This is the time to stand together with our MIIS colleagues

By JESSICA C. TEETS and SHAWNA SHAPIRO

It was with dismay that we read Professor Swenton’s “Sense of the Faculty Motion” calling for the immediate sale of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) to cover budget shortfalls caused by Covid-19.

Our first concern is logistical: Given the current economic milieu in which potential purchasers are likely facing fiscal shortfalls similar to Middlebury’s, it is unlikely that a sale could take place in time to avoid cost-saving measures in June. Moreover, unwinding a merger is often costly in itself, and might lead to greater fiscal losses instead of a profit that could then be used to cover immediate budget shortfalls here in Vermont.

Along with the problematic financial rationale, we are concerned that this motion disregards all the excellent contributions of our MIIS colleagues to our research and teaching. We both have faculty co-authors and project partners at the institute doing world-class research, and many of our students have found the opportunities to work with MIIS faculty and graduate students, including through the Study Away program. For example, many of our students have attended J-Term Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation programs to work on international development projects, or interned with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Some have even spent an entire semester enrolled at the institute. These students have been impressed with the quality of education received, and many have received job offers upon graduation based on these skills and experiences. Each summer, I (Teets) take students from both the college and institute for a study and research trip to China with my colleague Professor Wei Liang, a professor in international trade and economic diplomacy at the institute. These trips have been valuable experiences for our students, and would not have happened without my collaboration with Liang. We both believe that our partnership with the institute is a positive thing, and feel lucky to have these relationships and resources.

This motion also comes at an inappropriate time. As we write, our colleagues in California are under strict quarantine and are feeling vulnerable about their health. It is cruel to add in the financial insecurity that many would face should Middlebury sell MIIS.  If faculty members want to revisit the partnership with the institute at a later date, that would be fine. Right now, however , we need to stand strong as a community and protect each other. 

For all of these reasons, we urge our faculty colleagues to vote “no” when this motion comes up for debate. 

Jessica C. Teets is a political science professor at Middlebury. Shawna Shapiro is the director of the writing and rhetoric program, and a professor or writing and linguistics.