Petition calls for the inclusion of students abroad in July housing draw

By Lucy Townend

Over 160 students have signed a petition requesting that the college allow students currently abroad to participate in the July housing draw with other students. 

The petition came after an announcement on June 26 from the Residential Life Office that all international students and students currently abroad, regardless of their plans for fall semester, will only be allowed to participate in the later housing draw occuring in August. The college has since clarified that statement, saying in an email on June 30 that students who know that they can return in the fall should participate in the July housing draw.

“We cannot and will not be isolated from our domestic peers in an aspect so defining of our college life as our residential experience,” the petition read. The document, co-authored by members of the International Students’ Organization (ISO) executive board, asked for one of two solutions — either allow students to participate in the July housing draw, or set aside specific spaces for international students. By isolating certain students to the August housing draw, the initial announcement prevented roommate groups from including both domestic and international students.

 “One overarching goal [of the petition] was to highlight that international students, and students abroad in some cases, are affected disproportionately because of certain decisions made by the college,” said Smith Gakuya ’23, a co-president of ISO, in an email to The Campus. “Since these groups face unique challenges, we want to ensure that their needs are considerably met.” 

Arthur Martins ’22.5, the other co-president, agreed. “International students always feel as if we are an afterthought in whatever decisions are made by the administration,” Martins said in an interview with The Campus. “The problem was solved by adding one sentence to the email.” 

To exemplify this feeling, the petition referenced the evacuation of campus in March, a process which was particularly stressful for international students. 

A second goal of the document was to highlight the ways in which international students are sometimes treated as a homogenous group with identical needs. “People are tired of feeling that they’re not valued,” Martins said. “And I think it sends us a strong signal, especially right now when we’re in such a vulnerable position.” 

The petition also asked for clarity surrounding the July 6 deadline to withdraw from the fall semester. A second follow-up email, sent to international students on July 1 by Kathy Foley, the director of International Student and Scholar Services, clarified that international students who are unsure of their travel plans do not have to decide by that deadline. 

Some students, such as Michelle Liu ’22, the director of programs at ISO, think that the college’s response is insufficient. 

“I believe the administration is passive on this issue and should be taking more active steps and demonstrating some genuine effort to help the international community and everyone at Middlebury,” Liu said in an email to The Campus. 

Martins encouraged all Middlebury students to take part in the conversation. “If there are a lot less international students on campus and it’s a less vibrant and colorful campus,” Martins said, “then let that be a reminder that we are part of this community, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that everyone in this community is supported and valued.” 

Middlebury students can sign the petition here.