Midd in the News: NYMag’s “Neighborhood News”

New York Magazine gave Middlebury a sassy shout-out in the “Neighborhood News” round-up from their November 28, 2011 issue. The weekly feature highlights strange and out of the ordinary news stories from the five boroughs.

via New York Magazine

Sure, college-age kids running around on broomsticks and tackling each other to the ground playing a once-fictional game and winning an international competition for the fifth year in a row is newsworthy. But was it necessary to include the cost of tuition? Simply put, no.

NYMag’s intent was to highlight the absurdity of the fact that some Middlebury students pay nauseating sums of money to play a game ripped from the pages of a fictional series. Listing the College’s yearly cost was inappropriate and, in some ways, factually incorrect. The “tuition” that the magazine lists is our comprehensive fee, which includes the meal plan (or lack thereof) and room and board.

New York Magazine made the same error in classifying the College’s yearly fee that countless other news sources have made. Middlebury is regularly listed as one of the top 10 most expensive colleges in the country, ranked alongside schools that have separate meal plans and housing fees. In that regard, the College’s fee is actually less expensive than many other schools.

While Middlebury’s yearly comprehensive fee is expensive (I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise), we are frequently wrongly classified as being exorbitantly pricey. Our comprehensive fee is so high for a good reason — we have local, environmentally friendly, edible dining hall food (that alone is more than most other schools can say), great facilities and professors, and we are one of the best liberal art schools in the nation.

In citing our comprehensive fee in “Neighborhood News,” New York Magazine aimed to make a point, and a sassy one at that. And while their sass came across loud and clear, they could have done so without listing the tuition price. Or, if they were so insistent on including some monetary reference point, they could have at least gotten the title correct. It’s a comprehensive fee, not a yearly tuition.


7 thoughts on “Midd in the News: NYMag’s “Neighborhood News”

  1. Do you actually think our dining hall food is “local” and “environmentally friendly” ? Enough with the greenwashing BS Middlebury, cool it (in both a literal and figurative sense). Also, your rebuttal seems (sadly) irrelevant. The basis for contention is what, that compared too other elite, expensive schools, we aren’t THE MOST expensive?

    Did you learn to consider logic from an Alzheimer’s patient??? Your argument is like the analogy which states that compared with other types of seafood, Iranian Caviar is arguably cheaper than Beluga Caviar. Middlebury College is, truth be told, an outrageously expensive education- as are many other comparable private schools . To hide from this fact is both cowardly and unfair.

    Now if you wanted to, perhaps, call out NY Mag for their equally outrageous (and over-priced) Fashion Section, Adverting Department, Restaurant Reviews, etc, I would welcome it. However one can only expect such thorough work from thoughtful, intelligent journalism, qualities which MiddBlog (apparently) lacks. Too bad, you have such a large readership.

    • For the most part, our food is local. See here for proof: http://www.middlebury.edu/studentlife/dining. While not all of it comes from within Vermont, a significant amount does. Both Atwater and Crossroads use vegetables from the Organic Garden. Ross and Proctor list the farm that provides a food item whenever possible, such as the yogurt, apple sauce and apple cider. I certainly get frustrated with the College’s “green” efforts (candlelit dinners? I’d like some advanced notice, please…), but I don’t think that personal qualms should belittle the school’s efforts.

      My argument isn’t that NY Mag is making Middlebury out to be more expensive than it is. I stated in my post that the comprehensive fee is exorbitant and I don’t think that anyone would disagree with that. Even if one were to estimate the cost of food and room and board and subtract it from the comprehensive fee, our tuition would still be incredibly pricey. We are no different than any other school in that regard.

      I think that it was inappropriate and unnecessary for the magazine to publish Middlebury’s “yearly tuition,” yet since they chose to do so, I felt it necessary to highlight their error in stating that our tuition is $53,000+, as it can be easily misinterpreted by those who do not “know” Middlebury. At most other schools, “tuition” does not include room and board or a meal plan, thus one might think that Middlebury’s yearly fees (with room and board and meal plan included) run above $60,000. I know that it seems like I’m arguing over semantics, but it does make a difference and it can lead others to base Middlebury’s reputation on facts that are incorrect.

    • I appreciate your “totally-not-vague” statistics (i.e. “for the most part” – quite the gem) and indirect links to college Dining Service’s greenwashing program. In addition, I haven’t even brought up the history of College-Staff relationships and wage earnings (hush, hush now) or the relative indifference we give to the social costs of college services both in and beyond the Dining budget (just make it Green, wooopie!).

      Glad to see that Midd Blog is reporting on all those critical, selfless and un-glorifying aspects of a Middlebury education. It doesn’t at all seem like you are more embarrassed than anything at NYMAG’s quip. I agree, how seriously inappropriate and unnecessary- I bet the Chronicle of Higher Ed is appauled, and certainly bummed that you beat them to the scoop.

      Oh, sorry. I’m just kidding.

  2. I rather enjoyed their little tuition quip. In my opinion, it’s entirely fair. Schools cost too much. Middlebury is a prime culprit. Tuition versus comprehensive fee? Readers wouldn’t know the difference even if he used the slightly more appropriate terminology. Absurd that students pay that much money to play Quidditch? That’s a skewed perspective (I love Quidditch!), but it’s also true.

  3. Do they pay that much to play quidditch, or do they pay that much to get a great education and happen to be able to play quidditch, too? Did the article speak to all the other things that are included in the “comprehensive” fee that the magazine might not like or know about — like learning how to design and build a solar powered house, and then being supported to do it? Learning about the benefits of local and organic food, and then growing it? Learning about biomass gassification, and then getting the college to replace dirty oil powered heating plants with such a plant? Doing publishable research with faculty as undergraduates?

    Why single out a game (quidditch) and then imply that is what the students are paying for? Not journalism, but an axe to grind against private education, which is fine, but there are counter arguments of merit.

  4. Definitely agree with Parent ’13. I’ve played Quidditch for four years, and I played at the World Cup on Randall’s Island. In the 28 weeks that make up Middlebury’s academic year, how much time do I spend playing Quidditch? In the fall, usually 1-2 hours every Sunday. Pretty much nothing in J-term and Spring. So, I spend roughly 24 hours playing Quidditch; or, if we add the weekend of World Cup, maybe a total of 48 (just for argument’s sake). Forty eight hours out of twenty eight weeks (4,704 hours). Looks like we Middkids are doing some other things in those other 4,656 hours (hopefully sleeping for 1,568! But I digress).

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