A response to anti-Semitic vandalism

Dear Middlebury community,

Just before the suspension of classes in mid-March, racist and anti-Semitic vandalism was discovered in the bathroom of the Gamut Room. Around the same time, the sign outside the FIC that points to the Jewish center was torn down. While the gravity of these incidents was lost amidst the chaos that has descended on Middlebury and the world over the past few weeks, we feel an urgency to make the campus aware of them. The vandalism of the sign alone is unacceptable under any circumstances, but normally we might have written it off as run-of-the-mill drunken antics. However, the concurrence of both events has us wondering about anti-Semitic intentions.  

For those of us who don’t have to deal with discrimination, prejudice and racism on a regular basis, it is easy to forget about it while we are at school. While it is easy to assume that these things don’t happen on our campus, this incident is a reminder that hate is very real and exists even at Middlebury. 

Moments of crisis — like the current pandemic — tend to bring out preexisting hatred and prejudices. All minority groups, including the Jewish people, have experienced that backlash at points throughout history. During the Covid-19 crisis, Asians and Asian Americans have been the targets of widespread racism and xenophobia, leading to severely misplaced blame and a horrifying string of physical and verbal attacks. Openly racist violence has not been relegated to pages in history books. It remains a threat to our friends, neighbors and peers every day. As a country, we must not fall prey to these racist and xenophobic tropes. National self-improvement starts at the community level. And so we are calling on our community to change.

We are not asking for a full investigation into the offensive vandalism. Instead, we are asking you, the Middlebury community, to reflect on what kind of place you want Middlebury to be.  Many of our peers are already dedicated to making the college a safer and more inclusive place, and we offer our sincere gratitude to them. Everyone should be involved in that effort. Talk to your friends and classmates when you hear them make prejudiced comments. Encourage your professors to create syllabi that center on more underrepresented groups. We want to be a part of a Middlebury where we respect staff enough to not vandalize the campus, and where we appreciate and value the diversity on campus. We should aspire to be a community where hateful acts such as those that occurred before break are unacceptable. To accomplish this goal, everyone at Middlebury has to pitch in. 

Signed,

The Middlebury College Hillel Board

This piece was written by Hillel Co-President Ben Dohan ’20.5 on behalf of the Middlebury College Hillel Board.