Currently, there are several efforts in motion for greater justice at Middlebury. The following are some of the larger struggles at play right now. Always email us if you want to get linked to any of these projects: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Middlebury American Association of University Professors (AAUP): Middlebury employees reinstated a chapter of the national AAUP amidst the pandemic and ensuing financial crisis, organizing to protect employee benefits and wages, amongst other things. Alumni and students also formed groups to support the AAUP’s work. See the AAUP website here.
Middlebury Open the Books: In the fall of 2020, a coalition of students, faculty, and staff formed to discuss issues of transparency surrounding Middlebury’s finances. A few weeks later, they launched the Middlebury Open the Books (MOB) campaign, advocating for increased financial transparency from the college and admin. MOB joins efforts at schools across the country to access in-depth information about endowment investments, budget allocation, and faculty and staff wages as true markers of the administration’s values. You can read and sign their letter here, read their op-ed here, and check out their Instagram here.
Middlebury Cops Off Campus: During the summer of 2020, in the midst of mass uprisings against police brutality and racism and in growing support for abolition, a group of students remotely began organizing to dismantle public safety and cut Middlebury’s ties with police. To read their full vision for a safer and more just Middlebury see their open letter.
Food Resource Guide: This guide lists all of the food-related resources on and off campus available to students experiencing food insecurity in the Middlebury community. It was made by students and is updated regularly by the Campus Hunger Project. Find the guide here.
Justice for Our Staff: Unionizing and Higher Wages: In the fall of 2019, the Middlebury Campus reported that a group of facilities staff are working to unionize—citing voicelessness, poor treatment, frequent layoffs, and absurdly low wages. Staff, who are overworked and underpaid, have been constantly treated as disposable by the College.
In December of 2019, students at the College wore all black and protested across campus in support of better treatment for staff (see here). Going forward, students are planning to meet with the staff working to unionize to see how we can leverage power to support staff, who deserve to dignity, respect, and livable wages. Stay in tune for updates!
Oppressive Speakers, the Alexander Hamilton Forum, and Right-Wing Donors (including the Koch Bros): Since the Charles Murray Incident in 2017, Middlebury has had an influx of speakers promoting racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, and misogyny, including conservative journalist Ross Douthat (yikes), Billy Kristol (secretary of education for Reagan), the Polish white nationalist politician Ryszard Legutko. The elevation of these speakers to an academic platform has been justified through the rhetoric of freedom of speech, in which students’ arguments that the validation of such speech constitutes an act violence are constantly silenced or ridiculed.
This rhetoric, and the speakers to which it has been applied, is particularly sourced from a new program at Middlebury, the Alexander Hamilton Forum (AHF). The Alexander Hamilton Forum is led by three PSCI profs: Keegan Callanan (PSCI prof on Trump’s National Council for the Humanities), Allison Stanger (you know the drill…if you don’t, you can learn about her here), Murray Dry (famous among students for his bountiful sexism), and Republican former VT governor Jim Douglas. The AHF is funded by outside sources: it’s no surprise to anyone that their funding comes from a group of grants and institutions (including the Jack Miller Center, J.P Morgan Charitable Giving Fund, and the Institute for Humane Studies) all funded by the Koch Brothers (for more info check this out!)
In Spring of 2018, the AHF invited Polish far-Right white nationalist Ryszard Legutko to campus. Legutko is known for his racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, and misonystic beliefs (see more here). After Legutko gave a secret talk in the RAJ to a group of PSCI classes despite the College’s cancellation of his talk (more here), Raisins and several other student leaders worked with the SGA to create a list of 13 Demands. Conversation between administration, faculty, staff, and students regarding this ongoing issue is still evolving, but so far there has been little transparency. This series of incidents is part of a larger problem at Middlebury, one in which the idea of an intellectual community founded on open discourse and free speech is used as a facade to cover the nasty underbelly of the academy’s relation to oppressive modes of thought including white supremacy, classism, heterosexism, and albeism. Protest against the violence of this validation of oppressive speech is framed by media and the College as proof of the reactive, overly-sensitive snowflakes that Fox News talks about, rather than a response to an institutional legacy of exclusionary and violent practices.
As of Spring of 2018, Keegan Callanan had stated that he has already invited Legutko back to campus at some point in the 2019-2020 school year. It’s safe to assume that Callanan and the rest of the Koch Squad will continue to bring white supremacist speakers to our school.
Keep a look out: there’s a group of students working on a campaign to keep Koch money off of our campus. And remember: Koch money is oil money. And the Koch fortune was made in part through the building of oil refineries for LITERALLY HITLER AND STALIN. If we have decided not to invest in the fossil fuel industry, we should probably stop accepting money from the Koch white supremacist oil empire. On that note…
In the fall of 2019, a publication called the Middlebury Independent began. It calls itself a “non-partisan, student-run publication dedicated to restoring the primacy of debate and dialogue at Middlebury College.” The Middlebury Independent is independently-funded by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), which works to cultivate conservatism in higher ed. ISI promotes limited government, individual liberty, the free market economy and the “traditional values” of Judeo-Christianity. ISI is funded by the DeVos Family Network, Turning Point USA, Young Americans for Liberty, and, you guessed it, the Koch Brothers. See a more clear map of the funding sources for this publication in our recent blog post here.
Curriculum Decolonization: In spring of 2019, two students organized a meeting to organize white students who consider themselves as allies in the fight for racial justice. They explained, “The academic institution is the greatest mobilizer of white supremacy,” and announce a plan to begin the process of decolonizing the curriculum. Students grouped up by major and made plans to get their department faculty to sign a petition in support of decolonization. The two leaders met with administrators and acquired funds for two students to work as research assistants over the summer exploring how other schools have decolonized and what that might look like at Midd. The RAs’ scheduled presentation at the Fall Faculty Meeting, however, was canceled amid concerns of “academic freedom.” Ongoing efforts to decolonize are being discussed with Prof. Daniel Silva, Interim Director for the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.
Crisis Pregnancy Center: Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) often offer false information and ambiguous advertising in order to deceive women looking for abortions. This centers, which do not possess medical licenses and often funded by religious groups, provide women with false information about abortions. You can learn more about Crisis Pregnancy Centers here, or take Professor Thomsen’s Politics of Reproduction Class. But, long story short, you might be surprised that there’s actually a CPC in Middlebury. The Pregnancy Resource Center of Addison County is a CPC that bought out an old Planned Parenthood location; the center has snuck pamphlets in Parton Health Center, tabled at activities fair, written op-eds for the Middlebury Campus, and attempted to blacklist certain professors for calling the center for what it is. In the past, students have worked to counter such efforts, writing op-eds, creating poster displays, and handing out informational sheets in front of tabling Keep an eye out, watch out for each other, and stay tuned for more to get involved in efforts for reproductive justice on campus and beyond.
Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP): SJP hosted its first interest meeting after a group of students protested Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians at the lecture of a former Israeli diplomat and IDF analyst. Join SJP to learn more about opposing Israel’s violent occupation and supporting efforts for Palestinian self-determination and justice. Read their guide to movement here.