, and if that is not congruent with their life wishes, to go somewhere else like Oberlin. Nobody is made to go to Midd. Yes you are paying the big bucks, but that doesn’t entitle you to special privileges. I can’t go to Apple and complain that my $1000 phone won’t predict winning lottery numbers.

    The job of students is to take classes, engage in respectful discussion and debate, pass exams, graduate, and move on with their lives. If they want to run the school, they should acquire suitable degrees, and apply for a position in admin. Not a bad deal actually, holding down a $230,000 salary for being an Assistant Junior Vice Provost for Goodness Enhancement, or the Dean of Eating Disorders.

    Comparing the current climate with 1967 is ridiculous. At the time Uncle Sam was forcing draftees, under pain of prison time, to Vietnam to die face down in the mud. And the school had an active ROTC program that fed the “war machine.” The students literally had skin in the game.

    Want to break away from the copy-and-paste activism that informs the SJW class? Start reading Quillette.

    You’re welcome.

  19. Another class of 2014 on April 25th, 2019 11:11 am

    Nothing obviously terrifying to see here right? Let’s go through and find out!

    “Any organization or academic department that invites a speaker to campus will be required to fill out a due diligence form created by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in coordination with the SGA Institutional Diversity Committee. These questions should be created to determine whether a speaker’s beliefs align with Middlebury’s community standards, removing the burden of researching speakers from the student body.”

    Just a bunch of political activists that want to control who professors and other students get to invite to campus. Sounds legit to me.

    Can you imagine what we would all think if conservative activists wanted veto power over the guests invited by say, critical race scholars? What if they could ban all speakers by saying the speaker’s beliefs didn’t align with ‘community standards’? Scared yet? What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Here is another bright idea no one could ever find issue with…

    “Recurrent bias training will be provided to all hired staff, faculty, administrators, as well as all students, with implementation beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. The names of any faculty, staff, or administration members who do not participate in bias training should be publicly available to students so that they can make informed decisions on courses and interactions”

    Do devout Catholics get to train all staff, faculty, and students in the moral-philosophical viewpoint that finds abortion abhorrent? Do they get to publish the names of all that refuse? Why not? What is the difference? Presumably, it is that the SGA doesn’t believe abortion is abhorrent. Should the beliefs of the current SGA decide what moral-philosophical view gets shoved down the throat of every member of the Midd community? Seems weird to me.

    Even if they represent the views of the majority of students (an empirical claim they would have to prove) do we really want the majority to be able to ‘train’ the minority such that the minority now has the ‘correct’ view? Does a brief consideration of the 20th century and the march of time and progress counsel against this? Would we want the majority to have this power in the 1950s? How about training on moral and political views regarding race and gender and sexual orientation, but from the perspective of the 1990s orthodoxy? If you don’t see the potential issue I would ask you to stare a little harder. Maybe instead it would make sense for the school not to try to train the members of the community to have the ‘right views’. I guess that is a radical proposal these days.

    “In this bias training, participants must learn about the importance of preferred gender pronouns. All faculty must ask students’ names and pronouns on the first day of each new semester, and preferred names and pronouns must be respected”

    Heck yeah, compelled speech by an educational institution receiving federal funds. No idea what could go wrong with that. Again lets just quickly flip this to see if we think these methods are always appropriate. Do we want conservative student activists to be able to decide when their sincerely held views are sufficiently ‘respected’ by others? Seems creepy to me but what do I know.

    Anyway, that is just like two of the first four proposals and it really should be obvious to anyone smart enough to get into midd that there are some serious issues with the proposals. If you could redact all of the proposals so that they are ‘viewpoint neutral’ it would be hard to know if they were going to be used for ‘social justice’ or to enact 1984. That should give people pause.

    (but in a sadly predictable move it won’t give anyone pause and so the madness won’t stop and the donations will dry up further, and the circular firing squad will continue!)

    What wonderful times we live in.

  20. Ryan Holmes on April 25th, 2019 7:15 pm

    No differing viewpoints, we get to choose every speaker and topic and oh, people that we don’t allow on campus – make sure to pay for our free college.

  21. Dan T. on April 25th, 2019 8:02 pm

    Vetting all speakers for political correctness is the most Politburo-like part of this set of demands.

  22. Joseph E. Davis on April 26th, 2019 10:20 am

    Modern day Puritanism is no more human than the original.

  23. K.C. on April 26th, 2019 10:33 am

    Thank you for including protections for staff among your demands. Best of luck to you, SGA, and may you succeed. Don’t let the conservatives get you down. This alum is proud of you all.

  24. Jay H. on April 26th, 2019 1:36 pm

    In the same spirit, the List of Demands from The Local Noodle (Middlebury’s Only New Source) must be considered as well:

    “Administration must submit a point-by-point plan to us within the next two hours, or face the wrath of our inaction.”

    https://thelocalnoodle.com/2019/04/25/our-demands/

  25. Killer Marmot on April 26th, 2019 11:44 pm

    So most of the student senate is going to resign if the administration doesn’t agree to their demands.

    That’s most accommodating.

  26. Ted on April 29th, 2019 12:44 pm

    I was a member of the SGA and believe that the College is there because of the students. If students do not exist, there is no College, no administrators, no faculty. I heard a Provost once say to me “Student memory only lasts 4 years”… and that statement motivated me to be a change agent against his mentality for all my time on campus.

    That being said, this is a most absurd list of demands. The administration should call their bluff and reject it.

    Essentially, what the SGA is saying is “I agree with 100% of what you said and I will die for your right to say it! If I disagree with you, you’re not invited to our college.”

    Free speech is not like the buffet at Proctor, where you pick and choose what you want. You either believe in it or you don’t. Middlebury would be a better institution on the believing side of free speech.

    PS – for when all these students have children, please know the same rules apply to science. You can’t believe in climate change and think vaccines cause autism.




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Thirteen Proposals for Community Healing