A call to strike on March 31: A letter to faculty from students

By LAUREN BATES, CLAIRE CONTRERAS, LUNA GIZZI, and SIDRA PIERSON

Dear Faculty,

On March 31, students, faculty and staff across campus will be striking in an effort to resist the white supremacy and pseudoscience that denies marginalized members of our community their dignity at Middlebury College. We are striking because everyone deserves to live and learn on a campus that does not invite speakers who invoke violence and hatred, or utilize “science” as a weapon of oppression in the service of racism, sexism, transphobia and classism. 

We believe Charles Murray embodies larger structures of white supremacy that occupy Middlebury and all institutions of higher education. We refuse to allow Middlebury to continue to uphold these structures of oppression and we refuse to allow right-wing money and media to control discourse on our campus. Instead of attending our usual classes, we are planning an alternative schedule of teach-ins led by faculty. These teach-ins will be open to students, staff, and community members who wish to engage with anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-xenophobic and anti-pseudoscientific material. These teach-ins will allow the members of our community to exercise agency over their own education on a day during which a racist pseudo-scholar will monopolize a powerful speech platform at our institution. 

We are asking for your support and collaboration in our resistance. We urge you to join us in striking. As faculty, you contribute immense labor power to this institution. Choosing to withdraw and redirect that power on March 31 will disrupt “business as usual” and lend weight to our resistance. For those of you who choose to strike with us, we urge you to tell your students of your intent in advance and create space in your classes for discussion of this action as a mode of resistance. You can further create that space by reaching out to student organizers and offering your classroom as a teach-in location. We are immensely grateful to the faculty members who are already collaborating with us. In particular, many faculty members have contributed to a website with a tentative and developing schedule of teach-ins, along with more general information about Murray. If you are interested in getting involved, whether it be to offer support, offer your classroom space or create your own teach-in, please fill out the form on go/facultyteachin.

If you choose not to join us, please allow your students to make their own choices about whether or not they will strike and participate in the teach-ins. Recommend a talk or teach-in that you find engaging or related to your class material. Tell your students you will not take attendance that day, or offer a make-up opportunity. We ask that you please do not give exams or quizzes in class that day. 

We are committed to making March 31 a day focused on learning strategies to unlearn institutional biases. We invite you to reach out to us about leading your own teach-in. You might choose to teach about the history of white supremacy, classism, racism and pseudoscience in your discipline, or lead a workshop debunking Murray’s ideas as they relate to your areas of research. Too often, the labor of supporting student activism, recognizing current on-campus social issues and incorporating those issues in the classroom falls upon certain professors. These professors are often already engaged in social justice in their programs and departments (e.g. Environmental Studies, Black Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, etc.). By relegating these conversations to the sphere of the social justice-oriented humanities, we fail to recognize the impact that Murray’s bigoted pseudoscholarship has on students of all disciplines and the college community as a whole. 

We urge you, professors across all disciplines, to engage now, as Charles Murray’s visit will inevitably have an impact on the entire college community. We envision a day of learning that is inclusive of the diverse perspectives and fields present on campus. We hope that you will help broaden our understanding of the ways in which white supremacy and related oppressive ideologies and forces manifest.

Ultimately, we are asking you to foster communities and spaces in which all students feel dignified and supported. Please reach out to us, engage us in conversation, and share your thoughts and concerns. We ask you to take this as an opportunity to encourage participation in our collective education outside of the classroom.

Note to readers: We would like to make readers aware of a companion letter written by our peers that argues that the talk should be canceled or moved off-campus. The letter was sent to administration this week. These distinct approaches stem from similar beliefs about what values our campus should uphold.

Sincerely, 

Lauren Bates ’20

Claire Contreras ’22.5

Luna Gizzi ’21

Sidra Pierson ’21

The authors of this piece are four of the over 120 student signatories who signed this letter online. For a full-list of signatories or to add your support, visit go/cmletters.