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Good Student + Good Personality = Good FYC

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Barrett is perhaps one of the people I respect the most on campus. He has been my hallway neighbor and classmate. While his friend may have behaved in an inappropriate manner, let us remember that it was his friend and not Berrett who behaved in such way. Although Barrett may have given confusing information to public safety, this should not be made such a deal as to fire him from any job or position on Campus. He was being a good friend and I am sure he would never put any of his friends or classmates in danger intentionally. As a matter of fact I would not feel in danger if I know a friend of mine has one of his friends staying with him for a while.

Barrett is a good student and a good person -ask any professor or student and you will get the same answer. I need not tell you how kind, honest, or wise Barrett is. All of us who have had the luck to meet him know that. If you do not know him personally, you should get to know him; when you do so you will realize he is indeed a good person who cares for this community. His personality and dedication make of Barrett an excellent FYC, dismissing him from any position in which he could help other Middlebury students will have a negative impact on the experience of those students.

Oscar Portillo
Class ’13

On Behalf of Stew 4 Freshmen

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To Whom It May Concern:

We, Freshman residents of Stewart Commons, are writing to you regarding the dismissal of our First Year Counselor, Barrett Smith. We believe strongly that Barrett’s dismissal would negatively impact our community and college experience. Thus, we respectfully request that the Middlebury College administration reassess its removal of Barrett from his position as our Counselor and instead consider some other course of action.

Barrett Smith is not only a valued counselor to each of the 38 students on our floor, but also a friend, mentor, and trusted confidant. Referring to the Middlebury College Handbook, we find that Barrett not only meets all the principles of Residential Life staff, but actually surpasses them. He supports us in our studies and varied academic pursuits—and further, encourages us to excel. With an open door and open mind, Barrett allows students the opportunities to shape and form our own community. Barrett’s door is always open for anybody and is accepting of all types of students. Through his constant example and leadership, Barrett has established an ethos among us that is wholly inclusive, loving, and positive. Living with our FYC, we find ourselves to be comfortable, happy, and eager to participate in our surrounding environment. Barrett is an integral part of the strong and powerful community we have formed here within Brainerd Commons, and he is a trustworthy and welcoming friend to all.

Collectively, we know that our community could not possibly be the same without Barrett. Every single resident of the hall has formed a personal relationship with him and would sorely miss his presence. We firmly believe that losing him as part of our Res Life staff would be a significant detriment to our experience here at the College. Every step of the way, our beloved First Year Counselor helps us with our individual journeys and transitions to college life. To us, Barrett is the best candidate for the position (excluding, of course, our other FYC Nial Rele) and we have enjoyed every second of his presence this Fall semester. We sincerely hope that our voice and opinion on this matter will be heard because his dismissal impacts our lives so directly and extensively.

We hope that you and the administration will seriously consider and value our strongly felt opinion. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Stew 4 Residents (We do not claim that this letter reflects the views of ALL hall residents)

In support of Barrett – Cody Gohl

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To Whom it May Concern,

 

Barrett Smith is not only one of the kindest, most generous and humble people I know but, quite possibly, the kindest, most generous and humble person that I have ever met. Barrett is a close friend of mine and what I think you’ll find is that most people who know him would never describe their relationship with him as something like a mere acquaintance or someone that they “had in one class last Jterm”—Barrett is a revelation, that rare breed of person that earns the trust, respect and adoration of nearly everyone he meets.

 

My 2 ½ years at Middlebury College have been largely formed and shaped by my interactions with Barrett, interactions that have helped me to both retain my sanity and push myself out of my comfort zone. His door is always open, and though I can’t personally speak to his abilities as an FYC, I can almost completely assume that he has kept his door, mind and heart open to his freshmen in a way that you’d be hard pressed to find in many other places on campus. To fire Barrett is to extinguish a rarity in Middlebury—a person who, first and foremost, puts others before himself, a person that thrives not on his own personal gain, but on the fortune and success of others.

 

To say that I would be disappointed with Middlebury at his termination would be the understatement of the century.

 

Lovingly,

 

Cody Gohl ‘13

Former resident of Stew 4

(Currently studying abroad in Madrid)

From a Concerned Brainerdite

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To Whom It May Concern:

In an essay within a book he edited entitled Social Justice Education, Professor of German and Head of Brainerd Commons Roman Graf writes that a key part of educating within a social justice framework means ensuring that “students and teachers become equal partners in a common pursuit.”

While I do not know how the decision to fire Barrett Smith from his position as FYC was made, and if Prof. Graf was implicated at all as Head of Brainerd Commons, I find this quote to be a great indicator of what went wrong in this case. Embracing the idea that the faculty-student power dynamic is mirrored in the Commons Head/Dean-FYC relationship (which, in effect, is still a faculty-student relationship), it seems clear that if the deans and commons heads behind this decision had put into practice Graf’s idea of faculty-student partnership in a common pursuit, both Barrett and his first years would not have been unjustly silenced in the decision-making process. Judging by these blog posts, had the students’ voices been heard instead of dismissed (or even unintentionally left out from the start), Barrett would not have been removed from his position, as the commons higher ups behind this decision likely would not have been able to deny the positive effects Barrett has had on the Brainerd community, and on his first years in particular.

To put it simply, the insular decision-making process behind Barrett’s removal forces me to conclude that we have a long way to go as a community before we can truly believe that Middlebury faculty and administrators are teaching/leading the school in a socially just manner. Still, Graf’s essay gives me hope, as he extensively cites the great educational theorist Paulo Freire, a thinker known for believing that “[t]hose who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly.” It is my hope that those behind this decision will re-examine their actions and engage with the students in Stewart who are directly affected by this decision.

While I cannot say for sure what the outcome of those deliberations would be, it seems likely that those involved will come to the same conclusion that everyone on this blog seems to have made independently of each other: that Barrett Smith is an engaging and engaged FYC who does not deserve to be removed from his position. As Olivia Noble (’13) said so well in her letter of dicontent, “If our concern in this experience is to protect the safe space of the freshman hall, to ensure that stability and comfort is something these freshmen are never without, then removing Barrett from his position is entirely hypocritical.” I believe that if the commons heads and deans who made this decision re-examine their actions—and re-examine their underestimation of Barrett’s integral place in the Brainerd community—they will come to a similar conclusion.

Joyfully,

Hanna Mahon, 2013.5

 

On behalf of Ford Van Fossan ’13

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I know very little about the incident in question, but I do know I have met few people more trustworthy, compassionate and well qualified to be an FYC than Barrett Smith.

(Ford is currently studying abroad in Tanzania)

Barrett Smith. -Nick Libbey ’13

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Since the first day I arrived at Middlebury College, Barrett Smith has made me feel like a member of our Middlebury community. Arriving at Middlebury two years ago I was nervous about finding friends and fitting in, as most freshmen are. In need of a companion, I was immediately reassured by the kind, interested, and thoughtful presence that Barrett exudes. Throughout the year, Barrett remained a strong foundation for me, always available for advice, companionship, and the occasional much needed bearhug. This invaluable relationship on a freshmen hallway often filled with friendships based on necessity and convenience is something that I truly treasure. This sentiment, however, is not limited to me; Barrett soon became the proclaimed “mayor of stew 4” as we all recognized the hall community was centered on our mutual friend and leader.

When I think of what I look for in an FYC, I can’t help but think of Barrett Smith. Easy-going, relatable, intelligent, and goofy yet mature, Barrett has the well-rounded personality that I was lucky to find in my own FYC, Nial Rele, someone whom I still stay in contact with and admire. The skills that Barrett and Nial share make them a perfect leadership team for fostering the type of community that led most of us to Middlebury College.

Upon hearing Nial and Barrett’s plan to FYC Stew 4 together this year I immediately became envious of the Stew 4 Freshman for the strong relationships that only someone like Barrett can foster. It is for this reason that I interrupt my work during the busiest time of year for a Middlebury student in order to defend the residents of Brainerd Commons. Removing Barrett from Stew 4 is not just punishing him; it is a severe punishment for every one of the freshmen in Stewart Hall. His ability to unite and inspire those around him is truly uncommon, and by choosing to release him from his position the college is severely harming the freshmen community that is already building with Barrett’s guidance.

I wish Barrett Smith was my FYC, and more than anything I wish the administration did not underestimate the severity of its determined punishment. As a friend and an admirer I can say that removing Barrett from Stewart Hall 4 is a penalty that will affect not just him, but the Middlebury community as a whole which depends on the cohesion of its freshmen to maintain the unity that this college, Stew 4, and Barrett Smith pride themselves in.

Sincerely,

Nick Libbey ‘13

On The Firing of Barrett Smith- Olivia Noble, ’13

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My Letter of Complaint to Dean Chang and others

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing today to express my extreme disappointment in the decision to fire Barrett Smith from his position as First Year Counselor.  I believe that the punishment of removing him from his position as FYC is unjust for the action (or inaction) taken in this situation and will no doubt have consequences far beyond those that began this whole process.

Barrett Smith is a close personal friend of mine. Because of this, I have spent a significant amount of time on his hall these past several months.  I have watched as Barrett has counseled these 40 boys and led them through what can be an extremely challenging and tumultuous time in their lives.  He has consistently been a positive presence in these boy’s lives providing unending counsel, support, and friendship over this semester.

In my time knowing him, Barrett has also been one of the most generous people I have ever met.  Several weeks ago, I was walking across campus with Barrett and of the people who passed us along the way, Barrett smiled and greeted nearly three-fourths of them by name.  Middlebury is a small campus, but it isn’t that small.  His openness to friendships and new experiences is evident in nearly everything he does.  Barrett does not shy away from reaching out to members of the community who may not be similar or have the same ideas as him.  And these are the qualities that make a good FYC- openness, willingness to accept others, and generosity.

Unfortunately, they are also the qualities that led him into the situation for which he was ultimately fired.  I will acknowledge that an error in judgment was made and I am in no way attempting to discredit the claims made against him.  Generosity and openness are in no way alibis for the mistake that was made.  However, Barrett has always had the interests of his boys at heart and would never have allowed someone who he believed to be a threat into the safe space.  Additionally, I feel it is worthwhile to note that throughout the guest’s time here, I, along with many other members of the college community and residential life had the opportunity to meet and speak with him, and not one of us noted or raised a concern about the potential danger or threat of this newcomer.

Member of the residential life team at Middlebury can vary in their degrees of commitment, enthusiasm, and time and energy put into the job. In his time as an FYC, Barrett has gone above and beyond the expectations of his job, and, from an entirely subjective point of view, is one of the most committed and enthusiastic FYCs Middlebury has ever had.  Removing him from this position is not only an unjust punishment, but will have consequences that extend long after he leaves Stewert.

If our concern in this experience is to protect the safe space of the freshmen hall, to ensure that stability and comfort is something these freshmen are never without, then removing Barrett from his position is entirely hypocritical.

I certainly hope whoever reads this takes these comments, along with the many others that will undoubtably follow it, into consideration as they consider the choice they have made.

 

Sincerely,

Olivia Noble, ‘13

Lead Editor of Middblog

Op/Ed (likely) appearing in the Campus this Thursday

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To Whom It May Concern,

I write today to express my stunned disappointment regarding the black eye our institution has inflicted upon itself regarding the capricious, improper dismissal of one of its most dedicated and steadfastly loyal employees: First Year Counselor Barrett Smith.

In the interest of full disclosure, I consider the dismissed Res Life staff member a close friend. That will discredit my words to some, and it is for this reason that I have refrained, until this point, from expressing publicly my concern with the unfolding events that have led to his relief of duty. But one need not be biased to be dismayed by the removal of a FYC who has exemplified every characteristic and value that a freshman could ever hope for in a leader.

For the FYC is, to a group of new students navigating a tumultuous set of new experiences, the very epitome of a leader and role model. By condemning their leader, the administration has in the same stroke stigmatized every value he embodied to these freshmen: trust and loyalty; generosity and selflessness; optimism and faith in his fellow man. And you had better believe they are watching. These young new members of our community have now received a callous lesson in what their school values. They have learned hatred over love, fear over acceptance, and intolerance in place of trust. They have learned that those they have learned to admire and model themselves after can be disparaged and disrespected regardless of their opinions of the matter. And they have learned that unless they toe the line, abide by unarticulated rules of acceptable differentness, and defer in all things to the dictates of their new school’s infallible administration, they too could find themselves in a position to be disciplined and deprived of something they love.

I love this school. I love my FYCs and two years later still hold their friendships dear and often seek their council. I love so much of what Middlebury and its Commons system have done for me, but I fear for them. Because tonight, for the first time, I am ashamed to be a student of Middlebury College.

Signed,

Sam Murray

Class of 2013

Adding a post to this blog

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If you wish to write a post and I have not already approved you as a author, please email me and I will do so.

For some reason, this blog format does not permit posts unless the writer is designated as an author by the administrator first.

nrele@middlebury.edu

Op-Ed by Harry Zieve-Cohen ’15, Nathan Weil ’15, Jia Jun Lee ’15, and Sam Smith ’15

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Earlier this week Barrett Smith, one of two First-Year Counselors on Stewart Hall’s fourth floor, was dismissed of his duties. This came after Barrett had hosted a person unaffiliated with Middlebury in his room for about a week. We will not be exploring the details surrounding this guest’s stay or his departure, many of which are the subject of debate, but we do urge readers to learn more if they feel it necessary. What we do wish to express is our disappointment in the Brainerd Commons Administrators’ decision to fire Barrett. As first-years and residents of Stewart Hall, we hope and request that the Administration, namely Brainerd Commons Dean Natasha Chang, Dean of the Students Katy Smith Abbott, Dean of the College Shirley Collado, and Brainerd Commons Faculty Head Roman Graf will review and overturn the decision.

The transition to college life has not always been easy and we feel incredible gratitude for the wonderful Residential Life staff that has helped along the way. Barrett is an integral member of the Res Life team and his care, sensitivity, kindness, and passion for the Middlebury community both comforts and inspires us. Indicative of his enthusiasm is the special effort his broken foot has required he make to walk up and down four flights of stairs every day. Barrett could have requested a room change, but he was set on remaining with his first-years, and we are the better for it. His absence, come January, will compromise the comfort that had been cultivated by the Stewart community—including Natasha and Roman—this semester.

While we understand that Barrett’s decision represented a lapse in judgment, we know that such a lapse is hardly telling of the way Barrett approaches his duties as an FYC. As such, we feel that the decision to fire Barrett is excessive. While some punishment may indeed have been necessary, we wish it could have come in the form of a reprimand or probation. A punishment of this sort would have been a more proportionate response to the singular nature of Barrett’s transgression. Furthermore, we are frustrated that the most potentially affected members of this community—the students—were not consulted in the review process over the past few weeks.

We admit that we are not familiar with all aspects of the deliberations, but what we do know is that this decision will be detrimental to the tightly knit community that Stewart currently houses. We recognize the concern Administrators might feel about setting a precedent but feel that the college has other means at its disposal with which it could avoid such an adverse result. There is another precedent at stake here: the disruption and marginalization of first-years’ already volatile lives.

Finally, we do not want it to seem as if we lack an understanding of how difficult this decision must have been for the Administration to make. We know that they hold a responsibility to parents as well as others in the College and we appreciate that the intent behind this decision was to protect students’ interests. We simply do not feel that this decision reflects those interests. Rather than communicating to parents and others that Barrett had been reprimanded and given a better understanding of the full scope of the requirements that surround an FYC, the administration decided on an unnecessarily harsh course of action. Once again, we are disappointed with the unilateral nature of Barrett’s firing and we sincerely hope that Barrett’s case will be reviewed and that his strong support from students, which we anticipate will become increasingly evident over the following week, will help lead to his reinstatement.

Purpose

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The purpose of this blog is to collect, post and hear opinions on Barrett Smith’13 being fired from his post as FYC in Stewart.