April 29, 2021
A vast majority of respondents — over 75% — responded with “yes” or “sometimes” when asked if they struggled with their relationship with food or exercise during their time at Middlebury. Nearly half of respondents responded “yes” — a sharp uptick from last years’ 35%. Almost 80% said they knew someone who had. Students have written several op-eds in the last year about this campus’s disordered eating problem and how it has been exacerbated during the pandemic.
Still, 751 respondents reported turning to exercise to relieve mental health struggles, only second to socializing as a means of coping. Additional findings show that more than one out of every 10 respondents frequently turn to alcohol to cope with stress; another 30% do so occasionally.
One out of every six students sought counseling during the fall semester, and Counseling Services has seen a marked increase in students showing signs of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts on intake forms this year. Common struggles include isolation, existentialism and grief, according to Associate Director of Clinical Operations Ben Gooch.
In the midst of their struggles, respondents overwhelmingly found Middlebury’s mental health resources inadequate, with 80% indicating they were unsatisfied.
Nearly 30% of students had already received the vaccine when the survey closed on April 12, and more than two-thirds of respondents planned on getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccine hesitancy is much more prevalent nationally, where only 30% have the same plans. While only one Middlebury respondent said they would “definitely not” get vaccinated, 13% of the U.S. is dead set against getting vaccinated.
Respondents who indicated they would get the vaccine as soon as possible counted for roughly 94% of those who had not yet received it.
One in five respondents (20%) reported having survived sexual assault, and 8% of respondents reported experiencing sexual assault on campus.
Gender and race played a large role in who experienced sexual assault. More than half of nonbinary respondents, 25% of female-identifying students and 10% of male-identifying students reported that they have been assaulted. BIPOC respondents reported experiencing sexual assault at a 22% higher rate than white students.
Of the 82 respondents who said they were sexually assaulted on campus, only nine chose to report the incident to Middlebury. Several respondents chose not to report because the perpetrators were friends, teammates or intimate partners.
“I was too afraid of the social backlash because he was a teammate,” one respondent wrote. “I didn’t think Middlebury would actually punish him and I thought it would be more traumatizing than helpful.”
Others cited fears of social repercussions, worries about being victim-blamed and “self-gaslighting” about whether what happened to them truly counted as sexual assault as reasons why they did not report. Many anticipated little support or action from the school and thought the reporting process would exacerbate the trauma they were already dealing with.
Five out of the nine students who reported their sexual assaults to the school were dissatisfied with how Middlebury handled their cases.
At the beginning of this academic year, the college changed its disciplinary procedures for reported cases of sexual assault following new Title IX guidance from the Department of Education. Major changes include a more stringent definition of sexual assault, a live hearing process for those accused of perpetrating sexual violence and a new informal process for mediating cases of sexual assault when survivors don’t want to seek official discipline or cases don’t fall under the new definition.