Some Campus Campaigns
Right now, there are three ongoing efforts challenging Middlebury to take its commitment to diversity seriously. After students fought long and hard to establish an Africana or African American Studies major (currently, we have a minor that is only possible to complete if you begin taking classes Freshman year), they faced too many institutional roadblocks, and decided to change priorities. Recently, energy has been focused more on getting a multicultural center and changing the eurocentric curriculum.
- After the shooting of Mike Brown during August 2014, insurgency erupted in Ferguson, MO with people fighting police and burning down a QuickTime, and then organizing to form a nation-wide movement sweeping even Middlebury to protest against the systematic killing of black and brown people by police. Students staged vigils and teach-ins, as well as a massive Die-In in Ross Dining Hall during the busiest meal of the semester, and a solidarity group formed. Join them on Facebook.
- Founded by a group of students in the Axinn basement during the 2011-2012 school year, “JusTalks” hopes to create a program for first-years (including sophomore Febs!) to reflect and discuss issues of identity, power, and privilege. These students hope to fill a void in the Middlebury experience (discussions around oppression are hard to find in the curriculum). Starting with an event in J-Term, the program has been very well-received by the student body and has been able to bringing luminaries like Dr. Angela Davis to campus. Now entering its third year, JusTalks hopes to expand upon its efforts and create year-round programming for all students.
- Founded in early 2012, JFP (Justice For Palestine) has heeded the call of Palestinian Civil Society to campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions on Israel as a nonviolent strategy against oppression. They have hosted screenings, discussions, guest speakers, and have held creative actions such as street theatre (click to see the national coverage!) and informational sit-ins.With use of creative protest and critical analysis, they seek to bring to light a narrative of oppression and apartheid that has been widely neglected. Join them on their MiddLink Profile or find them on their blog.
Additionally, two student videos were recently made to document student experiences of race and class at Middlebury. Abroad at Home: Accounts of the invisible by Tim Garcia can be found at https://vimeo.com/95435773. Inside Class by Molly Stuart can be found at https://vimeo.com/66258547. They should both be required viewing for faculty and incoming students.
- Student activism also extends beyond campus. For example, Juntos is a student group working in alliance with migrant farmworkers in Vermont. Together, migrants and students are defending human rights, combating a racist immigration system, strengthening communities, and creating a more just dairy industry. We work with Migrant Justice, a Burlington-based grassroots organziation, to expand farmworkers’ access to transportation, health services, and language acquisition, while building an intersectional movement for collective liberation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Activist Groups in Vermont
If campus organizing is not your thing, or even if it is, there are some important issues off campus that can ground us in non-Middlebury reality and give us an outlet to apply what we’re learning (‘cause that’s the point right?!). Here’s a list of four great community organizations working to make sure people still have reason to be proud Vermonters.
- Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante works to build the voice and power of the migrant community in VT in order to create social and economic justice and defend human rights. About 1500 migrant workers currently live in this state and sustain its dairy farms, turning profits for Ben & Jerry’s, Cabot Creamery, and other well-known Vermont brands. Dairy migrant farmworkers do not have access to work visas, and are therefore undocumented. For the last five years, Migrant Justice has supported workers in telling the public their experiences of extreme isolation and exploitation (80 work-weeks, cramped and unsanitary housing, racist policing, stolen wages, etc.). As the organization has grown, migrants and allies have won some incredible victories, such as access to drivers licenses, deportations halted, bias-free policing, and returned wages. The student organization Juntos works closely with Migrant Justice, and seeks to build a student-migrant community and work together for systemic change. Contact email@example.com to get involved. And check out the Migrant Justice website at http://www.migrantjustice.net/.
- Only the coolest kids on campus volunteer at the Vermont Workers’ Center, a democratic, member-run organization dedicated to organizing for the rights of the people in Vermont. They want all the good things: dignified work, housing, education, childcare, transportation, universal healthcare, and um, social justice! They’ve already organized an impressive base of committed Vermonters who are holding the powers that be accountable for their actions and building a diverse, democratic movement. http://www.workerscenter.org/
- Rising Tide Vermont is a group that organizes and takes direct action to stop climate change and demand accountability from those most responsible for it. They’re the ones leading the campaign against the fracked gas pipeline that’s proposed to come through Middlebury. They also work to facilitate a just transition to resilient and equitable land-based communities. If that suits your fancy, get in touch! http://www.risingtidevermont.org/
- If you think the prison industrial complex is worth abolishing, getting in touch with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform (VCJR) is a good place to start. VCJR works to build “a criminal justice system that values the humanity in all people, aims to restore relationships and communities, and uses incarceration as a last resort for public safety.” Join other students and faculty participating in this grassroots coalition against mass incarceration and criminalization of marginalized communities. http://www.vermontersforcriminaljusticereform.org/
- We’re super lucky to be close to Bread and Puppet Theater, which was founded way back in 1963 with a desire to build community through enjoyment and political engagement. The tools of choice are home grown food and cheap art. On a farm in Glover VT, the company makes art to incite and inspire; “Not the Fine Arts–the Coarse Arts are what we use.” There you will also find a 140-year old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets. Their traveling puppet shows range from tightly composed theater pieces presented by members of the company, to extensive outdoor pageants which require the participation of many volunteers. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer at Bread and Puppet – one of the oldest, nonprofit, self-supporting theatrical companies in the country. http://breadandpuppet.org/