This past week, we were angry. We were disappointed. We were not surprised. The Political Science Department (PSCI), the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs (RCGA), and Middlebury administration had blatantly disrespected the Middlebury community once again.
On Saturday, April 13, we wrote an open letter (go/openletter), inviting the Middlebury community to join us in urging PSCI and RCGA to rescind their co-sponsorship of the far-right funded Alexander Hamilton Forum’s (AHF) event featuring the Polish bigot (see our open letter for analysis of his bigotry), Ryzard Legutko, scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, April 17. Rescinding co-sponsorship, which we understood to be symbolic (PSCI nor RCGA provided funds), would have meant a lot to current Middlebury students.
By Tuesday night, April 16, our letter represented the concerns of over 840 Middlebury community members, including student leaders, alumni, faculty, staff, and many others. Many of the signees interact daily with and have had their Middlebury educations greatly impacted by these two institutional bodies; their pain and frustrations, caused by these trusted figures’ decision to sign on to the engagement of a notoriously racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic speaker, are evident.
The responses from PSCI and RCGA (go/responses) were predictable at best and flippant and contemptuous at worst. PSCI and RCGA’s subsequent actions, however, which were undoubtedly carried out in coordination with administration, further disregarded the pain and frustrations of marginalized Middlebury community members and of the 840+ community members and groups on our open letter.
PSCI additionally disregarded the concerns of many PSCI majors, while RCGA Director Tamar Meyer ignored the dissent of multiple faculty members of the RCGA faculty steering committee and the entire student steering committee. PSCI and RCGA were not done ignoring the Middlebury community, however — they also proceeded to host two private events with Legutko, closed to the public, preventing any expression of dissent or protest. Their privately-hosted discussion and dinner events stood in direct opposition to the same free-speech rhetoric that was touted in their responses and at the last minute pre-Legutko panel, where it was reiterated by PSCI faculty that students should challenge Legutko in community, in order to educate peers or third-parties who may not already understand the gravity of bigotry. We ask, where were the third-parties during these private events?
We were angry. We were disappointed. We were not surprised.
Two years ago, administration strung students along, meeting to meeting, empty promise after empty promise. We have seen no meaningful institutional change, and we will not see meaningful change until we collectively demand it.
This is why we support the SGA’s Thirteen Proposals for Community Healing (go/signfor13).
SGA’s proposals were made in conjunction with members of the student body at a town hall meeting on Monday, April 22. Students were given time and space to discuss, challenge and amend these proposals in small groups, with senators listening and taking notes. Regardless of anyone’s level of awareness about the current campus climate or about SGA processes, senators were patient and receptive to questions, steadily providing answers with whatever insight that they had.
As two seniors who have been here since 2015, this is the first time that we have felt so heard by our elected student senators. It is easy to disregard the role of an SGA senator, especially when you forget who they are a few days after election results are announced. The SGA showed themselves to be taking their work seriously this past Monday.
We crafted these proposals in community, and we believe that the final list of thirteen requests adequately reflects not only the desires of those in the SGA but of a vast number of students on this campus.
Up until this point, we, as current students, have been on the backburner of everyone’s agendas. We have had enough of having our educations dictated to us from someone else’s pulpit and our concerns brushed aside in favor of those coming from non-student voices.
We demand Middlebury College to recenter students and our needs in the education it offers us. Administrative acceptance and dedication to the Thirteen Proposals for Community Healing are a key component to this long-term revisioning.
We were angry. We were disappointed. We are taking action.
We encourage all students and student leaders to pay close attention to the administration’s response to these community proposals. We encourage vocal, explicit support from students for our administration to meet these requests.
We have a few suggestions for what support can look like. Support can come in the form of social media posts, letters of endorsements from student leadership, mass emails to student membership sharing these proposals and why your group supports them.
We wholeheartedly believe in the strength of our collective student voices, and we believe in the capacity of our administration to strive for and to achieve our communal requests.