Category Archives: Causes

Op-Ed: The Middlebury Dilemma

(An environmental perspective)

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 12.58.25

A middbeat contributor weighs in on the People’s Climate March from a few weeks ago where more than 130 students travelled to New York to protest the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and speaks to the culture of environmentalism at Midd.  Feel free to share your thoughts below and join in on the conversation.

“Shoulda, Coulda, Didn’t”, was the call to arms for the 400,000 other people marching across New York City in arms against the global climate change crisis at the People’s Climate March two Sundays ago. Mass demonstrations like the PCM are often points of conflict in our generation—radicals want to burn down all industrial institutions while the opposition continues to lobby in favor of fracking, fossil fuel excavation and emissions. Efforts to change the culture of our current energy investments and security are numerous and strong, but bureaucracy for change is slow and often painfully ineffective.

Middlebury College has branded itself as a big leader on the environment nestled away in an idyllic Green Mountain setting. The decorous history of our institution seems to speak for itself: in 1965 we were the first college to offer an environmental studies major, more recently in 2007 we pledged to go carbon neutral by 2016, and we were the cradle of the international climate change movement 350.org.  At the PCM, 130 Midd students turned out to put pressure on the 2014 UN climate summit. The issue of global warming isn’t a new item on Middlebury’s agenda. A few weeks ago Middlebury scholar and leading environmentalist Bill McKibben, Middlebury Physics Professor Richard Wolfson, and student activists stood in front of a standing audience in St. Stephen’s chapel, exposing the dangers of rising temperatures: acidification of the seas, drier and more frequent droughts and the increased intensity of hurricanes—we all can think back to Hurricane Irene that swept chaos across Vermont in 2011.

Yet there is a kind of darkness that breeds a strong sense of discomfort in Middlebury’s current environmental agenda. The college’s support for the Vermont Gas Pipeline, which will be used to transport fracked gas across Vermont, having fossil fuel firms in our endowment portfolio, and the obstinate lack of transparency in the administrative rings exposes a destructive inconsistency between Middlebury and its green mission – or rather, its pseudo-green one. The Middlebury mission statement reads:

Continue reading

Come Watch the TEDx Student Speaker Competition

Come be a part of the awesomeness!

Be a part of the awesomeness!

Like TEDx? Want to hear some fantastic ideas? Interested in hearing what other Middkids have to say? Enjoy Grille food?

If you answered yes to any of those questions (which you know you totally did), come out to the annual TEDxMiddlebury Student Speaker Competition! Support your friends and other fellow Middkids, listen to some fantastic ideas and eat FREE cookies and brownies!

Date: September 30th, 2014
Time: 7 pm
Place: Crossroads Cafe, McCollough
Cost: Free

You Can’t Be Outraged at Your Own Convenience: A Critical Look at the Consequences of Apathy

Businessman Searching in Empty Conference Room

It’s Thursday, September 25th at Middlebury College, and everyone’s p*ssed about the new tailgating policy. We certainly made some (read: virtual) noise: Middbeat’s former post, “Just When You Thought Social Life Surveillance Couldn’t Get Any Higher: Alcohol Now Banned at Middlebury Tailgates” generated 95 substantial replies. As of 9 pm on September 24th, the We the Middkids petition entitled “Reverse Changes to the New Tailgating Policy” received 2,508 votes. As the Middbeat article “Fight For Our Right (to party). Then Fight for Our Other Rights too” would suggest, perhaps the Middlebury community could be equally engaged when it comes to other issues facing the college (rising tuition rates, divesting from fossil fuels, et al). But needless to say, a policy concerning alcohol (or a pointed lack thereof) got our collective attention.

We complained, we petitioned, we wrote. We had angry conversations over paninis in Proctor and we sighed as the Middlebury Panthers lost to Wesleyan on Saturday. We voted, using the appropriate platforms provided by the SGA. We spoke up.

And then we dropped the ball. The SGA gave our intangible anger a tangible forum, provided the Middlebury community with the opportunity to speak directly with Erin Quinn (Director of Athletics) and Katy Smith Abbott (Dean of Students) to demand an explanation for this infantilizing and poorly-conceived new policy. The We the Middkids petition would indicate that at least 836 students voted against the tailgating policy (and, by extension, against a lack of meaningful communication between students and the administration). But how many students showed up to the Senate meeting? Not many. 

One of Erin Quinn’s arguments, as indicated by Middbeat’s Live Feed, suggested that he did not believe the changes to the tailgating policy affected many students. When precious few students show up to a forum designed to discuss that very policy, students unwittingly substantiate his claim. Our apathy gives him permission to be right, permission to cast us aside, permission to treat us like the disobedient children the new tailgating policy would suggest that we are.

The meeting was a success on the part of the SGA. Their resolution passed, indicating that Katy Smith Abbott is willing to discuss future policy changes with SGA President Taylor Custer ‘15 and Student Co-Chair of Community Council Ben Bogin ‘15. But where were we to support them, to validate the claims of students we elected to fight on our behalf? Speaker Michael Brady ‘17.5 remarks, “I was definitely hoping there would be more people there. I tried to make an effort by emailing [constituents], and about a 60% majority wanted the new policy appealed.” However, this display of initial enthusiasm did not eventually correlate with physical attendance at the Senate meeting. Brady describes the turnout as “definitely disappointing. We didn’t have the numbers show up that we would have liked. I don’t think there’s going to be substantial change if kids don’t back up the outcry.”

It’s true that our schedules are busy, and that most of us are bound to the Sunday night homework grind. We elect SGA members to have these very sorts of policy conversations on our behalf – can’t we just step back and let them do what they do best? Tempting, but the answer is no.

“I would have loved to stand up against this policy through civil disobedience,” says Brady. “However, due to my position in the SGA, I can’t take that particular avenue. In order to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the administration, it was more productive and appropriate for me to write and discuss legislation than to picket outside an administrator’s office. It’s within everyone’s best interests if the SGA maintains an amicable relationship with the administration – [that relationship] cannot be ruptured to a point where the SGA is longer functional.”

Continue reading

Neva Hassanein Lecture: “Cultivating Food Democracy”

hassanein

Tomorrow afternoon in Axinn 229, Neva Hassanein will speak on how local, sustainable alternatives to the food system are developed, and how they are examples of democracy and resistance in action. Hassanein, a professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Montana, will share her experiences getting the University of Montana’s student farm up and running, as well as her community-based research on local food systems and infrastructure in Montana. Whether you’re a regular volunteer at the Middlebury College Organic Farm or have never been to a Farmer’s Market in your life, this is a great talk to attend if you’re interested in learning more about how and why our decisions about food matter.

Date: Wednesday, September 24
Time: 4:30-6 pm
Place: Axinn 229

MAlt October Break Service Trip Application Due September 30!

start

Merck Forest and Farm Center, location of the 2014 October MAlt trip

Love community service? Trying to spend your October break productively, surrounded by the beautiful Vermont fall foliage, rather than on your parents’ couch? The Middlebury Alternative October Break (MAlt) Trip might be perfect for you! The application deadline is September 30, so be sure to read up and apply at go/malt if you’re interested (no prior service experience necessary).

For those who have never heard of MAlt, here’s some info from their site: “MAlt is Middlebury’s alternative break program. Each year, students design and plan six trips during February Break (national and international destinations) and one Vermont-based trip during Fall and Spring Breaks. The goal of the trips is to engage Middlebury students with communities across the nation and the globe in order to share an experience, provide service where service is needed, and learn about the systems that shape community realities around the world.”

MAlt Finance Chair Maya Neria ’15 writes in to tell us about the upcoming October break trip:

Join us for the seventh annual October Mini-MAlt break trip to breathtakingly beautiful Merck Forest & Farmland Center in southern Vermont at the height of the foliage season. Merck Forest’s mission is to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland. Past work has included trail maintenance in the forest, helping with the harvest, and pruning trees. We will be sleeping in a lean-to and cooking together as a group in fall temperatures ranging from 40-60 degrees during the day and 30-50 degrees at night. It’s about a two-mile hike into the site.

We’ll depart Saturday, October 11 at 8 am and return late afternoon on Monday, Oct. 13. Camping gear can be provided!

Applications for the 2014 October Break Malt trip are available at GO/MALT. The trip will cost $30 per person, and financial aid is available if necessary. If you’ve got any questions, Contact the MAlt Exec board, middalt@middlebury.edu or Malt Advisor Ashley Laux, alaux@middlebury.edu.

Application Deadline: Tuesday, September 30th to MAlt Exec Board via email at middalt@middlebury.edu. You will be notified by October 2nd of your acceptance.

Middlebury Disorientation Guide pt. 3: Mental Health and Sexual Assault, College Finance, Privilege, and Recommended Classes

This is the third and final portion of the “Middlebury Disorientation Guide” that will be published on middbeat.  This portion covers the topics of Mental Health and Sexual Assault resources on Campus  Make sure to also check out Beyond the Green’s coverage of the pamphlet, and continue to comment and reach out to get involved with the campaigns and ideas the authors have put forth.  Again, you can get in touch with the student activists behind the pamphlet at disorientmiddATgmail.com, and find the whole guide here.

Continue reading

Fight For Our Right (to party). Then Fight For Our Other Rights too.

Discussion about the new ban on alcohol at Middlebury football tailgates has caused community wide discussion about drinking culture, school spirit, collective Middlebury identity, fundtraising,and the role of the administration in regulating college social life.  This piece, written by a frequent middbeat contributor, puts the wide range of opinions into perspective in an effort to focus the discussion its core elements of social liberty, administration-student relations, and creating a healthy social environment at the school.  Please continue to comment and share your thoughts as this discussion matures.

When this writer last checked the SGA’s We the Middkids website, the petition to make Reverse Changes to the New Tailgating Policy had 2,231 votes. While there are a variety of things that this statistic may be symptomatic of, it definitely does a good job of showing the amount of people that have come together to rally against this, and how. With the slew of emails, Middbeat posts, Facebook updates and angry Proctor conversations that have been centered around the recent decision made by the administration, it is evident that this has become a hot topic for the student body here at Middlebury, and there are many people both for and against the changes with many extremely valid opinions.

Yet, the scale of this unrest provokes the need to ask a simple question: Why is this so important to our community?

Continue reading

DJ Spooky presents of Fire and Ice

dj-spookyThe award-winning Paul Miller, also known as DJ Spooky, is the featured performer of the 2014 Clifford Symposium. Spooky is known for creating music with a combination of digital and conventional techniques and for collaborating with well known artists. He incorporates violin solos, as well as iPad-made music into his lecture and video representation of climate change and its effects of the Arctic poles. As the author of Of Water and Ice, and The Book of Ice, Miller takes a new perspective on the issues concerning climate change that many are so familier with already. His knowledge of the algorithms that make up the geometry of ice crystals are interpreted through the music he produces to create unforgettable and intellectual performances. Get hyped!

Time: 9pm
When:
September, 19 2014
Where: Wilson Hall, McCullough
Cost: $6-$15

Middlebury Disorientation Guide: Introduction and a People’s History of Middlebury College

Adjusting to Middlebury can be tough.  Hordes of new faces, an unceasing schedule, getting used to dorm life, going to your first round of parties, making friends, finding the student groups you want to join; the first couple weeks of college are universally as stressful as they are exciting.  While the transition is difficult for all, it can be particularly difficult for those coming from backgrounds different from the elite setting Middlebury presents.  If you’re one who feels this way, that your discomfort and difficulty transitioning to the college goes beyond the superficial mania of newness, and instead extends into your class, racial, cultural background, gender, or sexual orientation, a group of student activists on campus has compiled a polemic “Disorientation Guide” aimed to contextualize these structural inequalities many students face at Middlebury and offer support.  The authors write:

This guide is a working­ document written by a fluid collective of students committed to organizing, educating, learning, and building a transformative community. As students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, we critically examine Middlebury College as an institution and seek to honor it as a community of students, faculty, and staff with a long history of resistance to injustice. We’ve been part of many efforts to change this private college, which does not fit into our ideal of free education available to all. Some of our efforts have been through institutional channels, and others have not. We feel that no matter what methods people choose,it is important to know what has been done before and what is possible when we are organized. We think we can transform this place, or at least throw a wrench in the charge towards corporatization and white fantasy-hetero-sexist-­bleakification. This guide is a small effort to ask you to join us, or join with someone else, get creative, don’t wear salmon colored shorts, and if you feel like you have to sell your soul, don’t sell it to the wrong people.  If you want to get in touch, contact disorientmiddATgmailDOTcom.

You can find the rest of the guide after the jump.  Feel free to comment and discuss below, and get in touch with the authors at disorientmiddATgmailDOTcom.

Continue reading

Woodin Environmental Studies Colloquium Series

Week 2 of the Series

Are you an environmentalist, tree hugger, or registered member of the Green Party? If you fall into any one of these categories, or just want to kick back in Hillcrest’s gorgeous Orchard Room after a heavy Proctor lunch, come sit in on the Howard E. Woodin Colloquium Series today at 12:30, and learn about the effects of human plastic waste in ocean ecosystems.  Professor Erik Zettler of the Sea Education Association will give a talk entitled “Life in the Plastisphere: The Ecology of Plastic Marine Debris.”

Date: 9/18/2014
Time: 12:30-1:20 P.M.
Place: The Orchard at Hillcrest (Room 103)
Cost: Just your brain