Projects

This page contains info on what we’ve accomplished, what we’re working on now, and what we’d like to see happen in the future.

To start, here are some of the initiatives and campaigns pursued by PGCOM and its members, with a particular focus on the tangible results we’ve helped to achieve for the College community:

Deep Dark Forest

Who: Propaganda Subcommittee:
-Laurie Essig, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies
-Lark Mulligan ’11
-Joey Radu ’13
When: April 27, 2011
What: This agitprop piece—placed all over campus and pointing to this blog post—aimed to bring awareness to the basic fact that, as we’ve seen with Yale, it’s difficult for the Middlebury Administration to champion the cause of combatting sexual assault when it is so often tied up with the problem to start with.

Resisting Discriminatory Military Recruitment Practices on Campus

Who: PGCOM subcommitee:
-Lorena Espinoza ‘11.5
-Elizabeth King ’13
-Lark Mulligan ’11
-Nathaniel Kerr ’11
-Joey Radu ’13
-Viveka Ray-Mazumder ’11
-Jay Saper ’13
When: Begun in January 2011.
What: Acting as a vocal reminder to the College administration and community that, even after the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell,” the military still violates Middlebury’s Nondiscrimination Statement protecting students on the basis of “gender identity and expression” by discharging transgender members of the military.
Why: It is more about A) opposing the erasure of trans folks’ ongoing oppression, and B) fighting against the opportunistic tossing aside of the already-lackluster Nondiscrimination Statement, than it is about the military and military recruitment. (Not that these aren’t topics worth pursuing!)
Happened:
-We expressed opposition to an SGA bill in January 2011 that called on the administration to bring back the ROTC on the basis of the erroneous belief that the military no longer violated the College’s Nondiscrimination Statement post-DADT repeal.
-We produced detailed reasoning on a recommendation against reverting the College’s “Recruitment Policy for Employers” to its pre-Fall 2007 language; submitted this report to the Office of the President, the Office of the Dean of the College, and Community Council; and met with President Ron Liebowitz and Dean of the College Shirley Collado to discuss our concerns.
Happening: The College is consulting with military recruiters to find out whether they believe they can sign the College’s Nondiscrimination Statement.

Preferred Name, Gender Marker, and Pronouns

Who: PGCOM subcommitee:
-Steven Dunmire ’13
-Roman Graf, Professor of German
-Nathaniel Kerr ’11
-Elizabeth King ’13
-Lark Mulligan ’11
-Joey Radu ’13
-Jay Saper ’13
Working collaboratively with representatives from the Office of the Dean of the College, the Office of the Registrar, the Department of Public Safety, and Library and Information Services.
When: Project initiated in Fall 2010; subcommittee formed in Spring 2011.
What: An accessible and affirming process for students, staff, and faculty to declare their preferred name, gender marker, and pronouns, for use within Middlebury College’s internal data systems (e.g., ID card, e-mail address, class rosters, Middlebury Blog Network).
Happened: Subcommittee submitted recommendations on 4/22/11 for what the web form that would be the front end of this process should look like.
Happening: The aforementioned web form is being designed, and the behind-the-scenes systems are being mapped as preparation for simplification and streamlining.

All-Gender Restrooms

Who: Special Projects Coordinator Sarah Franco (on behalf of VP of Administration Tim Spears), Special Assistant to the Dean of the College Jennifer Herrera (on behalf of Dean of the College Shirley Collado), Tony Huynh ’13, Elizabeth King ’13, Lark Mulligan ’11, Joey Radu ’13, and Viveka Ray-Mazumder ’11 (four PGCOM founders).
When: Begun in Fall 2010.
What: Providing at least one all-gender (AKA ‘gender-neutral’) restroom in every non-residential building on campus.
Happened: Announced to the College community on 3/16/11.
Happening:
Phase 1: Single-stall restrooms throughout campus are being opened for use by folks of all genders, to be completed by Fall 2011.
Phase 2: We will begin to discuss converting certain multi-stall restrooms in buildings that lack single-stall restrooms.

All-Gender Housing

Who: Initiated by Elizabeth King ’13 and Joey Radu ’13, two of the PGCOM founders. Tony Huynh ’13 was a primary collaborator.
When: Begun April 2010. Implemented for sophomores and above 2/8/11.
What: See the “All-Gender Housing Report,” which also contains links to news articles, policy language, etc.
Happened: All-Gender Housing for sophomores and above is now official College policy.
Happening: A PGCOM subcommittee is working on providing similar options to incoming first-year students, which few colleges offer.

Opportunities for Progress

Here are some of the projects we’d like to work on in the future:

  • Sexually inclusive institutions: Several campus organizations and institutions unknowingly perpetuate heteronormative assumptions and myths about the problems they are trying to solve. Heteronormativity includes assumptions that everyone is or should be heterosexual. The Council could educate members of these organizations to help them solve their stated issues more effectively.
  • Trigger warnings: Many professors assign movie screenings and readings that contain graphic depictions of sexual assault and other forms of violence and abuse. The learning environment may be safer and more respectful if professors warn their students about these potential “triggers” before assigning the movie or reading. In the case that a student feels that the activity may be damaging, the Council could work with professors and the student to offer alternate assignments.
  • Inclusive health insurance: The school health insurance plan for students is currently limited to Accident and Sickness. This disadvantages many students at Middlebury who cannot afford another health care plan, but still require general medical care. Further, the healthcare plan explicitly denies coverage of healthcare needs for transgender students, such as hormone therapy or gynecological care for trans men. While healthcare reform is a national problem, the Council would work to promote an understanding that the school health insurance plan disproportionately affects people along lines of class, gender identity, nationality, etc. The Council would push for more comprehensive and equitable coverage for everyone.
  • Preparation and support for survivors abroad: Pre-departure resources for Study Abroad do not adequately prepare many students for certain types of gender-related dangers and experiences that they may have while abroad. For example, many students in locations abroad, particularly Egypt, have experienced unexpected and extreme sexual harassment resulting from different gender codes. The Council would work with coordinators for each program so that they are trained and adequately prepared to talk about these issues with students, both before they go abroad and while they are in their respective countries. Further, returning students who would like to share their experiences would be indispensable in helping others prepare for the possibility of these dangers.
  • Comprehensive sexual assault training: Comprehensive sexual assault training should be offered to all students, staff and faculty who are in formal positions to educate, aid, or make judicial decisions that affect survivors of sexual assault on campus. The Council would work to connect community members with the professional resources available to them (e.g., WomenSafe) that specialize in this training. This also goes for cultural, gender, sexual, and racial sensitivity trainings.
  • Improve awareness surrounding privilege: Many formal and informal discussions surrounding gender on campus currently focus on women’s and/or non-heterosexual issues. While these are invaluable discussions, the Council should investigate ways of engaging students, staff, and faculty who do not typically talk about gender, sexuality and identity. In other words, the Council needs to ensure that everyone understands how they contribute to gendered power dynamics, especially if they are typically “unlabeled”; i.e., white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cissexual, male, etc.
  • Self-identification on forms: Many school forms require students, staff, and faculty to check either a box for Male or a box for Female. This is problematic because many people do not identify as either, and many people’s legal gender does not match the gender with which they identify. The Council would critically investigate when gender is relevant, and when it could be taken off forms entirely. In situations where gender is relevant, forms should be formatted so that people of all genders can write in the gender with which they actually identify.
  • WAGS reform: The WAGS Major and minor do not require any courses that focus on Queer Studies. This is a problem because, as the past few decades of scholarship and activism have demonstrated, Queer and Feminist theories must inform each other if they are going to achieve their respective and mutual goals. The WAGS degrees should be more comprehensive in this way.
  • Interdisciplinary gender education: Because gender permeates every institution and aspect of our lives, the study of gender must always be as interdisciplinary as possible. However, several important academic departments do not offer any WAGS courses, e.g. Political Science. In order to reflect an understanding that all political power is gendered, the Political Science Department should offer at least one WAGS course. Creating new classes in these departments will help inform more students about the social, political and economic implications of gender.
  • Gender Summit: The Council might plan a summit to bring together students, staff, and faculty interested in particular gender issues on campus, and to gather their suggestions for potential changes and strategies. This could be helpful in setting the Council’s agenda, and determining which initiatives are most pressing. It could also build alliances with other organizations and individuals who are not formal members of the Council.
  • Gender beyond Middlebury: Many of the problems presented in this section extend beyond our microcosm at Middlebury. While improving our own campus should always take precedent, the Council should continually look at successes at other institutions as models, and should investigate ways of facilitating gender activism and advocacy on other campuses and in our community. The Council should align itself in solidarity with larger anti-oppression movements around the world.

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