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Rebecca Hicks ’15- Barrett’s presence as an FYC benefits not only his hall, but all of Stewart. Though he is not my FYC, I have gone to him for advice, a chat, tea in his room, and he is always open and friendly. Having accessible, interesting, and positive people like Barrett around makes a huge difference in terms of feeling comfortable in a new environment. His presence would be greatly missed if he had to leave, by not only his hall but the entire community.

Zach Weiss ’15 (Stew 4)- I believe with the utmost certainty that Barrett is a compassionate and responsible human being who contributed to the wonderful dynamic of this hall in irreplaceable ways. For this reason, I believe his dismissal from the hall was the wrong decision, and that is why I am signing this petition. However, I also believe he must pay the consequences his clear lapse of judgment – I support the administration’s decision to release him from his employment.

Jake Wood ’15 (Stew 4)- Barrett is a great FYC . I cant imagine having such a great first semester without him. He’s made me tea when I was sick and has been really helpful for every problem we’ve had from registration to personal issues. We love Barrett.

Meredith White ’15- Barrett’s contribution to the Stewart community can be defined by intangibles that can’t be checked off in a concrete list of what makes a good FYC, but instead can be appreciated by the experience of living with him. While I realize firing Barrett is not a judge of his character, there is overwhelming good character evidence in this instance that it would be negligent not to address it. On any given night, Barrett can be found hosting an eclectic assembly of noisy freshmen, offering them tea, good music, and good stories while at the same time grading astronomy papers. His involvement never seems scripted or forced by a job description but is something that happens out of the formation of genuine relationships. Barrett has hugely impacted my transition into college, not only as an FYC but as a friend. Keeping Barrett in position sets a potentially dangerous precedent, I believe the benefits of his presence in Stewart greatly offset those dangers.

David Russell ’15 (Stew 4)- Barrett has played a tremendous part in making me feel welcome at Middlebury and on Stew 4, and I’m sure that most Stew 4 residents also feel that the tight-knit atmosphere we have is in large part due to Barrett’s efforts to cultivate it. Especially at the beginning of the semester when everyone was new to Middlebury, Barrett made sure we knew what was going on and that we could trust him. Because he was such a big presence at the beginning of the year, he is now an integral part of the Stew 4 community. His removal would leave a hurtful gap on our hall.

Jessie Ebersole 12- Although I have only ran into Barrett a few times around campus I was extremely distressed to hear of his dismissal as FYC, because of the kind of marked impression Barrett leaves on people immediately. I agree with his friend Cody when he says that most people who know Barrett would have trouble describing him as a mere acquaintance. Barrett is uniquely kind, welcoming and accepting. His friend Olivia is right that not everyone on campus can say hi to 3/4 of the people they walk by, and I think it is telling that Barrett cares enough about others that he has made the effort to reach out to so many.

I think the outpouring on this blog shows 1) the complex/diverging interpretations of the events with Luaay, 2) how valued Barrett is at Middlebury. The college at the very least acted hastily in its decision, without the insight of Stew’s residents, and should open an appeals process so their voices can be heard.

Unlike so many of the ways people mess up in college, if Barrett did make any mistake it was in trying to create too open of a community. Therefore, while the college may feel that some action needs to be taken, I do not think that his dismissal as FYC is appropriate, or constructive to the place Middlebury hopes to be.

Leah Robinson ’13- Barrett is one of the kindest, most supportive people I know at Middlebury. His judgement may have been skewed when handling whether or not to allow his guest to stay, but this can only be attributed to the fact that Barrett is accepting of everyone and always believes the best in people. While I acknowledge the incident may have caused some students to feel uncomfortable, or in some extreme cases unsafe, I know that if Barrett had been aware of the stress his freshmen felt due to Luaay’s presence, he would have taken action and asked Luaay to leave.

Rufus Raghunath ’15 (Stew 4)- When we first arrived here, Barrett told us: “This is now your family. Look after each other.” And in that spirit we have lived ever since, in no small way due to the constant efforts of Barrett to create a close-knit, trusting community. Dismissing an FYC is only reasonable if they prove themselves to be unfit for that role, but, while Barrett has certainly made some bad decisions, he has always proved himself a fantastic FYC.

Nico Kaminow ’15 (Stew 4)- Living on Stew 4, over the past few months I have gotten to know Barrett and I have so much respect for this man. I have never seen him in a bad mood despite having a fractured leg, that requires 3 months in a cast, and this whole ordeal. I have always been able to count on Barrett to be smiling when I see him in the morning, passing him on his little scooter, decorated with a bow and bell, while I’m on my way to Bi Hall. Barrett is a caring individual. He asks me about my swim meets and is genuinely interested in my response. He is welcoming and accepting; just the other night I heard some voices in his room so I went down the hall to hangout but he was with his own friends not Stew 4 guys, however, he welcomed me in and I didn’t feel as though I was intruding. Barrett is opinionated and strong willed. Although he might not be the most physically dominating figure on campus, he certainly will be seen and heard if he has something to say. Most importantly I trust him to be some one who would argue on my behalf regardless of whether or not I made a mistake. He is relaxed, always has a happy, positive aura about him and he is the perfect person to be an FYC. He has created a get atmosphere on our hall and, needless, to say my Middlebury experience so far would not have been the same without Barrett.

Posted on behalf of Matt Birnbaum ’12

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I’ve been told that I make people uncomfortable when I talk to them- on more than one occasion too. I’ve been called confrontational, uncompromising, and even alienating at times. I have strong opinions and I’m not afraid to share them. Does this disqualify me as “a member of our community?” Perhaps it’s my tuition payments that makes me a member of the ‘community’ (likewise, does that exclude Staff members or Davis Scholars- how about Professors- their children- dogs- what if dogs put me on edge? Or how about alumnae who don’t live here anymore and don’t even have the decency to donate- I know, despicable).

The idea that we have some kind of cohesive, normative community here makes me sick to my stomach. It is prejudiced, discriminatory, and marginalizing, at the very least. I think it’s openly acknowledged that spacial and social boundaries exist at this college along racial lines (i.e- “why do all the (black/latino/international) students sit together”). Often these boundaries exist along class lines too (not always, but prep school is a pretty good determinant of your social group here, or maybe even entry into a ‘secret’ society).

To deny this, you are either blind, or an ass. The narrative we tell ourselves, laden with feel-good culturally produced Midd-isms (“professionalism,” “pragmatism”, “globalism” “environmentalism,” “athleticism,” “liberalism”) shield students from thinking critically about the fact that other people exist on this campus who identify or look different. This is the same mindset under which we regularly invoke that we graduated the first African American undergrad but- OOPS WE FORGOT TO MENTION- we just didn’t know it at the time! It is the same mindset under which people on this blog comment “We go to the most ‘liberal’ school- how can you talk about race here!”

I regularly hear of blatant homophobia and have witness plenty of sexual and gender based violence on this campus. Some of these students, including one who has been accused of RAPE, as well as people who regularly display blatant disregard for common property, remain on this campus, are allowed to remain on this campus, and perpetuate these tendencies weekly. Are they not members of this “imagined community” you speak of? As I hear, it seems some of their parents donate a lot of money, so according to the definition we arrived at above…

During my freshman year in Stew, a floor-mate, blackout drunk, harassed a female friend of mine in ways that are legally too graphic for a 17 year old (which she may well have been at the time). After chasing her into the dorm room with his penis in hand, on full display, he continued to bang on the door in front of a crowd of gathered onlookers, screaming and calling her name. He was subsequently summoned to talk with his ‘concerned’ dean. No action was taken. Maybe his parents were notified. (NOTE: This was well before Natasha Chang became Brainerd Dean).

In light of all this, it seems to me that the bigger issue is how this guest was treated. If you want to argue that as an FYC, Barrett is responsible first and foremost with following the rules (i.e- registering guest, three day maximum, especially when people had voiced concern) that’s fine. If the administration chose to fire him for that, I think its problematic, I think it’s unwise, but certainly within their right to do so. Given that Barrett broke the rules of his contract, and made some serious lapses in judgement, including lying to public safety, it’s not my place to make that decision and I will bow out of giving my opinion (sorry Barrett). This is a terrible and difficult situation for all involved- Res-life, Dean Chang, Barrett, Commons Heads, etc. It is inevitable that not everyone would be happy with this decision, and the bad handling of a very public incident (bright idea making a scene like that) surely made things harder.

That being said, everyone seems to acknowledge that part of Barrett’s role as FYC is to be trusted with making good judgment calls. By supposing this man was a threat to the ‘community,’ you are thereby also implicating Barrett’s good judgment. He may have made some bad judgment’s about handling the aftermath (see above) but that’s not my issue here. The way I see it, logic dictates that if Barrett chose to offer Luuay a place to stay, he had concluded that indeed he did know Luuay well enough. Again, I remind you that Barrett was hired at least partly because of his perceived good judgment. The remaining string says that if Barrett concluded he knew Luaay well enough, and there was hitherto no reason to suspect his good judgment, under what grounds can one possibly consider Luuay a danger? Superficial appearances?

If you can disagree with this logical construction then I’ll have no choice but to condemn your ‘anonymous one night stand,’ or conversely, any past-present-future use of the phrase ‘love at first sight.’ Because everyone knows everyone at Middlebury so well, right? Because we’re all the same, right?

I don’t know Barrett very well, but based on the few conversations we’ve had (and what the blogosphere tends to project) I am fairly positive that he recognized student’s discomfort to be problematic or portraying some biases. I do know he recognizes some of the issues I outlined above. He also seems to be an incredibly sensitive and insightful person, and as an FYC, had the nuance to pick up on this. I would bet he saw it as his job to create a learning opportunity for these students, and by all accounts, he made every effort to do so even though few people took the initiative to get to know Luaay.

As an active member of the CouchSurfing network (and I know of many other Midd students are as well) I have often let “people I don’t know well” stay in my dorm for a few nights and I (as well as others) have had some of the most profound learning experiences in doing so. According to Luaay’s CouchSurfing account, he is a dedicated pacifist, he abstains from alcohol and drugs, and is fluent in three languages. In his own words he is,
“A strong believer in cultural exchange!
I strive for better world,for unity,love,tolerance and understanding within humanity.
We have only one another on this planet,so lets be one!
In strangers I see new friends whom I haven’t met yet. so come ova hommie!.
i’ll brew you a cup of tea!!”

It seems to me that given these qualities, not to mention all the hoopla around alcohol and dorm damage on campus, Luaay is exactly the sort of people we should be inviting into our so-called ‘community’ with open arms.

Finally in the interest of full disclosure; 1) I lived on Stewart 4, my freshman year, and I walked around that bathroom naked all the time- for goodness sake it’s even a gender separate floor. I would bet that what was disturbing about this particular naked man was that he looked ‘out of place’ and 2) I can’t comment on the specific ‘peeing incident’ but whenever I see drunk people pissing away in public, which is unfortunately way more often than I would like, it is usually in front of crowds of people no less (outside LoFo, the Bunker, on Battell Beach etc). All I’ve ever heard are either words of support or sarcastic heckling.

Maybe thats just me.

Balance

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Balance is something I value, and it is something that is currently missing from this blog. From the posts that say, in essence, I LOVE BARRETT, to the few that agree with the administration’s decision to fire him, there seems to be a lack of middle ground. I want to answer both positions, in an attempt to find balance.

To those who focus on Barrett’s qualities as the subject of their posts: I agree completely. I, myself, rarely find any way to criticize Barrett – as a friend, as a student, as a leader. We have to recognize in this situation, first and foremost, that there were serious lapses in judgement and Barrett, my friend, you can be nice and idealistic to a fault. In a perfect world, what you did should be acceptable. We should be able to open our college campus to friendly strangers, trusting the best in others, inviting those often excluded from our community to join us. Unfortunately that is not the case. First of all, Stewart is a communal space. Regardless of the background of the person, having a guest for such an extended period of time goes against so many unspoken rules of dorm life. The argument that this 3-day-rule is only being used now as a convenience may be true, but it’s also there for a reason. Personally, if I found out that some complete stranger to me had been a guest on my freshman hall for such an extended period of time I would have been really upset. I feel like that violates some of the safety and trust of a freshman hall. Secondly, Middlebury may feel like home but it’s not… we’re all temporary residents here. I am all about the ideals of Couch Surfing and opening up doors to travelling strangers. Unfortunately those ideals only apply to your own home, because you have to have the consent of all people who live in a building before you open up the doors. That just doesn’t work in a dormitory. Having the equivalent of a couch surfer stay in your dorm room is not a privilege that comes along with being the occupant of that room. Period. Having a guest like Barrett did, regardless of his background, frankly, even regardless of his relationship to Barrett, violates so much of the trust we put in one another when we live in a communal setting. No matter how much we want to be welcoming, there is a really serious line that cannot be crossed. Barrett, bud, you made a serious mistake, regardless of the reports of inappropriate behavior on Luuay’s part. Even if he had been the most well groomed trust fund baby ever to walk the Middlebury campus and there had been no reports of inappropriate behavior, it’s still wrong to have a stranger live on a freshman hall for that long. Period.

On the other hand, to those who say that the appropriate punishment for such a transgression is the removal of Barrett from his hall, I can’t agree with you. The disturbance of having a stranger live on the hall for a week is minuscule compared to the disturbance of removing a beloved FYC. I think the biggest concern in this issue for everyone is not just it’s just resolution for Barrett, but a just resolution for the boys on the hall. Removing an FYC like Barrett, who, as I understand it, had no transgressions before this event and was actually doing an outstanding job, would seriously upset the hall, as expressed by the other ResLife staff members already. Being a freshman is the best worst time of your life – everything is new and exciting, yet stressful and horrible at the same time. Finding a modicum of stability is crucial – that’s what an FYC is there for. You can’t take that away from the boys on Stew 4. In my freshman year Stew 4 had a planned FYC change and my friends on the hall then, who knew what was coming, were still bothered by it. The FYC is there for the freshman, firing Barrett just mess up their life and doesn’t help anybody.

There must be consequences for what happened, but they should be consequences for Barrett, not the boys on Stew 4. Maybe, considering they are the ones who are being the most affected by the series of events, they should be the ones to decide the consequences for Barrett, and the best way for their hall to move forward into the second half of the year.

A quick remark

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I have been following the posts that have been written and I am so pleased to see so many come to Barrett’s side during this time. I agree with what others have been saying, that yes Barrett didn’t make the best decision hosting Louis in respect to his behavior in the dorm, however when I met Louis, he was very nice, open, and eager to get to know you. I felt no alarm or reason to be concerned whatsoever. Firing Barrett is a gross overreaction of the administration. I should say that I am also an FYC and it is not acceptable to make freshmen uncomfortable, it is our job to do the exact opposite, to create a welcoming atmosphere where students feel comfortable being open, discussing problems that arise, and being themselves. Barrett is an exceptional FYC and if we were to place this lapse of judgement and his overall capacity as an FYC on a set of balance scales, the scales would be heavily weighted in Barrett’s favor. He has done so much more than many FYC’s on this campus and I can honestly say that is is an inspiration to me with his welcome and warming spirit. In the grand scheme of things, this incident is just a tiny blip on the radar.

I believe it is also necessary to consider how EASILY this situation was handled and fixed. On that same token, I feel that the College intentionally ignored the capabilities of Barrett when making the decision to terminate his employment. This close-minded approach is a message that is not in the best interest of the College if this institution is to keep the respect of its students. The point of a liberal arts education is to teach us to look at every side of an issue and the administration took the easy way out.

We should not forget the negative impact this decision will have on the students living in Stewart Hall. I believe that their comfort should be the College’s top priority and while they may argue that they are looking out for the students by removing an FYC that did not uphold his duties in this single incidence, they are short-sighted and perhaps do not realize that their actions have far greater, more negative, and longer lasting effects than Barrett’s guest will and would have ever had on their comfort.

Brainerd FYCs and RAs unanimous

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Soon after Barrett was fired, the Brainerd Residential Life staff met and decided unanimously to suggest that Barrett stay on in Stewart.

This decision was made after much consideration and reflects what we think would be the most beneficial outcome for our First Years.

We do believe that Barrett made serious lapses in judgement but this has taught Barrett and the rest of us valuable lessons, and this does not negatively affect his ability to play his role as FYC in the future.

We recommend that alternate measures of punishment for Barrett’s mistakes be employed in this situation.

Thank you,

Brainerd FYCs and RAs.

Campus Article: “Trespass order creates controversy”

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http://www.middleburycampus.com/node/15320
By

A No Trespass order issued by Public Safety to a black male on Nov. 21 has caused significant student outcry. The man, 28-year-old Luaay Elamir, was being hosted by Barrett Smith ’13 from Nov. 14 to Nov. 21 in Stewart Hall, where Smith was a First-Year Counselor (FYC). As a result of his hosting of Elamir and his handling of the subsequent investigation, Smith lost his FYC position on Monday, Dec. 5.
On Monday, Nov. 21, at about 3:30 p.m., Public Safety received a call alleging that Elamir urinated in a cup in a lounge on the second floor of Stewart and then proceeded to throw it out the window and that, in a separate incident, someone walked in on him drip-drying naked in the shower area of a men’s bathroom in Stewart.
Director of Public Safety Lisa Burchard explained that protocol was then followed to further investigate the reports.
“As we’re trying to follow up on that, we do what we would normally do, which is go to Stewart, try to locate the person, locate people who might know who this person is,” said Burchard. “In the course of that, we not only did not find the person that was being described, but the officers involved did get some information that they pretty quickly had determined was … incorrect information.”
Smith, the hosting student, explained that when the Public Safety officers came to Stewart, he was approached in the bathroom, about to get in the shower. At that point, Elamir was not in Stewart and Smith was unsure of his exact location.
“I was really taken off-guard,” said Smith. “I don’t really have any justification for doing this … [but] in that moment of [discomfort], I initially said he was a friend from back home.”
In fact, Smith had met Elamir on Oct. 1 at Occupy Wall Street in New York, where they talked for several hours.

Elamir mentioned at the protest that he would be heading home to Vancouver in a few weeks by way of Burlington, and Smith offered him a place to stay in his room, if Elamir needed it.
During a second set of questioning shortly after the initial interaction with Public Safety, Smith admitted the truth about how he knew Elamir.
“I made a mistake, but I rectified it fairly quickly,” he said.
At this point, Public Safety told Smith “they wanted to issue a No Trespass order against [Elamir].” They told Smith that Elamir needed to be contacted by 5:00 p.m., when the No Trespass Order would be issued.
Because Smith had left campus for town, Public Safety contacted the MPD for assistance.
“We needed to get in touch with the Middlebury Police and find out if they could locate the person in town,” said Burchard. “We wanted to issue a No Trespass order, which we do in many instances when we have somebody on campus, or who may return to campus, that shouldn’t be on campus.”
Chief of Police Thomas Hanley explained that Elamir was not in town at the Ilsley Public Library, as originally expected, prompting the MPD officers to search for Elamir on campus.
“The library was closed, so the officers went to the [Davis Family] Library and located the man there, and … Public Safety served him with the notice,” wrote Hanley in an email.
“Our involvement was limited. There were two officers assigned, [and] one of the officers was accompanied by a recruit officer who was in training.”
The two MPD officers and the officer-in-training escorted Elamir into the lobby of the Davis Family Library, where they waited for two Public Safety officers to arrive.
“During that time, [Elamir] just kept saying ‘I don’t know what I did wrong, I was just using the computer, can you give me an explanation for why this is happening?’” said Anna Clements ’12.5, who was in the lobby at the time.
Noting the potentially excessive number of officers present, she added, “In my opinion, the [MPD] were being insensitive towards him … When we were in the lobby, one of the officers said, ‘You peed in a cup in front of girls,’ and … ‘You threw it at them.’ I don’t know if that’s true.”

Burchard agreed that there was no need for five officers to be present in the library, and plans to discuss this with the MPD in order to avoid future situations where more officers are sent on a case than are necessary.
Following the incident in the library, Elamir was escorted back to Stewart to gather his belongings. Smith met him there and his friend, Sam Koplinka-Loehr ’13, followed close behind. As Elamir gathered his things, both Smith and Koplinka-Loehr say they felt harassed and disrespected by the officers.
“Officer [Neil] Mogerley [of the MPD] said that he would arrest all of us if we did not leave the building,” wrote Koplinka-Loehr in his statement. “Despite [Smith]’s limited mobility [due to a broken foot] they continued to rush us and push for a faster pace, saying that we were ‘wasting their time.’
According to Koplinka-Loehr, “Officer Amy [Buck of Public Safety] said she felt that [Smith]’s friendship with Elamir was ‘disturbing.’”
Once his belongings were gathered, Elamir left campus with Smith and some of Smith’s friends. Smith says he hasn’t heard from Elamir since.
On Wednesday, Nov. 23, Smith posted an anonymous editorial piece on the blog The Gadfly, “an independent publication and forum for discussion not officially associated with Middlebury College,” according to the publication’s website. His editorial, titled “Institutional Racism: Alive and Well at Middlebury College,” alleged that the incident was reflective of racism at the College.
The editorial did not include specific details about the events, and Smith admitted that this was a conscious editorial decision.
“I still think that what I said was valid, even without the greater nuances [of the entire situation],” Smith said. “I think that we need to be having these conversations about race and class on campus, and this was something that happened that gave an avenue to have these conversations. So I recognize that I did leave out parts of it, and if someone thinks that that’s misleading, I’d like to talk to them about it.”
Before it was taken down a week later, the blog post garnered significant response in the comments section following the piece.

Rachel Callender ’12 was extensively involved in the discussion, initially criticizing the role Public Safety and the MPD played in the incident.
“There are members of this campus who I know personally that have visitors here for over a month and they don’t get so much as an email,” she wrote on the blog. “Why? Is it because their friends look like the majority of MiddKids do and are therefore snuck under the radar? Should this be accepted?”
Concerned with the details that were lacking in the blog post, Callender sought a meeting with Director of Public Safety Lisa Burchard, who met with Callender and answered all of her questions.
“The meeting was extremely productive and extremely respectful,” said Callender. “[After speaking with Burchard,] I was convinced that it was not a racially motivated incident.”
“It’s so easy, especially within the minority group on campus, to feel victimized … there’s a huge sensitivity of the issue on campus,” Callender added. She identifies as “half black, half white.” “So I don’t blame those who feel threatened by such an incident. I do feel, however, that it is our duty to always search for the facts.”
Burchard appreciated Callender’s questions, and felt that the meeting was a beneficial discussion for both parties.
“Any time we do our work, if people raise concerns, we look at it … and try to determine whether or not we were following our policy and procedure,” said Burchard, and if “we could do our job better.”
In this case, however, Burchard said that the officers were following procedures correctly.
Callender did feel, however, that had Elamir been a white male, his treatment would have been less acceptable and caused greater outcry.
She was not the only student who felt that the incident was an example of racism on campus, either. Matt Birnbaum ’12 expressed his concern with student reactions to Elamir’s presence on campus.

“If questionable behavior was indeed observed by fellow students, why were neither [the] guest nor [the] host approached to discuss the matter?” he wrote in an email, noting that it is not uncommon for students to have guests for over one month without concern from Public Safety. The responses on The Gadfly, Birnbaum added, were also concerning.
“One student [alleged] that this ‘guest’ had to leave because he was ‘smelly’ (since when is it Middlebury policy to remove ‘smelly’ people with the help of police?),” Birnbaum wrote. “It was as if the social biases that many members of our community have long acknowledged, were on full display, out from behind ‘the curtain of privilege.’”
On Monday, Dec. 5, Dean of Students Katy Smith Abbott informed Smith that he had lost his position as an FYC for Brainerd Commons. Smith said Smith Abbott expressed concern about his decision in bringing an older man he barely knew to a first-year dorm and “the way in which [he] responded to the people who said they felt uncomfortable.”
Smith said that at dinner one night during Elamir’s stay, some girls who live in Stewart talked with him about their experience with Elamir in the second floor lounge, where he urinated in a cup and proceeded to throw the cup out of the window.
“The way in which the situation was presented to me was that it was something really strange, but I never got the feeling that they felt that their safety was being threatened,” said Smith. “But that’s one area where I definitely messed up, in terms of not interrogating the situation more fully and involving more of my Res life team in a response.”
Smith had multiple meetings throughout the week of Nov. 27 with the Brainerd Residential Life staff and Dean of Brainerd Commons Natasha Chang, who Smith said supported him throughout the week and had hoped to keep him as an FYC.
Smith then had a meeting set up with Smith Abbott, Chang and Head of Brainerd Commons Roman Graf in the afternoon on Dec. 5. He said he felt “blind-sided” by this meeting, which he believed was going to be an opportunity for him to give his side of the story.
“I’m really, really concerned about my hall … [and] the process by which this was done,” he said. “I wasn’t given the opportunity to speak to any of the other deans, and it wasn’t transparent at all. I feel like there was no semblance of due process.”
Currently, Smith’s fellow FYCs and first-years on the fourth floor of Stewart are fighting to reinstate Smith and have created a blog.

 

 

 

From Barrett’s co-FYC

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I am Barrett’s co-FYC and I think my opinion is pretty straightforward. I have little more to say about Barrett as a person than has already been said. Though it has been an absolute pleasure to have him around as a co-FYC.

Barrett made errors in judgment, (at this stage, he would be the last one to deny that) yet I strongly believe that letting him go is the wrong response.

Barrett must face consequences for his actions, but I do not think his dismissal is the correct response considering (a) Barrett’s firing has a very real and significant negative impact on my hall and the rest of Stewart, (b) there is no precedent for what the appropriate punishment for such actions is, (c) the process of investigation and deliberation leading up to Barrett being fired left out significant stakeholders and he was not provided with the adequate knowledge and avenues to present his case before the decision was rendered.

The Brainerd Reslife team (the FYCs and RAs) decided unanimously to request that Barrett be kept on as an FYC. We know, from the insider’s perspective (and do not see this situation as black-and-white but nuanced), how important he is to the fabric of this community and we are afraid of what impact his loss would have on Stewart.

We all considered this decision, as a Reslife team, as being very important and I know that a lot of thought was put behind every vote- but in the end, we were united in standing up for what we think would be the most beneficial outcome for our kids. Barrett erred, but we cannot afford to have our first years pay for that also.

There is nothing abstract or unreasonably emotional about what I mean by his removal would impact our community negatively. I have had the unique privilege of serving as Barrett’s FYC, then RA and now serve with him on this hall as his co-FYC. And I make this stance in the best interest of my first years. Our efforts, as a Reslife team, would suffer a considerable set-back if he were to leave.

Other than the Reslife team’s opinion, the first years in Stewart, as far I can see, overwhelmingly believe (quite vocally and actively, I should add) that Barrett should stay on in Stewart. It has been quite heartening to see them come together and independently seek to make their voices heard. At that point, backing them up is it the most reasonable and responsible thing for me to do.

I find it difficult to buy into the argument that the administration did and must play this situation ‘by the book’. First of all, in this case, there seems to be no precedent and thus no ‘book’. Additionally, the purpose of the Commons is first and foremost to foster a strong community. I don’t think that this charge of the Commons was considered as importantly as it should have, in the decision-making process.

At the end of the day, firing Barrett does not improve our situation at all. I ask the question, who gains from this? Who is any safer? No one in their right mind will claim that Barrett is a threat to the hall and therefore should move out. Barrett, the rest of the Reslife team and our students have grown tremendously over the last couple of weeks. So let us take a step back, take these events into our stride, and move on as stronger, united and intact community.

Thank you,

Nial Rele ’12

Stewart First Years’ Action

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Stewart First Years’ placed these signed signs outside the conference room where the Commons Deans’ meeting yesterday.

On why Barrett should have resigned.

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Barrett is an amazing person. He has done much to make life on Stew 4 better for all of us. In this piece I hope to explain why I feel the administration made the right decision in letting him go as an FYC. I am in support of Barrett remaining on the hall as an important member of our community, but not as an FYC.

Let me start however by commenting on the decision of some other FYCs to resign if the student led appeal fails.

Threats have little place in civilized discourse. By announcing in advance that they will resign if Barrett is not reinstated, the FYCs in question are holding the administration hostage. They are going against the most central tenant of liberal discourse, that it is OK for others to disagree. If this move stemmed from a principle that they feel was infringed and they were doing this to show solidarity and not issue a threat, they should have resigned after the fact and not made preemptive statements. The fact that they made this announcement before a final decision was made makes it quite obviously a threat. I would love to hear their explanation if this is not the case.

I also wonder if there is a lack of consistency in the arguments the FYCs are putting forth. They argue (and I have no reason to disagree) that Barrett being removed will cause tremendous damage to the hall dynamics. Will their decisions to resign not cause similar harm? When the college put forth its arguments for Barretts dismissal a lot of people consistently argued that the interests of the students of the hall should always come first. I urge you to consider your actions in the light of your arguments.

If you are still with me, I want to quickly explain why I think the college’s decision was right.

From a legal standpoint, if the college does not fire Barrett and something goes wrong in Stew 4 because of Barret or even with no involvement on his part, the college will be left vulnerable to lawsuits. It could very well be argued by anyone who sues the college at the point that the college provided insufficient care by having someone who has demonstrated a lack of judgement in a supervisory position. The college does not deserve this because of a personal mistake on the part of one student.

From a personal responsibility standpoint, Barrett should have resigned after the incident and not waited for the college’s ruling. If he sees the level of threat posed by having an absolute stranger living on the hall, he should feel the violation of trust that some of us felt in his decision. If he feels that there was no such threat, I invite him to explain, 1. why based on the little time he knew this man he is so sure and 2. what could we have done (given that we did not know his complete identity) if he had committed a crime and left.

Once again, I think Barrett should be allowed to stay on in the hall as a student. But when it comes to his employment contract, he clearly violated important provisions of this contract. We should have no say in the decision his employer has made especially given the legal ramifications discussed above.

 

More Shorter Comments

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Feel free to add your own in the comments section of this post!

Frank Wyer ’15 (Stew 4)- Barrett has been an integral part of my Middlebury experience, starting with moving-in day. I cannot imagine Stew 4 without him. He has always been kind, inclusive, and trustworthy, and I sincerely believe he is irreplaceable in this respect.

Dillon Cope ’15 (Stew 4)- BARRETT IS AN AMAZING PERSON.

Travis Fishstein ’15 (Stew 4)- I accept that Barrett has erred in judgement, yet he is my friend, and my family. His dismissal will not only be an injustice to myself, but to the very values that this school is built upon. Please reconsider the rash and inconsiderate decision you are making.

Paul Donnelly ’15 (Stew 4)- Barrett certainly made multiple mistakes and did not have the best judgement in this situation, however his removal as FYC will have a negative effect on our hall community for the year to come. Our hall has a special bond with Nial and Barrett, and having Barrett taken away would deprive the hall as a whole. Barrett has made adjusting to college life a lot easier, and while he made mistakes, it would be to the community’s advantage to have him stay as an FYC. I can totally understand the college’s decision as he did make serious mistakes, but I think they need to reconsider the decision and consider the impact this would have on the Stewart community more carefully. I hope the college can find an alternate punishment for Barrett.

Chris Kennedy ’15 (Stew 4)- In my opinion, Barrett’s lapse of judgment does not deserve this punishment. The people making this decision failed to ask the opinions of the people this decision affects the most: the students. Entering college is a difficult, nerve-wracking process. We have to live in a new place, we have to make new friends, we are pressured to succeed in school, and we are leaving home. We are establishing a new chapter of our lives. This process would have been much more difficult without Barrett as our FYC, and it will become much more difficult with him gone. He made us feel at home, created friendly bonds and established himself as a fatherly figure. If anything goes wrong, I know I have him, and I’ve needed him many times. Whether it was because I was partying too hard, family issues, or if I just needed a friend, he was there with open arms. You cannot replace this. Sure, you can get a new FYC, but Barrett is way more than an FYC. He represents everything Stew 4. He helped create bonds between the members of our hall, establishing a family-type atmosphere. Without him, these bonds will begin to break and Stew 4 will suffer. His actions deserve punishment, but your causing more harm than he ever did by firing him. Think of the larger effects of this decision. Think of the students.

Ahmed Anis Mebraki ’15 (Stew 4)- Justice is not just what’s on paper.

Grace Benz ’15- The coming J-term and Spring semester won’t be the same without Barrett living upstairs.

Nathan Weil ’15- Barrett is 100% a force for good in Stewart Hall. But Barrett can only be that force if allowed to stay. You do the math.

Sarah Nodder ’15- I do believe that what Barrett did was a serious security breach and did not take our well-being into account and that this would be the logical punishment. Yet, I do think that Barrett is a caring FYC and it would be sad to see him leave. He has been very open and has brought together many people in Stewart.

Ruth Tyson ’15- Barrett is [a] necessary part of the Stew community.

Sam Koplinka-Loehr ’13 (Stew 1 FYC)- I have known Barrett Smith for three years as a friend and have worked with him as an FYC this year. While he may have made mistakes, I do not believe those mistakes represented a lapse in his ability to serve as an FYC. He is one of the best FYCs I have ever met, who whole-heartedly devotes his time, energy, and soul to the residents of Stewart Hall. I believe firing him would be a grave detriment to the community as a whole, to do so disrespects the work that he does as well as what is best for the students.

Claire Nishioka ’15- Barrett was one of the very first people I met here on campus, and he made me feel instantly that I belonged. I feel as though his punishment (removal from the dorm) was too harsh, and that Barrett’s presence benefits us in so many ways, that in fact his absence will have only negative effects. keep barrett!!

Blake Shapskinsky ’15 (Stew 4)- Barrett is the best. He’s always willing to chat (and teach me how to rock climb). Looking at the pictures people have drawn for him in his room always brightens up my day. I’m sure another FYC would be friendly, but there’s no other Barrett.

Julianna Mauriello ’13 (Stew 3 FYC)- As one of Barrett’s fellow Stewart FYCs, I am very disheartened to see him fired. I fully agree that he made a serious mistake in allowing Louie to stay in Stewart Hall, and I agree that more immediate action should have been taken on his part when concerning incidences arose involving his guest. I personally felt very uncomfortable when I learned of the entire situation, although that was not until after Louie had already been removed from campus. However, removing Barrett from Stew 4 will only be harmful to his freshmen and to the Brainerd Commons Residential Life Staff. Aside from this particular incident, Barrett is an exemplary FYC. He is very devoted to the well-being of the students on his hall. He is caring, generous, and always a very active member of our residential community. Barrett would be sorely missed, and I believe his removal would mostly be a detriment to the young men on the fourth floor who have developed such strong relationships with their beloved FYC.

Two Issues and an Analogy

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So I don’t actually know Barrett – I heard of his and Luuay’s (hopefully I am spelling this right) story through the grape-vine, and have updated my understanding most recently by reading this blog – and yet I have spent a lot of time thinking critically about their story. Following are the thoughts I want to share:

First, I think it is really important to not forget about Luuay’s forceful removal from campus now that there is something else, Barrett being fired, to focus on. When I first heard of this happening, I was spared the details of his comportment and had no doubt that Luuay’s removal was a blatant act of racial profiling. Now, I appreciate that the issue is more complicated; however, I want to offer an analogy that might help to locate, identify or separate the racism involved from the supposed reasonable decision to “ask” (this is a euphemism, he was basically arrested) a stranger who was making freshmen uncomfortable to leave.

In October, an older man (upwards of 31) that I worked with on a farm for no more than two weeks this past summer, was traveling in the Northeast and decided to take me up on my extant offer to visit whenever he was in the area (very similar to Luuay). He did some of his own thing, spending time in town, at the library, and walking around campus (similar to Luuay). He also hung out with me, stayed in my room in Weybridge (I think my roommate felt uncomfortable by his presence, another similarity to Luuay) and ate Midd funded food (again, similar). He even came to a party on the weekend (this could be considered objectionable comportment). The main differences between this man, named Jason, and Luuay are that Jason was never seen naked by anyone (the naked thing I don’t understand, since when was the last time anyone wore their clothes in the shower?), he never peed in a cup, he didn’t stay for more than three days (this is irrelevant, since it is never enforced as a rule and is only being so in this case because it is a convenient strike to use against Barrett), I probably knew him slightly better than Barrett knew Luuay, and, the issue I want to focus on, he was white (actually Eastern European, and he did have a large mustache, which is stereotypically creepy). All other differences aside, some of which could have been irrelevant at times, if Jason happened to be black, would he have been questioned when he spent time on campus or in the library? Would he have been questioned about or reported based on his behavior, such as attending a party at the Mill? Would my roommate, or other housemates, had validated their discomfort – enough to say or do something about it – with the mental reinforcement of the black male as dangerous criminal stereotype? I think it is very likely that Jason would have been treated differently – especially by Public Safety and the police (neither of which I really address here). And even if you don’t, I think that maintaining at least skepticism about the issue is important. It is too easy and convenient to justify Luuay’s removal by saying that it was because he was a stranger, or because of the admittedly strange things that he did. Rather, we need to tease out where race is important in a situation like this (because I am sure that it is) by reversing the racial roles of the people involved. Would this all have happened if Luuay was white stranger, like my visitor?

I think an especially pertinent detail to which to apply this question is the language of “unsafe.” When was this term first used? When students first saw Luuay, or when he actually did something to offend them? Arguably, nothing that Luuay did was actually dangerous. I would argue that it was his strangeness that students perceived as the danger: he, as a black man, more so than probably any other body in our society, is marked as the unwanted and unsafe stranger. The line between “uncomfortable” and “unsafe,” then, becomes very important and racially charged. A stranger of the white race who looks a little different from “us” (Middlebury’s white majority) may make “us” (all of Middlebury?) uncomfortable, or a stranger of any race may invoke discomfort by his actions – but to report feeling unsafe requires another level of assumption, reaction and judgment (basically, Luuay wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt) – all of which, in regard to strangers in our society, have a deeply racist meaning.

Second, I want to use my Jason analogy to understand the logic of Barrett being fired. To be clear, I don’t support the obviously absolute power of the college to do whatever they want and fire an FYC without the support, let alone the demand of the students, and if it were me, unless I was consistent in pursuing a hard-ass approach with all FYCs (many of whom drink in the dorms and break other rules – lapses in judgment, I would say), I couldn’t justify firing Barrett. But, unlike me in my situation with Jason, Barrett holds a position of power and therefore is more in the spotlight and more likely to be questioned/or held accountable for his actions, and I think the issue with Barrett basically comes down to this. I don’t feel like I can say much more, though, because I have a loose grasp on the details, especially pertaining to the opinions and demands of his freshmen.

In conclusion, I want to urge everyone that is interested in continuing the conversation to not forget about the original issue, Luuay being removed from campus, and to be honestly, openly willing to consider how race plays into all of this.

Thanks!

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Thanks all you guys for the thoughtful posts. This is amazing and touching.

But..

KEEP ‘EM COMING.

Update: The Middblog post has had more than 1000 views- we are making news.

On Behalf of Emily Caffry ’15 and Grace Benz ’15

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As seen from the many posts below, Barrett is obviously a beloved member of the Stewart community and Middlebury College as a whole. Barrett isn’t only present to the boys on Stew 4: his welcoming presence has reached many of us on Stew 3 as well. Almost every Monday, we go to Barrett’s room to drink tea and to talk, and, (even after venturing to an all-boys floor) we have not once felt uncomfortable or out of place. Barrett is always looking out for the first years and has effortlessly made us feel welcome simply by being who he is. Without him, Stew wouldn’t be as nearly closely-knit as we are, and, by firing Barrett, we believe that Stewart will lose a large part of the bond that has brought us together in the past few months.

Finally, we want to say that while we can’t speak for everyone, we personally never felt uncomfortable about any actions or decisions made by Barrett or his guest.

Respectfully,

Emily Caffry ’15 and Grace Benz ’15

On Behalf of Professor of Education Studies Tara Affolter

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Love in the classroom prepares teachers and students to open our minds and hearts. It is the foundation on which every learning community can be created…Love will always move us away from domination in all its forms. Love will challenge us and change us. – bells hooks (2003)

Foundations of a community

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Dear Dean Chang:

I have spent much of my time over the past 48 hours reflecting on what it means to build a community. It is by no means a trivial task to facilitate the transition to college life for first year students, many of whom, like myself just two years ago, are away from home for a significant part of the year for the first time. To help these students adjust to their new environment is delicate; to simultaneously foster a community of learning wherein they feel comfortable testing their boundaries and have the opportunity to learn from the widely diverse experiences of their peers is nothing short of miraculous.

It takes a special sort of leader to make a hall full of nervy, self-conscious freshmen feel at home in a new part of the country or world. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that in plenty of cases, First Year Counselors do not succeed in crafting a sense of community. There are FYCs whose actions are at best neglectful and at times negative to the point of causing serious damage to the communities with which they have been entrusted. Where the FYC system fails in this manner there is seldom administrative action taken to resolve the situation and perhaps not wrongly so: it is difficult to determine what sort of action is sufficiently detrimental to merit such a drastic action as disruption midyear of the primary support system these first-year students have learned to trust.

Having lived on the fourth floor of Stewart my freshman year in a tight group of guys that I still consider dear friends, I have had a chip on my shoulder for much of my time here. We thought that we were the best it got, and no other floor would ever come close to the strength of our trust in and love for each other. This year, I ate my words, not without reluctance, after meeting and spending a significant amount of time with the new group of Stew 4 boys. There is no doubt in my mind that this truly unique phenomenon is to a powerful extent the result of their recently ousted FYC, Barrett Smith. It is an uncommon treasure to have such a positive influence on our greater Middlebury community and I can think of no more notable testament to the value and importance of the laudable Commons system that has played such a critical role in my happiness at this school.

Now, as I alluded to earlier, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what factors are most important in facilitating the genesis of such a strong, cohesive sense of community. By no means do I claim to have found the definite answer. But I have identified a few determinants that I believe are key.

  • The first is radical inclusiveness. Nothing is more inhibiting to a tentative young adult who is unsure of whether by fully expressing themselves they will become vulnerable to derision by others than feeling that, even within their new home and community, there are certain standards of appearance, behavior, or expression that will prevent them from being accepted.
  • The second would have to be trust. It is one thing to say you accept someone but those words will carry no weight without an accompanying show of trust. Colloquially, good fences make for terrible, distant neighbors.
  • Next is unconditional generosity. This one is particularly important for FYCs. I would not be comfortable asking for help from someone if through my experience with them I have found them reluctant to help in the past, or more relevantly selfishly overly concerned with how helping me would reflect on them. A leader who gives without thinking of himself inspires similar behavior in all those he encounters and that has a powerful effect on a community.
  • Finally, but perhaps most vitally, is the ability to make and learn from mistakes. This is crucial for freshmen who are attending, quite likely, the most rigorously demanding institution they have ever experienced. One of the most pervasive issues that I have noticed throughout Middlebury, not just in freshman dorms, is a paralyzing fear of falling short of perfection. Mistakes are regarded here as fatal, and that is a tremendous shame. I am certain that outstanding accomplishments have gone unattempted for fear of failure here, and possibly the best thing that an FYC can do for his freshmen is show them that mistakes can be survived.

Now I expect it is abundantly clear where I am driving with this but I will spell it out. The first three of these factors demonstrate how the incredible closeness and strength of community on Stew 4 and the unfortunate incident that led to Barrett Smith’s removal have their root in the exact same qualities of this exceptional leader. The fourth, more dismally, regards the potentially disastrous ramifications of the extremity of Mr. Smith’s punishment for a mistake for which he has admirably taken responsibility and vowed to learn from. As I wrote in an editorial that should be appearing in the Campus this Thursday morning, this excessive disciplinary action will stigmatize every value he embodies to these freshmen – trust and loyalty; generosity and selflessness; optimism and faith in his fellow man – and leave what was an exemplary model of the very best that the Commons system can be in an absolute shambles.

That students felt threatened due to Mr. Smith’s visitor is certainly a problem that must be addressed. There were actions he could have taken to ameliorate their uneasiness, and failing that he ought to have rectified the situation by asking Luuay to leave. But it is telling that his attempted solution to the problem was to offer to introduce the uncomfortable students to his guest and let them decide through their own encounters with him whether they still found him a threat or simply a very different person engaging in exactly the sort of experience often lauded in Middlebury students (particularly February admissions students) who backpack through a foreign country to learn about their culture. That they did not take that opportunity is regrettable: I myself met him once and found him exceedingly bizarre, but a dedicated pacifist and the farthest thing from a threat. That Mr. Smith should have at this point, having failed to make his point about inclusion and judging a book by its admittedly unrefined cover, taken more traditional action to rectify the situation and asked Luuay to leave is clear. But whether this lapse in judgement, when viewed in the larger body of Mr. Smith’s staggeringly effective work as a role model and leader to his first years, merits dismissal when we have all heard so many disappointing stories about utter neglect and dereliction of duty by other, uncensured Res Life members is a matter that, in my opinion, reflects decidedly poorly on our school and administration.

I have to admit that I have seldom felt part of a less welcoming or forgiving community. From my experiences in my own community at home and as a guest in the homes of others in a variety of cultures, I am pretty embarrassed to live in a place where this can happen. I will be spending the next 4 months living with strangers in Paris and creeping into my excitement now is fear. Will my imposition be treated with equal hostility? Am I sufficiently similar to Parisians that my presence won’t be considered threatening? Most importantly, what negative consequences will my host family have to pay for their hospitality? For these and all the other reasons elaborated upon in this admittedly a-tad-too-long letter, I will not rest easy tonight.

Respectfully signed,

Sam Murray

Class of 2013

Middblog posts on Barrett getting fired

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by Luke Whelan on December 7, 2011

http://midd-blog.com/2011/12/07/fyc-in-stewart-fired/

[If you have comments on this article, please post them @ the middblog article and not here as they are the authors of the post, thank you.]

Barrett Smith ’13 was fired from his position of FYC last night

On Wednesday night, Barrett Smith ’13 was fired from his position as First Year Counselor (FYC) on the fourth floor of Stewart in Brainerd Commons for letting a guest stay in his room who allegedly made some of his First Years  uncomfortable and potentially endangered their safety.

What Happened?

The guest, a 28-year old man named Luaay from Vancouver, BC, stayed in Smith’s room for one week. Smith, a Classics Major, met Luaay in New York City at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration where they talked for a few hours. Afterwards, Smith offered his room at Middlebury to Luaay as a place to sleep if his travels brought him through Vermont.

Luaay, who has been traveling around the country for the past year, took Smith up on his offer, sleeping in his room and spending his days reading, writing and doing research in the Library and taking trips into town. He mostly bought and cooked his own food, although he did eat in the dining hall on a few occasions.

But during Luaay’s stay at Middlebury, Public Safety received complaints that some of the 38 boys living on Stewart 4 felt uncomfortable with Luaay staying in Barrett’s room.

On Monday November 21 (the day before Luaay planned to leave) Public Safety came to Smith’s room to ask Luaay to leave campus. Because he was not in Smith’s room when they arrived (although his belongings were) and he could not be found on campus, they suspected evasion. Smith maintains that Luaay was visiting his friend in town and unaware that Public Safety wanted to remove him. In any case, their failure to locate him prompted Public Safety to get the Middlebury Police Department involved in finding him.

Five MPD officers eventually found and surrounded Luaay walking into the foyer of the Davis Family Library. They then issued him an indefinite no-trespass order. Two Public Safety Officers, two MPD officers, and one MPD officer-in-training escorted Luaay to Smith’s room where he immediately got his belongings and was driven off campus by Smith and another friend.

The Administration’s Response

It is unclear who the made the ultimate decision to fire Smith, but Dean of Brainerd Commons Natasha Chang said in an email, “Decisions with respect to FYC  appointments are generally made by the Commons administration, and may in certain instances include input from the Dean of Students and the Dean of the College.” They presented three lapses in judgement on Smith’s part that they deemed grave enough to question Barrett’s ability to continue his role as FYC.

The first is that Smith brought an older man who, by reasonable standards, he did not know “well” into a hall with his First Years, which posed a safety risk. Two incidents made the issue of student’s safety and the lack of experience Smith had with Luaay more pressing. The first occurred when a female custodian and a male student found Luaay naked in the shower of the boy’s bathroom drip-drying his hair, which Dean of the College Shirley Collado referred to as, “inappropriate nudity,” in her statement. He also apparently urinated in a cup in the doorway of the Stewart 2 lounge in the presence of a group of First Year girls.

Philip Chang ’15 who lives two doors down from Smith said, “I didn’t feel threatened or scared or anything, but to be honest if it was up to me I wouldn’t have had him there, it was not a positive experience for me. But I respected Barrett and his decision [to let Luaay stay with him] and did not to have an issue with it.”

A whiteboard on the door of a room on Stew 1

Secondly, the Deans indicated that when First Years told Smith they felt uncomfortable with Luaay living on the hall, he responded based on what he thought was comfortable and appropriate and did not take other people’s ideas into consideration, which was deemed an unacceptable response given his position as FYC.

Smith acknowledged that Luaay had strange habits and did not look like many people on this campus (he is a large African-American man with dreadlocks), but he said, “In the week I spent with Luaay, he showed no signs that he was a ‘threat’ in any way and no residents raised concerns to me or any other Res Life member about safety. If there had been safety concerns, I would have been the first to ask him to leave.”

After one student approached Smith about his discomfort with Luaay, Smith offered to introduce the student to Luaay, but did not say he would ask Luaay to leave. Smith now says,”there is a difference between feeling unsafe and uncomfortable, but I should have done more to tease out that difference, and that was one of my mistakes.”

A third reason for Smith’s firing, is that he initially lied to Public Safety about how long he had known Luaay, telling them he was a friend from home. Smith says of the incident, “I was just not thinking.” Half an hour after telling them this, he went back to Public Safety to tell them the truth, and later on still, he sent Public Safety a formal apology for his actions.

Finally, he broke a loosely enforced rule (number 28 in Section A of Residential Policies in the Student Handbook) that a guest can only stay with a student for three days.

“In accordance with College procedures, Public Safety investigated the matter, and found the guest’s behavior to be concerning and completely unacceptable… FYCs are expected to observe College rules, and in that regard serve as role models to the students in their residence halls. In accordance with the rules, and like all Middlebury students, FYCs are also responsible for the conduct of their guests,” said Dean Collado in her statement.

Smith says of the firings, “I realize that I made some big mistakes, some really serious mistakes, but at the same time this has been a tremendous learning opportunity for me, for the Brainerd Res Life team, for the entire campus’s Res Life Team, and I’ve grown in a lot of ways and I regret that I wont be able to have the chance to apply my learning to being an FYC still.”

Race and Class

Many issues have been brought up surrounding the administration’s reaction to Luaay’s stay, one of which is the role of race and class in how the situation was handled. Smith brought this up in a post on the Gadfly, Midd’s underground publication, where he described Luaay’s detainment by five MPD officers, and Public Safety’s disrespectful and brusque treatment of both Smith and Luaay. He thought MPD’s involvement and Luuay’s indefinite expulsion from the campus were both excessive.

Community Response

The Stew 4 boys. FYCs Barrett Smith and Nial Rele are in front.

The bigger controversy, however, is the fairness of Smith’s firing and the impact it will have on his hall and the greater Brainerd community. “I’m most concerned about the community in Stew because I think loosing an FYC is a big change. I don’t see how this decision benefits anyone, especially my First Years,” said Smith, unanimously considered by those who know him as an exceptional FYC. He is largely responsible for what is widely known as one of the closest-knit Freshmen halls on the campus, fondly nicknamed by some as the “Frat.”

Dean Chang said in an email,”I sincerely hope that the students in Stewart and all of Brainerd Commons would recognize the importance of the FYC’s position as a role model, and I trust that all of these students appreciate the expectations the college community has of an FYC.”

But there has been a large outcry among his First Years and others in the community about his firing, some of which has been collected on this blog, go/barrett. First Years on Stew 4 have also started petitions demanding Smith’s reinstatement.

Many who contributed to the “Keep Barrett Here” blog feel that termination was too extreme of a punishment, and also compromised the best interest of those living on Stew 4 and the Brainerd community.

Smith’s co-FYC Nial Rele said, “The Commons may have hired Barrett, but to have the sort of bonds that he has with our First Years is not written into our contracts and it goes so far beyond the bare necessities of the role, that it seems ludicrous that the Commons has the ability to sever those bonds.”

Philip Chang said,”It really wouldn’t be the same if there was some other upperclassmen living two doors over. Seeing Barrett everyday walking in and out is comforting, he is always there to talk to, always happy. I think the balance between him and Nial is perfect for our floor.”

Was the Process Fair?

Smith, Rele, and many First Years on Stew 4 also question the process by which he was fired. “Natasha and Roman consulted with other students and our Res Life Team about the incident, but I’m concerned that the voices of the community were not heard concerning my job and an administrative response,” said Smith.

The administration could also have put Smith on probation. This would mean the administration would monitor him, but he would still keep his role as FYC.

There also appears to be no clear way to appeal the decision, which Smith is now in the process of figuring out. “I am continuing to meet with various Deans to clear up all of my questions and concerns,” he said.

“I really respect that the administration needs to take some sort of action. I just don’t know if complete dismissal is the answer,” said Chang in conclusion.

What Do You Think?

Does Barrett Smith deserved to be fired? Was the process by which he was fired fair? How should we view guests in our community? How open should Middlebury be, who should we be open to?

In defense of a good FYC

Categories: Uncategorized

To Whom It May Concern,

As freshmen, our FYCs were negligent, unsupportive, absent, and even disruptive, often more so than other freshmen on the hall. Our halls had little to boast of in terms of community. However, our FYCs never technically committed any punishable offense, as Barrett did. Instead, they quietly failed to offer the support which is a central–even the central–part of their job description. As freshmen, we didn’t know how severely underperforming our FYCs were; it is only in retrospect, and in observing the environment on halls like Barrett’s, that we realized what a vast effect an invested and available FYC can make on the freshman experience. Even as upperclassmen, we are envious of the members of Stew 4, who get the privilege of living in a place with an open door and a listening ear a stone’s throw away.

It is understandable that the College would like to believe that all of its FYCs are as exceptional as Barrett, but this is simply not the case. Were that true, or if Barrett had been a lackluster FYC up to this point, then perhaps they could justify firing him based on this one-time transgression. However, there are numerous FYCs around this campus whose cumulative lapses in judgment–or, even worse, failure to make any judgments at all–are much more damaging to their freshmen than Barrett’s single offense. The message that the College is effectively sending, to both its freshmen and to current and potential members of its Res Life staff, is that it is much preferable to be quietly inactive than to take the risk of being generous, outgoing, and kind. That kind of stifling environment is not what this college is about. We were promised a place where risk-taking is encouraged and just interaction between faculty, staff and students is guaranteed. Are Res Life members expected to adhere to a stricter code of conduct than the lay-student? Of course. We feel, however, that Barrett has so exceeded that code up to this point that he is owed some benefit of the doubt in this little scandal, which has been blown wildly out of proportion. Does Barrett’s poor decision merit some disciplinary action? Yes, probably, but the crime here is simply not deserving of the time. If, instead of being fired, Barrett were put under probation, we are sure that the only result of the observation will be newfound respect for the incredible dedication and respect he has for his hall and his position as an FYC. He is one of the good ones, and they aren’t all good.

Respectfully,

April Dodd and Amanda Reis ’13

On the firing of Barrett Smith – Audrey Tolbert ’13

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To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing today to express my extreme shock and disappointment at the decision of Middlebury College to fire Barrett Smith from his position as a FYC. I realize that as a junior abroad, I am not completely aware of all of the recent events that have taken place in regards to this case, therefore I am simply writing today in witness of the character that I know Barrett Smith to possess. A character that I have come to know quite well in our two and half year friendship, and a character that I would consider exemplary and perfectly suited for the position of FYC.

As a Middlebury student and a member of the Brainerd community, I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to be able to call Barrett Smith one of my best friends. I can honestly say that he is one of the most selfless people I know, which is perhaps the character trait that has led him into this situation. Barrett is nothing but giving; whether that means giving advice, giving hugs, or giving his own opinion. I believe him to be an excellent representation of a Middlebury student, someone who seeks value within others and within his community in order to make himself a better person. Even from overseas, and before this incident took place, I had heard of the impact Barrett was making on the 40 residents of Stew 4. I think that speaks volumes to the effect he has had on these boys’ first months at Middlebury; the months where one is most impressionable and most in need of aid.

I do not think it sends the correct message to the residents of Stew 4, Brainerd Commons, or the Middlebury community to dismiss Barrett Smith from his FYC position because of his recent actions. I believe the only purpose it will serve is to detrimentally change the lives of the residents of Stew 4, and also send the message to the entire community that the Middlebury administration will fault you for being too giving or too accepting; two character traits which I believe one can never have enough of, for better or for worse. They are certainly two character traits that I would want to have in an FYC, the precise reason why I whole-heartedly believe that Barrett Smith should be reinstated to his position as Stew 4 FYC.

I love this school. Even from over 3,000 miles away I am always proud to be a student of Middlebury College. But today, I believe they have made an appalling mistake that goes against every philosophy that the school, for me, has come to stand for. It is not too late to make the right decision Middlebury. I sincerely hope you reinstate Barrett Smith to his post as FYC and I plea that whoever reads this letter, as well as the many others that will certainly follow it, takes that opinion into consideration when reviewing the choices they have made.

Sincerely,

Audrey Tolbert ‘13

Lead Editor of MiddBlog

Currently abroad in Poitiers, France

Thanks for You, Barrett

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Middlebury College is nothing if not idealistic.  From a remarkably long history of coeducation and the first undergraduate degree conferred on an African-American to a tradition of international engagement and environmental stewardship, the existence of the college is predicated on the fervent belief that we can make the world a better place.  Few exemplify these ideals better than Barrett, and fewer still carry them through each and every action of day-to-day life.

Barrett is undoubtedly an exemplary candidate for FYC, and it’s very unfortunate that Barrett’s position has been called into question.  The number and sincerity of posts on this site bear testament to the strength of Barrett’s character and the warmth of his spirit; indeed, I think these characteristics are nearly impossible to overstate.  While Barrett’s indiscretions may have caused some discomfort and confusion, the reality is that no one was ever in any real danger.  As such, I encourage Brainerd Commons to not see Barrett’s actions as the result of a lack of judgment, but rather as a testament to the depth of his generosity.

Barrett: Even if you are ultimately dismissed as an FYC, no one can revoke the ways in which you’ve enhanced the lives of the first years who were lucky enough to live with you as well as everyone else around you.  You are truly an asset to Middlebury College, and no outcome of this situation can change that.

 

– Parker Woodworth, 13.5

A loss

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Barrett’s loss will be a great loss to the Stew and Brainerd community. While I know that he will not be gone, and will always be there with us, as he’s not at all detachable from the Stew 4 community, it’s sad to witness how we as a College have chosen to coldly go with the rules with no regard for Barrett’s performance and personality.

I’m sure that all boys on our floor —whether they oppose his firing or not- would agree that he was (and will surely continue to be) a very influential and inspirational person in our lives, and that we all feel sorrow because of his departure from homebase.

 

-Anis Mebarki ’15, Stew 4.