Community Council: A semester in review

By TONY SJODIN

This semester, the Community Council has discussed several issues concerning Middlebury’s future, including the addition of security cameras on campus, the implementation of the How Will We Live Together report, recurring problems with unreturned dining hall dishes and an upcoming review of the college’s social houses.

Staff members from several departments have attended meetings to present their work to the Community Council and answer questions posed by council members.

Public safety spoke about updating the ID card access systems on buildings across campus and installing security cameras, beginning this winter, in areas that experience heavy foot traffic from members of the college and from visitors.

Staff from the recently-expanded Health and Wellness Department presented on their work on Tobacco 21 and the college’s policies related to tobacco use reduction. They also spoke about methods for promoting health and wellness among students, as well as the department’s goals of providing more preventive and holistic care going forward. 

“Community Council is a great way to get information out to students, and to get a great snapshot of how students might feel about things we’re developing,”  said Maddie Hope, the assistant director of health and wellness education and mental health promotion specialist. “I think it will continue to be a fertile ground for sharing of ideas, receiving feedback from community council and disseminating information, so I’ve been thankful.”

The council also discussed the implementation of the How Will We Live Together report in a meeting, with presentations by Hope, Senior Associate Dean of Students Derek Doucet and AJ Place, associate dean of students for residential life.

According to Hope, a key part of the new BLUEprint housing model is the increased level of cooperation between the Residential Life staff and the Health and Wellness department.

“So the BLUEprint for Life, that section of that education model, is thinking about what can we do to make sure students get the information they need and feel like they’re in a place where they feel like they can build their skills around thinking about themselves as whole people,” Hope said.

Recently, Community Council has also focused on ways to encourage students to respect staff and shared spaces. Problems with students taking dishes from the dining halls and leaving them in residential halls, both in dorm kitchens and around other common spaces, have been of particular concern to the council, and members have begun working with dining hall staff to reduce the issue.

“I think there’s an overarching narrative of privilege on our campus and the problems that go into that, the big one being the dining plates conversation, was very insightful and impactful,”  said Roni Lezama ’22, the Co-Chair of Community Council. “That conversation was kind of the tipping point for us as students … so we chose to start meeting every week.”

According to Lezama, these conversations in part propelled student members of Community Council to begin meeting more frequently on their own time, to push individual projects and make progress on efforts they care about. This is a change in the structure of the council that Lezama hopes will continue.

Community Council has also been working on an upcoming review of the college’s social houses, including an examination of the role that they play in campus social life, the houses’ abilities to fill beds and how to better support the houses in their missions.

“Our conversation about the social houses is pretty huge because there seems to be a lack of structure and information being dispersed about how we can help the social houses, because they play such a crucial role on our campus,” Lezama said.

A committee is being formed to conduct the review next semester. Lezama also expressed an interest in discussing the well-being of the staff with regards to recent changes at the college during the next semester.

“I think a lot of the action is going to be J-Term and spring term,” Lezama said.