Half-million donation for anti-racism programming allocated to departments, projects

By Lily Jones

Pia Conteras
The CDEI is using its $105,000 to provide grants to departments or programs working on anti-racist projects.

One year after Middlebury received a $500,000 donation to support anti-racism programming, seven projects have received funding and six have begun in departments across the college. President Laurie Patton currently oversees about half of the donation, which has yet to be allocated, while Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández oversees the remaining $250,000. Of these funds, $200,000 will be spent on the Vermont campus and $50,000 is for the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey (MIIS).

The Faculty Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (CDEI) received $105,000, used to provide grants to departments or programs working on long-term projects to combat institutional racism. Professor of Film and Media Culture David Miranda Hardy is the chair of the CDEI and oversees the grant process. 

“The idea of the grants are to find a very specific point of intervention in academic units,” Hardy said. “We felt an infusion of funding could incentivize faculty that are already interested to work in that direction.” 

Of the projects, six are already in progress, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. The grants are capped at $8,000 each. 

One of the seven grants is going to the economics department to support students of color. 

“The departmental climate for minority students was substantially different than for white students, so they decided to create a system of mentorship that will also improve access to professional opportunities,” Hardy said.  

The theater department is using its grant for curricular revision with the help of experts in decolonizing curricula. The Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies department is using grant money to develop a medical humanities certificate. 

“This will incorporate a feminist and anti-racist lens to the pre-health track, which was based on experiences of recent alums going into the health profession,” Hardy said. 

The Luso-Hispanic Studies department is modifying its curriculum to allow for better learning experiences for heritage speakers that have learned Spanish in non-academic settings. Another grant is going to Beyond The Page, a group that combines theater performances with other academic disciplines. 

The final in-progress project is a student-driven initiative in the education department to develop a sophomore seminar on anti-racism. Additionally, the Writing and Rhetoric Program will soon start a project to enhance anti-racist pedagogies in college writing classes. 

The Office of Admissions received another $10,000 of the donation to participate in the Ron Brown Scholars Program, a college scholarship and leadership program for Black students, for two years. 

The Twilight Project received $15,000, allowing Rebekah Irwin, director and curator of Special Collections and Archives, to hire a part-time archivist, Kaitlin Buerge ’13. Buerge, who recently finished her time as an archivist at the completion of the project, was responsible for outreach to underrepresented student groups and for curating and archiving content like social media and student publications and projects.

“The Twilight Archivist dedicated technical expertise and time to anti-oppressive cataloging standards, addressing racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other systems of exclusion in our catalog and archival descriptions,” Irwin said in an email to The Campus. Some examples of Buerge’s work include the Reparative Cataloging Project and Community Responses to Anti-Black Racism and Police Violence

A project organized by Professor of Education Studies Tara Affolter received $6,000 in order to fund a series of short films and a live performance exploring what anti-racism would look like within each academic discipline. 

Affolter has hired six students to interview peers across departments, and also works with Beyond The Page to turn the interviews into a script for a live theater performance. 

“We want to use the arts to see what we could be, staying in a space of hope and possibility,” Affolter said. 

The live performance will take place on December 11, with a filmed version to be released in spring 2022. The filmed version will be used to help with faculty professional development spaces such as workshops and faculty meetings. 

The final $5,000 was set aside to join the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, an organization dedicated to training faculty and students in the professional environment. The balance of $59,000 for ongoing anti-racist projects proposed by the Antiracism Task Force is overseen by Associate Professor of Dance Christal Brown.

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies also received funding to hire two graduate assistants to work on anti-racism initiatives and support other anti-racism work at the institute.