Trustees descended upon the College over the weekend for one of their four annual meetings.
President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz said that two committees produced resolutions for action. The Audit Committee approved the fall audit and the Budget and Finance Committee approved the comprehensive fee proposal, which increased by 2.7 percent to $57,075, not including the student activities fee. Liebowitz called the resolutions “routine.”
Their visit kicked off on Thursday, Feb. 14, with a dinner to celebrate the seven faculty members who recently received tenure. Dean of Faculty Philip Battell and Sarah Stewart Professor of Biology Andrea Lloyd introduced each of the newly tenured faculty before they explained their areas of study to the board members.
On Friday, board members split up into different sub-committees. Student Government Association (SGA) President Charlie Arnowitz ’13 sat in on the Board’s Student Affairs Committee and the Investment Committee meetings.
“I updated the Student Affairs Committee on SGA’s work this year and some of the issues that are of concern to students, taking advantage of our survey data and also discussing some of our other initiatives,” Arnowitz reported in an email.
Arnowitz said that the majority of the Student Affairs Committee discussion revolved around a presentation given by representatives from the Projects in Creativity and Innovation (PCI).
While Arnowitz would not comment on what was discussed in the Investment Committee meeting, he stressed that the trustees are aware of student concerns.
“I will say that the Socially Responsible Investment Committee (SRI) issues that students have been discussing are very much on their radar,” he wrote. “Student views are being taken seriously.”
In a surprise unscheduled meeting early on Saturday, more than 50 students braved the frigid morning temperatures to greet the 18 trustees on their way to the day’s first meeting. The students — many dressed in cow outfits — donned oversized “Wake Up, Divest Middlebury” posters in a part-presentation, part protest outside of Old Chapel before seven students headed inside to present to the board in an official meeting.
“The purpose of our divestment presentation was not to debate, but rather to present the opinions and evidence gathered by students who favor divestment from fossil fuels and weapons manufacturing to the members of the board for consideration,” wrote Nathan Arnosti ’13 in an email, who attended the “Wake Up” demonstration and presented to the board.
“We also loved that 45 students showed up at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday to show their support for divestment,” Arnosti continued. “It affirms that the issue has strong support among the student body and has manifested itself through a coalition of multiple student organizations.”
Arnosti said that while some of the students talked with trustees before and after the meeting, the Board had not discussed the content of the presentation in any official capacity.
“I will say that the trustees, along with the administrators present, listened attentively and treated us with respect.”
“I asked [the trustees] to use the opportunity to listen and learn and to see clarification from the students on this issue,” said Liebowitz. “I thought they did a good job presenting various parts of why they were pushing for divestment.”
Liebowitz explained that he and Vice President for Finance & Treasurer Patrick Norton will communicate with the chair of the Investment Committee to “outline the next steps” in the coming weeks.
The trustees also broke into groups to have lunch with roughly two dozen students on Friday.
Harry Zieve-Cohen ’15 attended the lunch and said that Dean of the College Shirley Collado made it clear to the students who attended the event that they should be critically honest when speaking to the trustees.
“I think it is important that our concerns get brought to the attention of the generous adults who run our school,” Zieve-Cohen wrote in an email.
Zieve-Cohen cautioned that the lunch had “limited value,” but said that he “appreciated” the gesture on the part of the trustees.
“The trustees weren’t really at Middlebury to hang out with students, and I think contact with the broader community can serve to help board members think beyond abstract data and theories.
“I think it is important that our concerns get brought to the attention of the generous adults who run our school,” he continued. “Students have valuable insights, but they have little experience and knowledge about how the world works. This sort of real-world experience is where the Board is probably the most valuable.”