Students Petition to Keep Professor Affolter

A petition has been circulating through the student body in an attempt to keep Visiting Education Studies Professor Tara Affolter. Prior to coming to Middlebury, Professor Affolter taught part time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also completed her doctoral dissertation, in the Educational Policy Studies department. She has spent the bulk of her career in high school classrooms teaching English and theatre while working for social justice within the public schools. At Middlebury, she is involved in Verbal Onslaught as well as the Carr Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. She has also conducted research here at Midd that looks at ways to build, support, and sustain communities of antiracist teachers within secondary schools

Professor Affolter’s visiting status indicates that she is to leave at the end of this academic year. However, sophomore Jay Saper, on behalf of the Institutional Diversity Committee has begun a petition to have Professor Affolter stay at Middlebury. Saper writes in an email:

To say that Professor Affolter has changed my life in drastic ways for the better is an understatement. The other members of the student body, who have been fortunate enough to engage in one of her classes, be supported by her outside of the classroom, or know a friend who has been touched by her in many ways, could not agree more.

At the time of this post 35 students have left responses to Saper’s letter. As a student of Professor Affolter’s, I was quick to post a comment in response to show my support. Saper’s letter as well as the many comments written in support of the motion, provide a wonderful testament to the kind of person Tara Affolter is as well as the kind of impact she has had on the Middlebury community,

Saper “invites everyone to please read through and contribute to the numerous passionate comments and signatures at go/keepaffolter, which serve as testament to the student body’s support of this decision to keep Professor Affolter as a vital component of Middlebury College.”

“Together” he says, “we will be heard”.


6 thoughts on “Students Petition to Keep Professor Affolter

  1. I’ve had no interactions with Professor Affolter. If students think she’s a great professor, I think it should totally be the prerogative of these students to show support for her.

    But I do hope that if the faculty and administration decide that Professors do not deserve tenure or to be put on a tenure track, we as students will respect these decisions.

    Certainly, we shouldn’t blindly respect authority, but I would hope that students at this school would have respect for established academic practices.

    And yes, I intend for this comment to be read within the context of the larger issue on this campus of past decisions like this one and the question of academic rigor.

  2. George, without having any interactions with Professor Affolter, I think it makes it nearly impossible for you to understand the perspectives of the students who have compiled these letters in support of her retention.

    To take a class with Tara is to understand why this is happening.

  3. As I said I know very little about this Professor. But I’m pretty confident that if you need to be in one of this Professor’s classes to know why “this is happening” and what’s happening is productive, she’ll be able to convince the faculty panel that this outpouring is productive.

  4. I haven’t had any interactions with Professor Affolter either, however I do know that peers I admire and respect have had the opportunity to evolve their personal perspectives on education, their purpose as a student, and sense of community through their interactions with her.

    While I largely support the administration’s dealings with tenure, and respect the financial considerations they must make, I do hope that this student input is taken seriously.

    The keep Affolter movement shouldn’t be perceived as disrespectful or subversive. The actions of these students is characteristic of the judicial activism the Middlebury administration advocates, any assertion to the contrary is a dangerous statement to make, one I fear could deter similar intentions in the future.

    That said, I don’t know Affolter, I know little about the circumstances in which she could remain on staff, but I have faith that the Midd administration can undertake the matter in a deliberate and conscientious way. I admire the students calling for her professorship and hope that our student body can recognize the merit in supporting them.

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