Category Archives: Campus community

Juice Bar Competition Update

A selection committee convened last week to review the nine proposals we received for a student-managed food and drink service in the Juice Bar. As we have mentioned before, proposals were evaluated on the following criteria: feasibility, economic viability, vision, and simplicity. We also took into consideration the numerous comments readers left on the last update post, so thank you to all who contributed.

After much deliberation, we have narrowed the field to three proposals. We have notified the students and we will be conducting interviews in the first week of January. We hope to make a final decision shortly thereafter. If we are unable to reach a decision after the interviews, we will reconsider the other applications.

In the meanwhile, please feel free to continue chiming in on what you’d like to see at the Juice Bar.

On Staffing, Mission, and the Challenges of Reorganization

To illuminate one aspect of the staffing changes the College has experienced during the last two years, we asked Jeff Cason, Dean of International Programs and a faculty member in the Political Science department, to describe the benefits and challenges of reorganization.


As everyone knows, we have been going through a great deal of change on campus lately as we have dealt with a reduction in staff, changing expectations about what staff should do, and reassessing what we all do, in many ways.

I have found it particularly interesting—as well as challenging and rewarding—to work with staff in the “international” area as we have dealt with the need to readjust our expectations over the last year and a half, and as we have consolidated operations in the area. In this international area, we’ve seen a staff reduction that mirrors the overall staff reduction at Middlebury, which is about 15%. This has not been easy—how could it be?

In the consolidation, we have brought together staff in the International Programs and Off-Campus Study office, the International Students and Scholar Services office, and the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs. Bringing these three areas together makes a great deal of sense, given their affinities and related and cross-cutting purposes.

The consolidation has brought both challenges and opportunities. Since we are an area of the college that has certain “non-discretionary” service requirements (we can’t stop providing services for international students who need visas to come to Middlebury, after all!), we have to figure out how to do things more efficiently, and figure out what we have done in the past that we no longer need to do.  And in some ways we are doing more.  For instance, over the last few years we have been increasing the number of students from other colleges and universities who attend Middlebury’s Schools.  This makes both financial and reputational sense for the College, so we know we will continue in this direction.

A key component of our reorganization effort has been to make sure that communication happens throughout our area and the entire organization.  We have done this by making sure that everyone is at the same table every two weeks, in a general staff meeting. While this might be seen by some as a new time commitment, by bringing colleagues together, we have been able to learn from one another and save time in other ways. At these meetings we have also increased cross-campus dialogue by inviting colleagues from other departments (most recently, the office of Student Financial Services) to meet with our full staff and discuss topics related to the entire group’s work. The individual units also continue to have their standard meetings to discuss nitty-gritty and routine work in their areas. This is still a work in progress, but we have made progress.

Very importantly, this consolidation has led to colleagues doing new things, which almost everyone has found beneficial. As one colleague put it to me in an email, responding to a query about what I might include in this post: “I think the thing most worth mentioning is how the consolidation has forced us to think differently about ‘our jobs.’ We have people who have traditionally always done certain tasks/projects, but as we consolidate, different people have been given the opportunity to dabble in areas of interest where they may not have had experience before.” Noting that there are different needs (and different crunch times) in the different offices, this staff member concluded: “The challenge is identifying these needs and availabilities and matching them with staff interests enough in advance to capitalize on the opportunities, but we’ll get better at that.”

I do think we’re getting better at that, as our staff knows more about what everyone in the broader area—and outside the area—does. It is not a simple process, of course. And it’s interesting, to say the least.

Juice Bar Competition: What Do You Want?

The deadline for submitting proposals to establish a student-managed food/drink service in the Juice Bar area of the Grille has come and gone. The competition has yielded nine outstanding proposals demonstrating the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of our students. A committee of faculty, staff, and students will convene shortly to review each proposal and select a final candidate by Monday, December 13. Proposals will be judged on the basis of their feasibility, economic viability, vision, and simplicity.

Having read through all of the proposals, I have noticed that several common (and uncommon) themes have arisen. In the beverage arena, smoothies, hot drinks (espresso, brewed coffee, and tea), beer, and wine are clear favorites among the submissions. Several proposals include a desire to also serve niche drinks, such as kombucha, bubble tea, and butterbeer (a la that bespectacled boy-wizard). As for food, there seems to be a tension between healthy fare and comfort food. Submissions include everything from Asian-inspired light meals to afternoon snacks to just desserts.

In terms of the appearance and ambience of the restaurant, students widely acknowledged the need to counterbalance the “Work Hard, Play Hard” mentality of our campus. Whether advocating for the feel of mom’s kitchen counter or a 1930’s-style jazz café, students want to develop a venue where patrons can hang-out, relax, and unwind.

There was also no shortage of ideas for what sort of entertainment should be available. Poetry readings, improv shows, classic movie screenings, theme nights, coffee tastings, board games, and especially live music top the list.

Given the array of proposals before us, it would be helpful to have a sense of what the greater community would like to see in the former Juice Bar. Even if you did not craft a proposal, you likely have an opinion about the beverages, food, entertainment, and overall atmosphere that should be offered. If the new venue is to be successful, what should be included and what should be left out?


In light of Dean Shirley Collado's November 15th essay about the role of privilege in dish theft, I bring you this post syndicated from The Middlebury Landscape. Horticulturalist Tim Parsons draws a connection between dish theft and the rampant tree vandalism he has witnessed this semester and rightfully asks, "Why?" -Tim


7-18-6. Not a fertilizer label, but an accounting of the fall semester at Middlebury. Seven-the  number of weekends in a row we’ve seen vandalism against trees. 18-the total number of trees affected. And 6-trees killed outright. We come into work Monday morning, and, in addition to picking up the inevitable and ubiquitous litter and detritus from the weekend, now survey the damage as well. I was not writing of it, hoping to sweep our problem under the rug, hoping that these acts were random, solitary, maybe just an aberrant mutation on an otherwise pristine campus, a passing social deviation that would go away on its own. And I’m preaching to the choir, here, after all. I’ve discussed vandalism in the past on Middland, and am quite frankly a little sick of telling the tale. I’ve reported this problem to my superiors, and they’ve approached community council. And I was going to get on with life, and write posts on annuals, the Sustainable Sites Initiative, and put some more work into Turf Battle. Last night, Dean Shirley Collado wrote a piece on One Dean’s View called Plates and Privilege. We’ve all heard about the missing plate problem, thanks to Aunt Des and the great communications department. But Shirley’s take is different, and had me thinking all night (well, until 9:30 or so, I can’t seem to stay up like I used to) about privilege. Let’s let her say it best:

I would like to call students to action to think more critically about the human face behind the dish problem. Think about what it says about us as a community when these small acts of thoughtlessness create a collective problem that impacts all of us in a negative way. This thoughtlessness speaks volumes about what kind of people our students are going to be when they leave this institution.

So, I thought, our tree vandalism is a problem of privilege, like the many beer cans scattered around on a Monday. It’s easy to take trees for granted, and yes, sometimes they do get in the way (I’ve wondered on one or two broken branches if the offender was tall-sick of running into the same branch every day).  But then I cleaned up some of the damage today, and came to a different conclusion. We have a problem of violence. Pictures won’t even do it justice, and even my words won’t. In the service building? Come by my office, I’ve saved a couple pieces of broken limbs. But let me try to explain what’s going on here. The offender (I hesitate to use the word ‘student’, as surely this individual isn’t really learning anything here) is breaking limbs off of trees. Serious limbs. I climb trees, and, while I still resemble the pasty geek I was in high school, I’ve jumped a couple of weight classes. Limbs broken would hold me and my chainsaw with room to spare. Limbs that are not just snapping off, but need to be bent, wrenched, moved back and forth hoping to break 3” of bark and wood to separate it from the tree. Entire small trunks of immature trees not only bent to the ground, but shaken, trampled, twisted and torn, sometimes breaking completely, sometimes left hanging , or lying in ground, waiting for a chalk outline to surround it. This is an act of rage, of violence, well beyond wanton destruction of property, senseless passing violence against an animate object incapable of screaming or defending itself. A 3” limb, counting rings, is probably very well older than the person breaking it off. Monday will come again, and again we’ll go out, willingly pick up the remnants of a privileged life, but hope and pray that no more violence has befallen our silent friends.

Plates and Privilege

Once again, I would like to syndicate a timely blog post that has generated much discussion on an oft-recurring subject at Middlebury: dish theft. Dean Shirley Collado examines the matter from the perspective of privilege and invites you to join the conversation. If you wish to comment, please click the above title to visit the post at its original source. -Tim


Today, I am writing about plates. It seems almost comical that this is the subject of my post, but since pilfered dishes have been a major topic of discussion throughout campus lately, I’d like to bring up an aspect of this issue that has not received much attention.

We’ve talked about the extremely high cost of replacing dishes, the hundreds and thousands of missing plates, and the efforts undertaken by Community Council, Student Government, and the administration to resolve the problem. But there has been less discussion about what this situation says about our students. I believe it’s not a plate problem, but an issue of privilege.

It is one thing for students to be unconcerned about costs, but it’s quite a different matter to be unconcerned about people—and the message that this behavior sends is, “This is really convenient for me, and I don’t care who has to deal with it. I don’t care if other people have to clean up after me.”

We are approaching a holiday in which people in this country and around the world don’t have enough food to eat and are trying to find a warm place to live. Yet, here at Middlebury, we live in an incredibly privileged environment that is beautiful and pristine. I am sure that everyone among us is thankful for this environment. It takes a lot of hard work to create and maintain it—work that scores of staff members put in on our behalf every day.

They move through campus, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, keeping lights running, mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, and thinking about how to make our campus safe and clean. When they have to contend with ant infestations from food-caked dishes left in dorms, or with picking up dirty plates piled in bathrooms, or with hauling large boxes full of filthy dishes down flights of stairs, or with soaking and then hand scrubbing them, I imagine that they can’t help but feel undervalued—or worse, unseen. They are being forced to do work that is incredibly menial and unpleasant because of thoughtless behavior.

I would like to call students to action to think more critically about the human face behind the dish problem. Think about what it says about us as a community when these small acts of thoughtlessness create a collective problem that impacts all of us in a negative way. This thoughtlessness speaks volumes about what kind of people our students are going to be when they leave this institution.

As we pause with family and friends this Thanksgiving to reflect on the many blessings we enjoy, please take time to see—really see—the people here who make our campus a haven of calm and beauty. Perhaps, even, ask yourself how you can show your appreciation for their efforts.

An Overview of Internal Communications: Tips and Challenges

As I suggested in my October 15th post, internal communication can be a challenge. In an effort to improve communications on this front, the President introduced the topic at a meeting with Senior Managers this morning, with the promise that we will return to the issue in subsequent meetings.

To frame the discussion, Deans, Directors and Vice Presidents asked Managers to explain how they communicate within their areas, to identify the challenges they face, and to offer suggestions for improving communications at the College.  Here is a summary of their responses.


  • Weekly meetings for management teams and groups with a “report out” model
  • Regular all staff meetings (monthly), mostly report out with some question & answer
  • One-on-one with direct reports at some interval (weekly, quarterly)
  • Quarterly meetings on topic of interest or importance
  • Annual retreat to set agenda and discuss strategy (full staff)
  • “Just in time” meetings, immediate and brief as needed
  • Meeting by subject, project, or topic, group follows the subject rather than hierarchy
  • Weekly teleconference to set agenda


  • Minutes and agendas should be shared broadly, within department and across
  • Departments should develop an annual communications plan
  • Outlook calendar as preferred way to manage meeting invitations and schedules
  • Regular email updates, weekly or less frequently, to serve as a complement to meetings
  • Email bullets from direct reports to managers on a weekly basis
  • “Just in time” or urgent email with timely information
  • Informally float and “visit” with staff
  • Vary the medium to reach different audiences, blogs not for everyone, and not everyone has convenient access to a computer
  • Shared web-based project chart or management tool


  • Communications often mirrors the hierarchy in terms of how information gets out
  • Important to hear from the top with clear direction and priorities
  • Important for leadership to be open to questions and model openness
  • More “before the fact” communication with key stakeholders

Challenges and Suggestions

  • Lateral or “department to department” communication is frequently noted as concern
  • Changes in organizational structure don’t really tell you how to get things done
  • Impact of decision not always thought through in terms of all stakeholders
  • Need to be more clear in setting expectations for those who are communicating out
  • Should be considering who needs to know what by when and state clearly
  • Must balance amount of time with benefit, more communication requires more time
  • Invite people from other departments to attend meetings from time to time
  • Create a community email digest with important updates to minimize amount of email
  • Pick up the phone, don’t use email when a phone call or a “face to face” can work

The Commons Factor in the Atwater Landscape Design Competition

Last week, I cross posted—technically, the term is “syndicated”—a blog post in which Tim Parsons describes the Atwater “Turf Battle” competition.  More recently, Tim asked me to say a few words about how the current Commons configuration might affect designs for the landscape.  I am happy to do so, and I think I can be brief.

When the Commons system was developed in the late 1990s, it was with the expectation that each of the five Commons would serve as self-contained entities—communities within the larger Middlebury community, if you will.   Each Commons would have its own dining hall, its own library and lounges, even its own outdoor spaces.  Indeed, early discussions of Commons spaces focused on the need to develop “front” and “back” yards, landscapes that were both public and private.  To a certain extent, we achieved that separation of spaces at Ross.   On the west side of the dorms there is a basketball court that is keeping with back-yard or driveway recreation, while on the east side—in the elbow and on the plaza—the space feels more public, and open to the entire campus.

Atwater was conceived with similar goals in mind, though the surrounding area could not be so easily divided into front and back yards (however, the barbecue pit next to the dining hall does gesture toward small-scaled social functions).  Needless to say, the College did not make great progress developing the spaces between Hall A and Hall B; otherwise, we would not be holding this design competition.

Fast forward to the past couple years, and these early conceptions of the Commons no longer have the same meaning.  Allen and Coffrin belong to Atwater in that first and second-year students reside in their Commons neighborhoods.  But the Chateau and Hall A and Hall B include students from all five Commons; those buildings do not belong to Atwater.

The significance of all is that the Atwater space mentioned in the Turf Battle guidelines is not really Atwater’s.  I am not sure this distinction matters very much since no space on this campus, even with the development of the Commons system, has ever been limited to a certain population.  Still, it’s worth noting that any design that attempts to mark this space as Atwater’s—and there are subtle ways of doing this, short of emblazoning an “A,” Hawthorne style, in the grass—will be tossed aside.

On the other hand, I think the notion or public and private space, or front and back yards, still have currency in this design process.  As designers approach this open space, they should give careful thought to how the landscape of the future will be used and who in the community will want to use it.  And remember that this community also includes the summer language schools.

Music Library to Davis, HARC to MCFA—Some Background on the Project

I received a request for further information about the plan (recently approved by the Board of Trustees) to move the Music Library to the Davis Family Library, and then to house the History of Art and Architecture Department (HARC) in the space vacated by the Music Library. Although the CAMPUS carried this news, and MiddBlog picked up a LIS blog post on the project, these reports were pretty general. So it makes sense to provide a more detailed account of the project here.

The most important thing to know about this project is that it is aimed at strengthening two areas of the arts curriculum, and that it will unfold in multiple stages. In the first stage of the project, the music library collection will be relocated to Davis Library; that will happen some time this spring or early summer. Then, over the summer, the Music Library space will be renovated for use by HARC, and the department will move out of the Johnson Building, thereby freeing up space in Johnson for the Studio Art Program and Architectural Studies (though this program is part of HARC, it will remain in Johnson). HARC’s newly configured space in the MCFA will include an office suite, and at least one classroom. After the design for that space is complete, a program committee—including faculty from all the arts departments in MCFA—will undertake a review of the teaching spaces in the building to make sure that the classrooms adequately support the full arts curriculum. In a final stage of the project—discussed but not yet formally approved—we plan to renovate the Johnson Building, improving the studio spaces for Studio Art and Architectural Studies and upgrading the building systems.

There are several benefits to this project:

• Moving HARC to the MCFA will bring the department closer to the Art Museum, which is an important teaching resource for Art History, now one of the larger majors on campus. When the program for MCFA was first conceived, the College planned to include HARC in the building, but had to drop that part of the program due to budget constraints in 1988. Returning to that original plan now will be a clear gain for students and faculty.
• Relocating HARC to MCFA will also increase traffic in the building, which is off the beaten path for most students. The atmosphere in MCFA will not change overnight, but over time, I think we can realistically hope to see a significant uptick in the energy
• Creating more and better studio space in the Johnson Building for Studio Art is a major enhancement for that program, as the College has struggled in recent years to find adequate space for the art curriculum. The Architectural Studies Program will likewise benefit from the improved studio space.

One could say—as someone commenting on Middblog already has—that music students and people who just happen to like the Music Library are the losers in this proposition. This is true only in an absolute sense, for while the Music Library will certainly be missed, it is also true that the library’s collections and functions will be well supported in the Davis Family Library. When the Music Library was planned two decades ago, we did not have a cutting-edge, almost new library or one large enough to house music and dance materials. We do now, and so taking advantage of this resource to meet other pressing curricular needs—without constructing new facilities—is the smart thing to do.

Some have asked whether the administration surveyed students to see how they would feel if the Music Library disappeared. We did not, and the details offered above suggest why. We are moving forward to address significant curricular gaps that have been long in the making, and making full use of all our facilities to strengthen the overall profile of the arts at Middlebury without having to build costly new buildings and expand the College’s physical infrastructure.

Turf Battle: The Atwater Landscape Design Competition

Dear Students:

I write to invite your participation in a student design contest to revamp the north end of campus, specifically, the open landscape between Hall A and Hall B. The remainder of this memo describes the scope of the project and explains how students can get involved, so please keep reading.

In September of 2004, the College finished work on Hall A, Hall B, and the Atwater Dining Hall, and these buildings became part of the Middlebury landscape. In the design of Atwater Commons, the architects gave special attention to where these buildings should be sited and how they would relate to the surrounding area. For instance, the landscape architects engaged on the project imagined the open space between Hall A and Hall B functioning like a town green or “outdoor room.” For a variety of reasons, the potential of this open space has not been realized. The space sits vacant and underutilized—a far cry from Battell Beach, which is a magnet for student activity.

We would like to change this by encouraging students to submit plans for how this open space and the pathways surrounding it should be developed. By “developed,” we do not mean to suggest that the College should build in this open space. Rather, we have in mind plans for improving the landscaping, planting additional vegetation, and creating recreational opportunities. We do not have a set vision for how this space should look and feel—just a conviction that it can and should be enhanced.

We therefore invite interested students to develop mini Master Plans to guide the development of the Atwater open space. Plans should be submitted to the office of the Vice President for Administration (Old Chapel 207) by Monday, February 7. The plans will then be reviewed by the Master Plan Implementation Committee (MPIC), the body charged with insuring that any future development of the campus is consistent with the College’s design standards. A budget is in place, and Tim Parsons, the College horticulturist, will manage the project once it is approved and will also provide guidance during the competition phase. Assuming that the competition attracts a sufficient amount of student interest, the MPIC will choose no more than three finalists to present their plans at a campus forum, to be held in early February. The MPIC will then select a winning proposal, which the College will implement over the course of the spring and summer.

Design work like this does not take place in a vacuum, but rather must respond to environmental conditions, institutional standards, and budget constraints. Consequently, we will be establishing competition guidelines and assembling background materials to guide student participants in their work. These materials are available here.  We will also hold a series of information sessions, including tours of the site, so that students have the background they need to develop effective plans (note that the first tour will take place this Friday, November 5, at 4:00 pm, and begin in front of Atwater Dining Hall. Please see the website for details about other tours). We understand that students with focused interests in architecture, landscape design, and environmental studies may be drawn to this project. However, we also want to provide enough support so that students without any background or exposure to design work may participate in this competition.

We are eager to work with any and all students interested in this project, and look forward to enhancing this important space on our campus.


Master Plan Implementation Committee:

Glenn Andres
Jennifer Bleich
Pieter Broucke
Jack Byrne
Andi Lloyd
Bente Madson
John McLeod
Tim Parsons
Tim Spears, Chair

Closing the Loop

To shed some light on the ins and outs of internal communication, I asked the directors of two of the biggest operations on campus to explain how their departments manage the communication process.  This is what they had to say.

From Norm Cushman, Director of Facilities Services

At Facilities Services, the pursuit of exemplary customer service is a continual goal. With many details to keep track of in our business, there is always the chance that we will fail or disappoint a customer.  Over time, we’ve come to subscribe to the philosophy that if you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.  Consequently, we believe that taking care of the little things is what matters most.  And in order to take care of the little things, we try to “close the communication loop” in our interactions with others.  Simply stated, if I know something that you don’t know, the communication loop is open.  For email, a response of “thanks,” “I agree,” “let’s discuss,” or “understood” lets the other party know that you have read their message and that they have been acknowledged. Similarly, returning phone messages lets the caller know that you take their call seriously. Closing the loop requires little effort and even when the news does not satisfy the other party, it helps avoid the “they never get back to me,” black-hole of communication.  People almost always wish to know that their message has been received and understood, even if they don’t like the reply.  By the way, this philosophy applies to communications within Facilities Services as well communications with the rest of the campus.

From Mike Roy, Dean of Library and Information Services

People frequently contact LIS when something is wrong, something is broken, or they need something quickly in order to get their work done. And because many of our services require coordination among the various parts of LIS, we often need to communicate internally before we can respond with a complete answer and follow up on a request.  This communication loop can be a challenge to manage. We receive requests through multiple channels—email, web forms, phone calls, faxes, walk-ins, paper forms—and we respond in variety of ways.  We strive to blend the friendliness of a hotel concierge and the efficiency of, and avoid the soulless bureaucracy of governmental agencies.  Over the years, we’ve found that the use of queues (like sending email to and allowing patrons to track their requests via the web is the most robust way to manage requests, with the caveat that the best forum for handling a more complicated request is a face-to-face meeting, a phone call, or a series of email.  But the problem with email is that it is fragile. It is usually a one-on-one transaction, and if the thread gets lost, or the person on the other end happens to be on vacation, your request can be forgotten or delayed. More robust systems that allow requests to be routed, managed by multiple people, and allow the requester to check on the status of things are, in principle, far superior to email. That said, such systems are more cumbersome for all involved, and feel much less personal than the phone, face-to-face conversation, and even email.