Tag Archives: social life

Ron Liebowitz’s Invitation for Discussion: A Translation by an of-age Middlebury student

Liebo XX

A particularly cunning student recently sent middbeat a satirical translation of Ron Liebowitz’s recent invitation to the student body to discuss campus social life.   While a magnanimous gesture from our President, students have been doubting how much this discussion will actually do to change the social atmosphere at the college.  The author wanted to preface the piece with the following:

The intention of this piece is not at all to personally attack President Liebowitz, whose invitation for discussion has been extremely well received and deserves respect.  I am caricaturizing and satirizing his very reasonable words in order to provoke students to think critically about the actual issues at hand – and hopefully inspire a laugh. After reading this, I hope students will consider the social motivation of students to perform certain behaviors, the motivations of the administration to implement certain policies, and the various effects thereof.

That being said, let’s get to the bottom of what Liebo was really getting at here:

Dear Students,

Ron Liebo: I am keenly aware of the frustration surrounding student social life on campus, and how the behavior of a few has unfortunately, but predictably, shaped our policies that limit social options for the responsible majority.

Translation: I am keenly aware of your recent complaints surrounding social life on campus, and how the inability of a few of your asinine peers to hold their liquor has ruined it for the rest of you. In response, we’ve implemented policies that make socializing within two miles of an open container more trouble than it’s reasonably worth. Don’t point the finger at us, though; clearly upperclassmen haven’t been fulfilling their responsibility to properly haze their underage peers, an age-old social practice that forces individuals to rapidly learn their limits of consumption, or die. Despite our best efforts, you assholes continue to try to “host parties” and “socialize” and “get wasted”. It’s almost like the more we try to control you, the more you try to rebel. Da fuck.

Continue reading

Wesleyan’s Foss Hill and Universal Social Space on Middlebury’s Campus

Foss Hill 2

This post is intended to be the beginning of a conversation about campus social life leading up to this coming Sunday’s conversation with President Liebowitz.  While the conversation over the past month has focused predominantly on alcohol policy, other pieces of campus life, such as exclusivity, must be taken into account as well.  Students talk frequently to a perceived clickiness, and social division in the student body.  This post hopes to open up discussion regarding potential avenues for inclusivity.  Please comment, argue, and expand on the conversation below. 

One of the things I think I miss most about the school I transferred from, Wesleyan University, is Foss Hill, the center piece of the campus geography.  Whether it was through pure geological luck, or the careful crafting of campus designers, it was one of the few places on campus where you would either intentionally leave the comforts of your dorm to hang out with friends, or accidentally end up engaged in a conversation, smoking a joint, or playing frisbee with.  It was equidistant from pretty much everywhere on campus, it was big enough not to be merely a corridor between classes, open enough so that 100 people could each be with their small group of friends without being overheard by others, and had the added bonus of being part of a social contract that eschewed oversight or supervision from the administration.  If you stood in the middle of the hill on a particularly nice day, you could see students rolling a joint, doing their homework, sunbathing, doing yoga, walking to class, playing music, engaging in student activism throwing a frisbee, playing football, reciting poetry, napping, and hooking up simply by turning a circle.

While there are comparable spaces on Midd’s campus, namely Battell Beach, I have always felt the lack of a place like this on campus that drew students in like a magnet, and pacified them enough so that they’d stay and allow themselves ten minutes of devoted decompression.  There’s no place that occupies your periphery while walking across campus where you can count on students being for a broad array of reasons that do not simply involve eating, working, and sleeping.  A place hat beckons you to sit down and allow for the constant pulse of activity that drives this campus fade away if for only a short while.

Past posts of this type have called for the creation of some new communal space that students could truly call their own.  Rather than creation, here I call for designation.  Designating a space on campus where students go to do whatever it is they want to do in the presence of other students.  It increasingly appears to be a consensus on campus that Crossroads, for all of its wonderful qualities (coffee, pool, big screen, trivia night, sushi, the grille, concerts), often feels somewhat alienating and institutional.  Many view the dining halls as the optimal community spots, but I cannot say that I have seen people do much more than eat, work, and talk within the walls of Proctor, Ross, and Atwater. Battell Beach may be the closest thing we have to an optimal community space, but as one whose life is generally confined to the south side of campus, I rarely pass through.

Continue reading

Liebowitz to Host Discussion on Campus Social Life

Leibowitz_portrait

This semester has proven a tumultuous one with regards to student reactions to administrative policies regulating, some would say killing, student social life.  Aware of this widespread sentiment, President Ron Liebowitz will host a discussion regarding the relationship between the administration’s commitment to student safety and the student body’s desire for a vibrant social life in hopes of finding common ground. The meeting will be in the McCullough Social Space at 8:00 PM on Sunday, November 2. Read below for President Liebowitz’ invitation to the event. middbeat will liveblog the discussion next Sunday.

From President Liebowitz:

Dear Students,

I am keenly aware of the frustration surrounding student social life on campus, and how the behavior of a few has unfortunately, but predictably, shaped our policies that limit social options for the responsible majority.

I would like to hold an open meeting to air as many issues and concerns any and all of you have related to social life and related College policies and practices.  I would like to better understand how we might find some common ground and work to improve what is not a satisfactory situation.

I would also like to share what might be called “the other side” of the issue—the constraints within which we work in approving, or not, activities on campus, as well as provide some history of the efforts made in the past that brought some short-term success.

I believe if we better understood the issues that are getting in the way of social life on campus, as well as the challenges we as administrators face in maintaining a safe environment for our students, faculty, and staff (and neighbors), we could make great progress to improve social life here at Middlebury.

I invite you to a discussion on Sunday, November 2, at 8:00 p.m. in Wilson Hall (McCullough Social Space).  I hope to see many of you there.

Best,

Ron

When: Sunday, November 2 8:00 PM
Where: McCullough Social Space
Cost: N/A

Social House Information Session

Chromatic, one of many beautiful social homes

Chromatic, one of many beautiful social homes

In light of recent events and policies, it’s clear there’s significant drama regarding social life at Middlebury. While we all (at least most of us) revel in our campus’ lack of Greek life, social outlets at Midd can feel limited, and, if you’re not in a cappella, sports, improv or the likes, it can be really difficult to meet students in other years. Thankfully, Midd does have some sweet Social Houses, which provide invaluable opportunities to branch out, meet students with similar interests, and feel part of a smaller community.

If you’re interested in joining a social house this year (everyone is welcome!) be sure to check out today’s social house information session/fair in Crossroads Cafe. Kelsey O’Day ’15 writes in to explain the event:

Come to Crossroads at any point from 7-9pm on Wednesday, October 8th and meet some of the Social House leadership! Representatives from each Social House (Tavern, The Mill, Chromatic, KDR, and Xenia) will be there. We’ll be available to answer any questions you may have about the social house system in general or about a specific social house. Also, this is a great opportunity to get on our email list sowe can invite you to our events throughout the year! This is a *~* non-binding*~* event! AKA you will not be required to sign up to be a member, and can just come hang. Not to mention there’s FREE GRILLE FOOD for attendees and fresh apple cider (yuuuum).

Date: Today, October 8
Time: 7-9pm
Place: Crossroads Cafe

One Small Step… Party Assistants for Hire

brett_stimson_2_square_dance

Social life surveillance has been a hot topic preoccupying many minds over the last couple weeks, middbeat’s included. The student body’s principle complaint has been the shady ways in which the administration goes about making these decisions, without any apparent student input.  Alas, there seems to be some progress on that front, heralded in by the recent announcement of a newParty Assistant position for students.

Anyone who has been to a party in Palmer or its ilk knows that Pub Safe usually rolls through halfway through the party, monitoring adherence to things like fire codes and party procedures, and, more often than not, they were forced to shut parties down due to noncompliance. A conversation began last year about how students could work with Public Safety and the administration to maintain a safe party atmosphere while keeping these parties going.  The administration paid attention to this discussion, and this year, a solution has been announced: Party Assistants.

An email slipped through the cracks a while ago, announcing that the “Party Assistant position is posted for hiring”. These party assistants are students who are paid to work with party and event hosts in Social Houses.  They receive training (different than Crown Manager training) that “will allow them to help hosts stay in compliance with fire codes and party procedures, identify potentially risky situations, effectively request help, support event attendees who have questions or require assistance, and most importantly support party host in hosting safe and enjoyable events.” Being a party assistant entails, among other things, providing the food and non-alcoholic drinks that party procedure requires, arriving before the event to speak with the hosts and do an initial walk-through, and staying through the event and its wrap-up and providing feedback.

The presence of these Party Assistants means that Pub Safe will no longer have to walk through mid-event; instead, the party host and the assistant will meet them at the door for a quick consultation.  This will most definitely be a welcome change for party-goers and Pub Safe alike.

While we should definitely continue the discussion about social life restrictions that has been recently set afire by the new tailgate restrictions, it is important to acknowledge when positive steps are taken.  Students expressed dissatisfaction about the status quo and the administration was willing to work with us in finding new solutions.  Let’s prove that this was the right move and make this step successful: Party Assistant positions are posted on the SEO website and hires will take place on a rolling basis.  Anyone willing to spend a couple nights a year benefitting the greater good, get involved.  Party-goers will thank you.

Liebowitz Error Means Purple Jesus May Be Resurrected

The saga continues. After a strange turn of events involving a screw-up by Prez Liebowitz and Shirley Collado, it looks like Purple Jesus may have a chance at continuing at the Mill.

Liebowitz sent an email to the Community Council on May 30th admitting he “never completed the process I have been committed to following” for deciding whether or not to approve the Community Council (CC)’s decision to let the Mill continue to be an exception to the Social House Pilot Program so it can continue throwing Purple Jesus parties. What did he miss? Consulting the CC, which has spent time working with the Mill and discussing the nuances of its exception to the Pilot Program and its impact on the community.

Back in April, we all thought it was safe after the Community Council nearly unanimously voted to continue allowing the Mill to be an exception for the pilot program. It seemed like Liebowitz’s approval would be a mere formality. But then he surprised everyone by sending the Community Council a letter saying he would not approve their decision. It was unprecedented for him to overturn such a strong CC recommendation without first consulting them. As you can see in his letter, he didn’t mince words: “After due consideration, I have decided not to accept the Community Council’s decision to formalize the exception for the Mill,” he wrote.

But in his latest email to the CC, he explained that he had Shirley Collado draft two letters concerning the Mill decision: one that accepted the CC’s recommendation and one that didn’t. He claims that because it was such a busy time of year and he just recently made his decision on Delta, he thought he was signing a letter about Delta, not the Mill.

So now he is taking back his final decision until he has a chance to talk to the Community Council about the issue, which will hopefully happen in the next few weeks.

He concluded his email by saying: “I apologize for my error.  I should underscore that I have not arrived at a decision, but that does not mean I will come out in agreement with the Council; I may, or I may not.  I need to have this conversation with the Council to better understand its position.   I missed that step in the process.”

Now there are a lot of question marks surrounding this (Update: President Liebowitz pretty much answered these questions in his comment below). like why it took so long for him to realize his mistake (over a week), what Dean Collado’s role in this was, how often he doesn’t look at things he signs, etc. While conspiracy theories may start to fly, the most important thing is Purple Jesus, with the backing of the Community Council, has a solid chance of making it out of this weird series of events alive.

We will keep you posted on any more news we hear about the state of Purple Jesus.

Liebowitz Ends Purple Jesus

On Tuesday, President Liebowitz surprised just about everyone by declining the Community Council’s strong recommendation to allow the Mill to continue to be an official exception to the social house pilot program, which bans hard alcohol. This means the Mill can no longer host Purple Jesus, one of the most popular and storied all-campus parties and the Mill’s longest (over twenty years) and most important tradition.

We all assumed Purple Jesus was safe after the Community Council voted 14 in favor, 2 opposed, 3 abstentions to let the Mill continue to be an exception to the pilot program and its hard alcohol ban. While many rumors surround the content of the Purple Jesus drink, P Safe monitors its preparation closely and it is diluted to 5.4% abv.–weaker than heavy beer. Furthermore, Purple Jesus events have had hardly any problems with citations or dorm damage.  But Liebowitz decided to decline the nearly unanimous recommendation anyways:

Screen shot 2013-05-23 at 4.01.28 PM

This will certainly not help with brewing student frustration over administrative micromanaging of the social scene. And with no Purple Jesus and no ADP, many predict Midd’s social scene will begin to move even more underground and off-campus, which will have repercussions of its own.

We will keep you updated with any more news we hear about Liebowitz’s decision.

middbeat minutes: Discussing the Future of Social Life at Midd

Students turn out to discuss the future of our social life

Students discuss the future of our social life

Middlebury’s social scene is still in the midst of an identity crisis. It largely began in the 90s when the College got rid of frats and sororities, which provided the foundation of Midd’s social life for, like, a hundred plus years. With the end of Greek life came a make over of the school’s identity from a typical white, privileged New England college (epitomized by fraternities and sororities) to a prestigious, diverse, global-minded, environmentally-conscientious, etc. institution, and brand really.

While most would probably agree this new identity has been a positive change overall, Midd still hasn’t figured out what it means for its social scene. This confusion has manifested itself in tensions over the role of alcohol consumption, social institutions like social houses and superblocks, strict Vermont State alcohol laws and the administration (old chapel, res life, pub safe, etc.) in defining our social scene. Student frustration over the administration micromanaging nightlife and shutting down social houses, a perceived lack of trust between students and pub safe, alcohol task forces, convocation speeches littered with warnings about knowing your limits have all emanated from this.

We also still have an alarming lack of student owned-space and student-created traditions (what gives, this school is over two hundred year old?!), which is partly the case, it could be argued, because we still haven’t filled the void of the greek system on campus and figured out what our new social scene/identity is exactly. But within this frustration, there also exists (we think) a kind of  excitement at the opportunity for students right now to organize and reclaim social events, traditions, and spaces that will define the next iteration of Midd’s social scene .

A lot of this frustration and excitement was present tonight among the dozens of students who showed up to Crossroads this evening for a discussion called “What is the future of social life at Middlebury?” led by Student Co-Chair of Community Council Barrett Smith ’13 and co-sponsored by Community Council, SGA and the Dean of the College Office.

Among the those present were movers and shakers from social houses, MCAB, SGA (including two presidential candidates) as well as a few administrators (I saw Katy Smith-Abbott, Doug Adams and Shirley Collado). The discussion was directed around the following questions: Should hard alcohol be banned on campus? What is the future of social houses? How will this affect campus social life? Should the Atwater Suites be regularly patrolled by Public Safety? Should more parties be registered and what would promote that?

middbeat kept some unofficial minutes from the group discussion. Here are some of the themes that emerged:
THE KEG:

Many argued the merits of the keg as a great way to provide regulated alcohol to lots of people and create community at the same time.  Many wished it was easier for groups to acquire kegs and keep them for longer. Currently, kegs are confiscated after four hours encouraging people to empty its contents quicker to get their money’s worth, and or just to buy thirty racks instead, which promote faster, more exclusive drinking. Continue reading

Giving “Bro” Culture A Voice Of Its Own

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 9.24.54 PM

Lately, writing-inclined Midd folk have gotten their hands dirty in what I’d coin “Middlebury bro-ology,” or, the study of “bros” at Midd. Recent dabbles in Midd bro-ology include Nathan Weil’s ’15 Middlebury Campus op-ed defending the white-privileged-male-econ major against the feminist “condescension” found in Sam Kaufman’s ’12.5‘s Campus article, and Cody Gohl ’13′s MiddBlog analysis of “bro” culture. Last month’s ADP disbandment further ignited tensions among “bro-ologists,” as many deemed Delta house “home of the bros.” For the purposes of this article, a Middlebury “bro” is defined as a white, male athlete, though Cody’s post associates “bros” with traits such as ”racial/social/economic elitism, misogyny, affiliations with sports teams, heavy drinking, dorm damage, homophobia, close-mindedness.”

I think most of us agree with Cody that “bro-hate is stupid and unproductive.” That being said, stereotypes like “bro,” “hipster”, “nerd” etc. are deeply engrained in our vernacular, despite often being incorrect, offensive, and vehicles for social segregation. Influences like the hit 2010 “Midd Kid” music video prime our acceptance of such social stereotypes even before arriving on campus, though this video offended targeted groups including “lax bros” as described here.

But amid all the discussion of “bros” in campus media, the voices of those labeled as “bros” have been left out. Social psychology explains that no matter how many reliable peers tell us the dude decked out in croakied Ray Bans and Vineyard Vines should not be defined by elitism, over-aggression, and intolerance, stereotype reversal depends on “bros” themselves providing counter-examples.

In this spirit, sixteen white, male, athletes were asked by email for personal reflections upon various “bro” stereotypes (racial/social/economic elitism, misogyny, affiliations with sports teams, heavy drinking, dorm damage, homophobia, close-mindedness). Here’s what they had to say (bold was put in by the post author):

Nick Spencer ’15, White, Soccer/Track, Psychology:
“Yes, there are kids on campus labeled as “bros” who can be slightly malicious, aggressive, ignorantly rude, and whatever other stereotypes the word ‘bro’ has taken on. The word bro is not the problem, though. I refer to many of my friends as “bros and do so in a way that perpetuates the trust and reliance I hold in them… That said, let me clarify that I do not condone any inappropriate behavior… We all need to take a step back and remember how important it is to respect the place and people around us.

Arguing about this topic only spreads negative feelings around campus, and helps fragment the already split social scene… In reality, all these categories (bro’s, hipsters, nerds, etc.) hold a rigidity that belittles everyone and deprives people of their human complexity… We all make mistakes, we all have the potential to be better, it is very possible to make this school a more fun place for everyone. We already suffer enough from the Grill not being open after 2 and the lack of juice at lunch. We don’t have to suffer because of each other.”

Travis Fishstein ’15, White, Baseball, Biochemistry:
“I do not consider myself a “bro.” A traditional interpretation of the word ‘bro’ means literally, one’s brother.  Thus, a bro is anyone (usually male) that one (again, male) sees and feels towards as being of the same level of emotional and cultural meaning as a true, genetic brother.  Now, this term can either be invoked in a serious manner (picture a middle aged guy saying “I love you, bro” to a lifelong best friend) or in a very nonchalant manner (“what’s up, bro”). When we get into trouble, then, is when the word degrades to the point where a ‘bro’ becomes so meaningless that it can be used in phrases like “come at me, bro”… A man you are about to fight is a NOT a bro.

However, just because you are a baseball player does not make you a bro, though it provides a foundation for a “bro-lationship.”  This is no different to the foundation a roommate or a family friend has. What makes the term bro so appealing is the traditional meaning it invokes.  However, this word has degraded. [Consequentially] I am stigmatized by a small group of young men who are largely physically, economically and socially similar to me, yet are not representative of what a bro is, or of the majority of ‘bro’s’ on campus. We are young men with ambition, pursuits and noble ideas, but sadly some of the more vocal members of this sub-set of students on campus cast a bad light.”

Click after the jump for more responses.
Continue reading