Student Activists Hold Solidarity Rally

By GIGI HOGAN

In the wake of the controversy stirred by Ryszard Legutko’s visit to campus two weeks ago, members of the Middlebury community gathered in Mead Chapel to support marginalized groups. The small crowd that gathered on Friday evening included members of the college’s faculty and student body alike, many proudly waving rainbow flags and sporting attire celebrating queer identities.  

The college’s Queer and Trans People of Color organized the rally in response to discussions that have taken place on campus after Legutko’s talk, the troubling question about Nazi gas chambers on a recent chemistry exam and the slave ship joke a professor used to introduce a presentation. Originally meant to be a march from the Queer Studies house concluding with an open mic just outside of Wilson Hall, the event was moved indoors due to inclement weather.

“We want to be very intentional about elevating marginal identities in this space,” said one of the organizers in his opening statements at the rally. The speakers have asked to remain anonymous. 

According to the description in the Facebook event, the goal of the rally was to “be both visible and construct community,” aiming to “build bridges across different marginalized groups given that the LGBTQ+ community was not the only one affected by Legutko’s rhetoric.”

Many attendees came prepared with speeches or poetry that voiced their outrage with administrative decisions surrounding Legutko and disregard for marginalization that takes place within the student body, while others were moved to speak by the palpable emotion that permeated the Chapel.

“I am not disappointed by these events, because that would mean I had hope to begin with,” an attendee said.

A few students shared letters they had written to members of the administration or faculty that had gone unsent for various reasons.

“Theodore Roosevelt, a distant cousin and friend to Alexander Hamilton, once said, ‘to educate a human in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.’ Poli Sci, you need to be better,” one letter said. 

Many speakers addressed issues of class disparity, mental health and accessibility that are often left out of activist dialogue on campus. One student shared frustrations at watching wealthy and upper-middle class activists speak over their mid to lower-class peers, while another discussed the inherent ableism demonstrated in moving Legutko’s talk from Bicentennial Hall to the Kirk Alumni Center.

“This event was set up to privilege not only people who could emotionally handle being at Legutko’s talk, but also people who could physically make it to Legutko’s talk,” said one student. 

The student added that they were frustrated by a lack of consideration for people who “for whatever cognitive or developmental reasons may have had a difficult experience trying to communicate and express their ideas in that setting.”

Another speaker addressed the college’s response to a recent chemistry test question that asked students to calculate a lethal dose of the gas used in Nazi gas chambers. 

“Issuing administrative condemnation is not the same as supporting the Jewish community,” the student said. 

Feelings of exhaustion and discouragement at the seemingly never-ending fight for equality were voiced across the various identities in attendance. However, there was also a sense of hope in the simple fact that this group of people was gathered to stand in solidarity with each other.

“I hope to hear more, and more, and more of your voices, of our voices, here at Middlebury,” said a faculty member in attendance. 

For those that didn’t want to share their thoughts in person, the organizers offered a google form allowing people to provide their opinions anonymously. One respondent expressed his hope for Middlebury to become, “a place where people can learn to love themselves, every part of themselves, fully.”

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