Community Council Votes to Disband Delta

ADP

Update: Community Council member Barrett Smith ’13, issued the following quote to MiddBlog in a phone interview tonight:

“Going forward, I believe the most important thing for the community will be for [the houses of] Palmer and Prescott to be social houses. These spaces were meant to be social houses and should serve that purpose. New student organizations can be created to fill these roles and I hope to work with the council to outline what the process of forming new social houses. It takes a lot of work, but I hope that student leaders on this campus will step up to the challenge.”

Middlebury’s Community Council voted earlier this evening to disband Delta, the social house often referred to as ADP, in a 13-4-1 vote. Last Tuesday the council held an open meeting to discuss the house’s future but tabled the vote until today when they reconvened in an executive session. Discussions over the fate of the social house lasted over an hour and other possibilities were considered, although ultimately discarded. The ruling will now go to President Liebowitz for approval, though he is unlikely to overturn the council’s decision.

The rest of MiddBlog’s coverage on the Delta case can be seen here. Keep following MiddBlog for updates as they come.

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The recent hazing case, and how we talk about it

Most of the women’s swim team was recently suspended from finishing out the season, after members of both the men’s and women’s teams were found to have violated the College’s hazing policy.

At the expense of joining the conversation on this topic a bit late, MiddBlog hopes to examine the case and the reactions to it thus far. The goal is to build a basis for constructive discussion about the broader concerns the situation raises.

This post is longer than average, so hit “Read more” for the rest:

Continue reading

Food for thought

Middlebury College Violates Its Own Speech Code.” Seeing that headline yesterday on the blog of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) was a bit shocking.

The article refers to the Aunt Des videos, which we already know can lead to some interesting sociopolitical conclusions. FIRE is not offended by the videos. On the contrary,

the point of this post is in no way to condemn the Middlebury administration for putting out these videos. Middlebury promises to protect free speech, and these videos are unquestionably … protected by the First Amendment. Rather, the intent of this post is to point out that broadly worded harassment policies like Middlebury’s encompass so much protected speech that they cannot possibly be enforced across the board, leaving administrators with complete discretion to decide what to punish.

Overall, Middlebury’s speech and harassment codes earn a Red Light, the worst of FIRE’s three categories, reserved for schools with “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”  The site goes into minute detail about exactly which parts of the College Handbook leave space open for censorship and why. Continue reading

The AAL Requirement: Really, Middlebury?!

Saturday Night Live has a recurring segment with Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler and sometimes a special guest in which they address, with appropriate incredulity, the seeming senselessness of something a politician, public figure, or institution has done lately.

This is a tone often taken with Middlebury’s academic distribution requirements – freshmen, don’t worry, there are myriad ways to get rid of your deductive requirement without ever using basic algebra – but especially the geographic distributions. For those blissfully unaware, the regions we must cover in order to graduate as politically correct, socially sensitive world citizens are EUR (Europe), NOR (North America), and AAL (Africa Asia Latin America). In other words, you have to take a class each in the culturally and politically polar opposites of Europe and North America, but the presumably homogenous societies of two-thirds of the world’s non-white populations? Hey, are there any classes on Australia? I think it technically falls under Asia. One J-term quickie on Japanese animation and voila, instant AAL credit! And a total lack of familiarity with the Middle East, the BRIC countries, central Africa, Southeast Asia, or any other one or few of the vastly divergent cultures in these regions.

Is the solution to this to increase the geographical requirements, or get rid of them completely? Any suggestions on change, or an argument for the status quo?

President Liebowitz Gives “State of the College” Address

President Liebowitz delivered his fall “State of the College” address to a packed house of faculty, staff, and students this afternoon in McCullough Social Space. An update on his speech from February, the President’s address mainly dealt with the financial issues of the college, and how although we are not out of the water yet, progress has been made that should be recognized. Some key points (paraphrased) in case you missed the event or the live tweeting by @middcampus and yours truly, @middblog:

  • This fiscal year (which ended on June 30th) reported a budget surplus, as well an endowment rebound to $815 million. Update: While the endowment, the college’s second greatest source of revenue, is still down from its peak of $962 million, we earned a great 17.7% on the endowment this year, as supposed to the 11% projected in December and the 5% first projected for this year and the coming years.
  • The current priorities in this financial reevaluation are as follows: 1. No staff layoffs 2. Protect academics (including our 9:1 student-teacher ratio and student academic resources) 3. Maintain our need-blind policy for domestic students 4. Maintain excellent benefit packages for staff/faculty
  • President Liebowitz stressed that it was a “conscious decision to choose the slower path”; meaning not making staff layoffs. The Staff Resources Committee will continue to work this fall to consolidate departments and positions based on common work.
  • It is the hope of President Liebowitz and the administration to make this issue as transparent as possible. He noted that financial literacy and a knowledge of this process is important for everyone in the college community.

Ultimately, President Liebowitz hopes that this refocused financial agenda will allow us to put academics back as our top concern here at Midd; that we will be able to reengage in issues that had previously been put on the back burner. This includes but is not limited to a curricular push in the fields of linguistics, global health, and more. We will also be able to focus now on the reaccreditation process and the external review team that will be coming to campus next fall.

The president ended his short, straight and to the point speech by saying that he hopes we will all take a step back from the stress and worry this crisis has caused and take time to recognize the team effort that has been made to get us on the right track.

The full transcript and video of the speech can be found here.

Third time’s the charm?

It seemed to some observers (by that I mean “me”) that the embarrassingly low turnout in the SGA presidential race would spur students to get a bit more pumped for the contest for Student Co-Chair of Community Council (SCOCC). That may have happened, but barely. Here are the tallies:

Ray Queliz            271
Janet Rodrigues    248
Kevin Broussard   103
Total                  622
Turnout              26%

The count is a bit higher than the 557 votes (23% turnout) for President. Still, the increase might just come down to the fact that one more person ran for SCOCC than for President (meaning one more group of friends was urged to vote).

Fortunately(?), we have one more chance: Since no one ended up with a majority of the votes cast, a runoff will be held between Rodriques and Queliz Thursday.

Kevin Broussard, now out of the running, endorsed Queliz in a message to his Facebook fans:

Both candidates I’m sure would do a great job as Student Co-Chair, but because of the similar issues that Ray and I both ran on, I have decided to endorse him in this run-off. … He really does care about the issues facing the student body … [and is a] consensus-builder.

Which issues, exactly? Queliz’s statement of intent (on his Facebook page) names tight budgets, tight housing, crowded dining halls, and parking. Still, it isn’t completely clear what he plans to do about any of it. Rodrigues’s statement talks about incorporating the concerns of under-represented voices on the Council, but, like Queliz, she leaves doubt about results — what might happen once those voices are heard?

Both candidates seem dedicated and eager to make a difference (just getting 100 signatures to run in the first place takes determination).  However, in spite of their noble efforts, the whole situation seems a little murky and vague — how to campaign, what issues it makes sense to campaign for, what power the Community Council really has — and more other uncertainties than I can name.

Should housing draw stay random or not? What concrete steps can be taken to slow the increasing cost of a Midd education? Is the Juice Bar gone forever? There are tons of questions out there. If any of them are going to be answered the way we the students want, by the SCOCC or anyone else, a cycle of apathy caused by lack of understanding caused by apathy needs to be broken. A solid turnout and a few questions would help.

To start with, I’d like to know how the acronym “SCOCC” is supposed to be pronounced — “scotch”? “scosee”? “skoash”?

I have to admit, I didn’t vote for SGA President: the date snuck up on me, and I didn’t feel informed enough to throw in my vote. I won’t let that happen this time.

Once again, the candidates participating in the SCOCC runoff are:

Raymond Queliz, ’11
Janet Rodrigues, ’12

Voting begins Thursday at 5 PM and lasts 24 hours.  Votes for SGA Senators will also be taken at this time — more on that later.

(Community Council works with the administration on non-academic affairs, especially housing, For more information on what the Council does, see their member list or the College Handbook.)

First Round of Budget Cuts Announced

In an all-campus email late today, President of the College Ron Liebowitz announced some of the first round of cuts to affect Middlebury services.

What students need to know:

  • “Beginning in Winter Term 2010, Atwater dining hall will no longer operate as a regular College dining hall, and instead will become a special events venue to host dinners and receptions associated with campus lectures, the language table program, student social events, and other activities.   When Atwater ceases to function as a regular dining hall, the renovated and expanded Proctor and a slightly expanded Ross will be the venues for the student meal plan.”
  • “The College will close Rehearsals Café, effective immediately, in order to reduce operational costs at that location.”
  • “The College will eliminate the MiddView program, including the overnight camping trips known as MOO.  In its place, the College will develop an orientation program that is cost-effective and makes good use of the resources available on and around the Middlebury campus.”
  • “…for the coming year, the College will reduce the amount of financial aid set aside for incoming international students.  The reduction in aid for the first-year class will likely result in a decrease in the number of international students in the entering class.  Despite this expected decline, the overall number of international students in the student body will continue to exceed the College’s goal of 10%.  In addition, the projected amount of financial aid committed for international students next year ($8 million) will still be higher than the average amount of aid awarded over the past three years ($7.5 million/year).”
  • “The hours of operation for the Grille/Juice Bar will be reduced to reflect demand.”

What faculty and staff members need to know:

  • The staff attrition goals remain the same, as previously reported. “The College will pursue the goal of reducing staff by at least 10% of current levels through attrition by 2011.  This means we are aiming for a reduction of at least 100 staff positions.”
  • “The Director of Business Services will work to reduce the discounts we provide to employees and other friends of the College for the use of [the Golf Course and the Snow Bowl].  These changes will be introduced during the summer of ’09 and the winter of ’09-’10.”
  • “The faculty and staff lunch venue will move from its temporary location in the CFA to the Crest Room in McCullough.  Although this change will limit the ability of student organizations to use the Crest Room during the morning and lunch hours, students will have access to the space in the late afternoon and evenings.”
  • Compensation: “Though we are committed to competitive salaries for our faculty and staff, and recognize their importance in hiring and retaining the best faculty and staff, we believe it would be unwise to raise salaries this coming year as if it were business as usual, especially when the cost of living has not increased significantly (0.1 percent) since December of 2007.  We will provide a 2% raise for employees who earn $50,000 or less, but hold flat the salaries for those who earn above $50,000.  In addition, all members of President’s Staff, which includes 16 colleagues, will take at least a 2.5% reduction in salaryVice presidents will take a 5% cut, and my salary will be reduced by 10%.  This will be the second year in a row that the vice presidents and I have not received a salary increase.”

Let’s face it: nobody will be excited about the elimination of MOO, or the redeployment, as it were, of Atwater Dining Hall, or the lack of salary increases in July, or any of the other recommendations which the BOC made to President Liebowitz and he in turn accepted. Nevertheless, it is important to look at the bigger picture: it is better to forego a pre-college camping trip, or a Dr. Feelbad at 1:30 a.m. than to have someone lose his or her job. An economic recession requires that we all make sacrifices.

MiddBlog wants to know: What are your thoughts on the budget cuts?

-Sarah F. / Ryan