During nobody’s normal, staff and faculty make it possible

By Editorial Board

Sarah Fagan

We are lucky to be here — and it’s all thanks to our faculty and staff, who have been working nonstop to ensure that we have a safe and productive on-campus experience with at least some semblance of normalcy.

We see and appreciate everything being done on our behalf. And not just the work — it’s the kindness, empathy and compassion faculty and staff have extended to us. We have no doubt that this semester has been overwhelming for them, too, yet their consistent efforts to make our campus welcoming and safe have helped students stay sane. The smiles from staff at Atwater breakfast, the sympathetic revisions to syllabi midway through midterms, and the care conveyed in emails and greetings — these gestures don’t go unnoticed.

Professors spent their spring and summer months readjusting their curricula and learning how to navigate new technologies. Many of them are currently working from home, balancing childcare with teaching. To accommodate for the unusually large incoming class, new first year seminars were added to the course catalog, and professors who had not previously taught this type of course stepped up to the challenge.

Others are navigating teaching entire courses asynchronously: staring at bright computers giving lectures, posting discussion prompts on Canvas threads and sending out mass emails, all in hopes that their meticulous efforts reach at least some students. And as many professors work to foster connections through longer, more accessible office hours and unconventionally rapid responses to emails, they are also battling their own isolation away from their campus and students.

Staff have come face to face with an increased workload and a riskier work environment this fall. Dining hall staff are working overtime, taking on new responsibilities with fewer hands to go around. In light of Covid-19 restrictions, coaches are overseeing more practices to ensure that all athletes can participate and receive feedback. Custodial staff have had their hours shifted, now working late at night and in the early hours of the morning, at the expense of their usual banter and interactions with students.

 

Despite these challenging conditions, staff are going the extra mile to make students feel as welcome and supported this semester as always. Overworked and overwhelmed, dining staff still put in the extra work to give students small joys — in the form of Halloween decorations — during a stressful exam period. Although unable to interact face to face with students, custodians leave behind kind notes on whiteboards outside of cleaned bathrooms. Staff in supporting roles — those who work in the CCI, the libraries, the CTLR and Mahaney, to name a few — are giving us the same quality of support despite often having no centralized location or offices to work from.

While this semester has been challenging for all of us, it’s important to note that the majority of students did have the privilege of choosing to return to on-campus living this fall. In contrast, many staff had no choice but to return to work on campus, despite the health risks, stresses, and emotional tolls that come with working this semester.

We recognize that this semester’s success would have been impossible without the efforts of staff and faculty. As this in-person term comes to a close in less than a month, we should remember that we have the capacity to not only benefit from support but also provide it. Small acts of gratitude — such as expressing gratitude for the food staff prepare or the sanitary safety they provide — go a long way in building a Middlebury community that makes people want to return, even in a pandemic.

This editorial represents the opinions of the Middlebury Campus’s editorial board.