Benjy Renton

Part 1: An Unstable Spring

Benjy Renton

At the time that Swenton’s Faculty Motion was introduced, the full economic effects of the pandemic were still unknown. Fears of layoffs and pay cuts circulated among faculty and staff, and the college’s refunding of room and board only increased anxieties. After three years of painful “workforce planning” and austerity measures — including different health insurance options — the college was again staring down a sizable deficit. The college has since been able to maintain pay continuity across all employees, but hiring has been frozen since May.

Facing pandemic-related financial belt-tightening, Swenton put forth a proposition that traded MIIS for financial stability at the college:

“We, as the faculty of Middlebury College, resolve that before any further cuts in benefits, compensation, or staffing are made of faculty and staff, Middlebury should make clear plans to dissolve its campus in Monterey on some reasonable schedule, and to put a stop to additional investments in Monterey in the interim, as a sign of good faith,” the motion reads.

But others see the Faculty Motion as something larger than just budgetary hand-wringing.

“I think that it is indicative of a stubborn minority of the overall staff and faculty who have either never accepted the decision to buy MIIS in the first place, or have not had enough interactions with MIIS to understand what it’s about, why it’s special, and why it’s worth saving,” Alex Newhouse ’17, a research lead at MIIS’ Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, said of the Sense of the Faculty Motion.

In an interview with The Campus, Swenton was clear on his motivations. “The whole reason for the motion was… a constant issue of money lost [at MIIS],” he said. “When we acquired [MIIS], it was back in the days of when the economy was doing well.”

In May, however, under the threat of Covid-19-related losses like the chance that students would not want to come back in the fall, Swenton said that the college needed to make various financial decisions to stay afloat, and continuing to prop up Monterey struck him as a concern.