Money and Power of Administrators and Trustees

Middlebury currently lists 34 trustees on its board. Out of these 34, 20 are white men, 10 are white women, 3 are women of color, and 1 is a man of color. So- thats a board that is 88% white and 62% men. It is safe to say that all of the board members are millionaires, many are billionaires, and they all have backgrounds on wall street or in the corporate world. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise us, but it might make us question why people with no background in education are making the most important decisions at this college. In past attempts to convince trustees of different ways of allocating funds, they have only considered the potential increase or decrease in profits. The fact that there are quite a few “successful women” on the board should not be taken as a point of progress–this would subscribe to a neoliberal “lean in” brand of feminism that encourages women to reproduce dominant power structures instead of challenging them.

Here are two trustee profiles to give you a gist:

The Board President: Marna Whittington currently also sits on the directing board of Phillips 66, a Texas based oil manufacturer. This corporation makes petrochemicals, refines crude oil into gasoline, and overall contributes hugely to the fossil fuel industry, environmental injustice, and climate devastation. Whittington has been one of the board members most staunchly opposed to the prospect of Middlebury divesting from fossil fuels.

Garrett Moran is the President at Year Up Inc, which promises to get young people from “poverty to professional careers within a year.” The corporation is teamed up with other corporations and banks to make their “philanthrocapitalism” most effective. Moran’s background is in private equity and banking, and he also has been a board member of the Posse Foundation.

If you’re “bored” of trustees, find some different people to trust.DSCF0455


The Labor of Others: The Labor of Us

As students, we are already workers. Students who have jobs in addition to their studies, are doubly so. We invest vast amounts of time and energy into our schoolwork, while we reproduce and advertise the college’s brand, conduct research for faculty, and represent the college to alumni, visitors, and donors. Despite all the time we spend working at jobs and working in school, many of us will still graduate with debt. How is this possible? Because the cost of colleges all over the U.S. has been exploding for the last three decades. Since 1990, Middlebury’s tuition has increased by 75%– from roughly $14,000 to the whopping $58,753 that it costs for academic year 2014-2015. This places Middlebury in the top ten most expensive colleges in the country. This is happening while federal and state governments are gutting their subsidies to universities and their funding for financial aid programs, and as collective student debt surpasses the $1 trillion mark. The college is invested in our not thinking of ourselves as workers, but only as “pure” learners, so that our actual labor is devalued and disappeared. This is exemplified in the encouragement that we take unpaid internships, which function by exploiting the free labor of young people and reproducing class inequities when those who can’t afford to work for free don’t have access to careers in certain professions. When we graduate, many of us face unemployment, fuel the low-wage labor market, and/or are stuck with exorbitant student loans. So what is there to do? Students all over the world have actively been protesting tuition hikes, striking, taking to the streets, and demanding financial transparency from their administrations. These protests have taken place in Canada, Chile, Mexico, France, (to name a few)–and the U.S. as well, though they have not escalated to the same level here. We need to keep in mind, throughout our time at Middlebury, the following: 1) We are workers, and we do valuable labor for the college through knowledge production. 2) We collectively pay the college millions of dollars for our educations–we are entitled to transparency in what the administration does with that money (hint: it’s not going towards pay raises for custodial staff). 3) We have the power to demand no more tuition hikes!!

Got Privilege?

Well, basically: yes. No matter what our backgrounds are, we all have a fair amount of privilege just by attending an elite college like Middlebury. But we’re also marginalized in different ways and to different extents. So how do we know what privileges we have and what to do with them? Privilege is all the accommodations society makes for you on account of your identity. The advantages heaped on some because of their skin color, class background, citizenship status, sexuality, gender, size, ability, or whatever else, are tied to long histories of inequality and often become invisible to the people receiving them. It’s important to understand how privileges affect how different people tend to experience the world, and how we are constituted by oppressive structures. But privilege is not an explanation for everything, and acknowledging privilege is not the ultimate goal.It has become custom for leftists to “check” their privilege, or their friends privileges, as a way of combating oppression. But ultimately, privilege shouldn’t distract us from movement building – something we’re all capable of. Guilt is a common, convenient, and useless response to confronting privilege. We’ve got to get over the guilt and guilting so that we can dismantle the structures that enable our privileges to begin with. Or, more directly, participate in political projects that are trying to do this in fun, straightforward, or ridiculous  ways.


A few other things…

  1. Privilege is not a sin; if you confess it, it won’t disappear.
  2. Privilege colors our experiences, but doesn’t determine how we act.
  3. There’s no formula to calculate how privileged or oppressed you are. Better not to imagine there is.
  4. We all need to listen more. When privilege is preventing you from listening, stop, take a seat, and try harder.


Andrea Smith’s writing on privilege:

Oh, we forgot to mention privilege on a global scale. What does it mean to study abroad as students from a “first-world” country in an age of global capitalism and imperialism?

Well, we think it’s complicated. Colonialism today mostly looks different than it did 100 years ago. The British East India Company didnʼt have a commitment to “business ethics” or “sustainability,” and we hadn’t discovered “economic development projects” as a way to ameliorate inequality. Development agencies, often acting as the handmaiden of corporations, create value structures in which lives are measured purely based on potential for economic return. If a working girl is a good investment, the first world will offer her an education. If her pregnant mother is a burden, better take her land for the use of a multinational corporation. Most development projects rely on racialized depictions of third world people who are either “deserving” of help or “lazy” lost-causes; they usually result in the intensification of labor (especially women’s labor). Not only does the Development agenda fail to address the root causes of inequality, it also can serve as a justification for militarism. Feminist scholars Lila Abu-Lughod, Chandra Mohanty, and Kalpana Wilson illustrate this point extensively. What’s clear is that colonialism has been ethicized. We can “go green” and buy organic, cruelty-free, and fair trade, but the cost of “first-world” lifestyles still weighs heavy on the rest of the world. Looking past the public relations jargon and marketing schemes, we find that our privilege is not easily remedied. It is not a historical coincidence that the countries that were official colonies a hundred years ago are now exploited by multinationals based in the US or Europe, and are regularly policed by the US or NATO. One can explain this by citing “power vacuums”, corporate ingenuity, or even “uncivilized natives,” but the theories are hollow and the relationships of domination are still tangible. The question of how to navigate all this becomes even harder when we’re in another country.

For those of us that are U.S. citizens, we have the privilege to travel almost anywhere. But will we do it as ignorant vacationers? over-curious scholars? rebels hoping to “go native”? or something different? The way we live in a foreign country is very precarious. Particularly those with white privilege risk following the well-worn paths of appropriating, exoticizing, or acting without cultural sensitivity.


Alternative Study Abroad Programs

Domestic programs

  • Union Semester: US labor history and organizing in New York City
  • Spelman College: Middlebury has an exchange program (meaning financial aid transfers) with Spelman, a HBCU (Historically Black College/University) for women in Atlanta, GA.
  • Washington Semester at American University, Transforming Communities: Potential option that deals with community organizing and how policies affect communities.  Apparently is a good fit for those interested in community organizing in DC
  • Hecua: Education for Social Justice in the Twin Cities

Public School: Some of us have also studied at public colleges such as City University of New York, and transferred credits back to Middlebury. This is not an exchange, but a “domestic study abroad” as Middlebury calls it.

International programs

The following are some suggestions for “alternative” study abroad programs, which more directly address the complicated situation we confront when we want to travel out of the U.S.:

  • Mexico Solidarity Network: A nonprofit organization that works directly with community organizations and unions in Mexico, including the Zapatistas. Students travel to and live in communities in Chiapas, Mexico City, Tlaxcala, and Ciudad Juarez.
  • Hecua: Education for Social Justice in Norway, New Zealand, Ecuador, and Ireland

Rad Classes (non-comprehensive)

Sociology of Punishment – Rebecca Tiger

Social Movements & Collective Actions – Linus Owens

Models of Inclusive Education – Tara Affolter

Feminist Theory – Sujata Moorti

Foundations in Women’s and Gender Studies – Sujata Moorti

Unruly Bodies: Black Womanhood in Popular Culture – J. Finley

Feminist Blogging – Laurie Essig

Sociology of Drugs – Rebecca Tiger

Gender and Sexuality in Media – Louisa Stein

Social Change: Theory and Practice – Jamie McCallum

Outlaw Women – Catherine Wright

Global Climate Change – staff

White People – Laurie Essig

Sociology of Education – Peggy Nelson

The Southwest Borderlands: Cultural Encounters in a Changing Environment – Mary Mendoza

The Civil Rights Revolution – J Ralph

Education in the USA – Tara Affolter

Sociology of Heterosexuality – Laurie Essig

Poverty, Inequality and Distributive Justice – P. Mathews

The Sophomore Seminar (What is the Good Life and How Do We Live it?) -Jonathan Miller-Lane

Also, be sure to take independent studies! Pitch an idea to a faculty member for something you want to learn, and spend the following semester doing that!

Book/Film List

(categories are loose)

Student Work!

2014 SOAN Thesis by Molly Shane
“Learning Social Responsibility or Protecting the American Nobility? Understanding the Ideological Context of Middlebury College”

2013 SOAN Thesis by Melissa Mittelman and Jay Saper
“The Analyst and The Activist: A Look Into Student Discourse Surrounding Wall Street Recruitment and Resistance at Middlebury College”

Gender & Feminism

Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks

Under Western Eyes and Feminism Without Borders, Chandra Mohanty

Redefining Realness, Janet Mock

Normal Life, Dean Spade

Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, Lila Abu-Lughod

Women, Race, and Class, Angela Davis

Precarious Life, Judith Butler

The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto, Sandy Stone

My New Gender Workbook, Kate Bornstein

Race and Racism

The Angela Y. Davis Reader, edited by Joy James

This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa

White Like Me, Tim Wise

Assata, Assata Shakur

Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, Melissa Harris-Perry

State and Economy

Anarchy Alive!, 2008, Uri Gordon

Hegemony or Survival, Noam Chomsky

Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis

Days of War and Nights of Love, CrimethInc.

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, David Graeber

T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Hakim Bey

Class Matters, bell hooks

Debt: The First 5000 Years, David Graeber

Decolonization and Indigeneity

Conquest, Andrea Smith

I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, Rigoberta Menchu


The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

Yes Means Yes, Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti

From Gender to Sexuality, Gayle S. Rubin

Playing the Whore, Melissa Gira Grant

Sex Without Guilt, Albert Ellis

Transformative Education

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Friere

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall Rosenberg

The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan Kozol

Every Day Anti Racism, Mica Pollock

Other People’s Children, Lisa Delpit


The Dispossessed, Ursula Leguin

The Monkey Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey

Stone Butch Blue, Leslie Feinberg

Radical Practice

Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook, 2005, CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective

Earth First! Direct Action Manual, 2014, Earth First!

Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, 1993, Dave Foreman and Bill Haywood

Steal this Book, 1971, Abbey Hoffman


Other disorientation guides! (We drew inspiration for this guide from Tufts, Colombia, University of California Santa Cruz, and University of Minnesota)

Film List

Breaking the Spell, 1999

Black Power Mixtape, 2011

Boys Don’t Cry, 1999

Capitalism: A love story, 2009

Cowspiracy, 2014

End:Civ, 2011

El Violín, 2005

Food Inc., 2008

Edible City: Grow the Revolution, 2012

Harlan County USA, 1977

How to Survive a Plague, 2012

Inside Job, 2010

La Jaula de Oro, 2013

Milk, 2008

The Great Dictator, 1940

Paris is Burning, 1990

PickAxe, 1999

Slingshot Hip Hop, 2008

The Take, 2004

Thelma and Louise, 1991

The Weather Underground, 2002

The Yes Men Fix the World, 2009