insecurity clearance

[[a quick return to writing after a hiatus brought on by fatigue and frustration. There is more to come, probably, as the floodgates get reopened. in the meantime, let’s return with an old standard, the angry email, a genre which helped kicked this all off 2 months ago. this time, a response to last night’s disciplinary hearing for student protesters]]

I am deeply ashamed of what took place last night at the student hearing. What happened left me angry and alienated. I waited a day to write thinking my feelings would subside. They haven’t. This feels like the last straw. I have lost all faith in the people who run the institution of Middlebury College.

Community. We talk a lot about it. Incessantly, even. Middlebury community, community standards, community judicial board, etc., and yet the college is all too eager to toss any real community aside at the slightest discomfort or bad public relations.

When I arrived at the service building to participate as a faculty advisor for the student hearing, I was stunned to find the building barricaded and protected by private security guards. We were kept waiting for 20 minutes, kept at a “safe” distance. When it was finally time for us to enter the building, we were forced to show IDs to pass the barricade, as if any actual member of our community would not recognize us, the faculty in particular. While the crowds of faculty and student supporters cheering us helped temper the sense of unease and humiliation caused by the setup, it was not enough to overcome the deep sense of insult directed at the students, the faculty, and, yes, the community.

There is no money for restorative justice but hiring private security is no problem. Thank you for making such a firm statement on your true values.

You talk so much about community but your response to a stressful situation was not to look for ways to foster connections and safety but rather to escalate, to state from the beginning that you do not trust the students, that you see them as enemies. It was, frankly, an embarrassing and insulting display of cowardice. What must you think of the students to fear them so much?

For anyone who was at the hearing or has put any effort into getting to know the students involved, it is clear that they are the ones far more committed to the community ideals we speak so much of. To them, though, they are more than empty marketing speak. They are real goals that take real work to achieve. These students have proven they are willing and able to do that work, not only in their brave protest but in the way they embody their values through their everyday practices on campus and beyond. That work has rarely been recognized or rewarded but last night it was ignored and undermined.

You talk a lot about the desire to rebuild community in the wake of the Murray events. It’s ironic then that the students who have done the most to shape our community, to make it stronger and more resilient, the very students in that hearings last night, are getting no support from the college. These are the students who would usually be used by the school to sell how wonderful and engaged our students are, but last night they were treated like dangerous criminals. These students offer an embarrassment of riches for anyone looking to do the hard work bringing our campus together. The college, on the other hand, could only offer embarrassment.

I will not go into the injustices of the punishment here — I will save that for another statement with other faculty — but even a just outcome would not have made up for the unnecessarily antagonistic and hurtful conditions under which you chose to hold the hearing. For all the attention pointed at the students’ “disruption “ we might to do well to examine the disruptive consequences of many of the college’s actions throughout this affair, including last night’s debacle.

Throughout this, I have tried to comfort myself by saying “This is not who we are,” but after last night I can only conclude that this is exactly who we are.



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