Hello Professor Chang,
My name is Ben Harris and I am living in Stewart 101.
Last night, I learned of the possibility of the removal of Barrett Smith’s position as fourth floor FYC, and of the possibility that Sam Koplinka-Loehr and Napol Willis may step down in response to this action.
I would just like to share a couple of my thoughts.
Coming to Middlebury, I did not expect to be uncomfortable during my time here, and yet, during the first several weeks, I found myself extremely homesick, and both socially and academically stressed. Sam, Barrett, and Napol all helped me through these feelings, and made Stewart feel like home for me with their weekly tea nights, long discussions with me about the adjustments to college life, and their constant caring.
My floor calls Sam “Dad” because we feel that we are a family, and, in that same model, we have come to view Napol and Barrett as loving members of our Middlebury family. In my mind, FYCs exist to help Freshmen transition into college life smoothly, safely, and without stress. Barrett, Napol, and Sam have all, since the first day of orientation, been great friends, guides, and listeners to all of us in Stewart Hall, and I cannot imagine a greater team of FYCs. Moreover, I cannot imagine how the events which took place before Thanksgiving break bring any of their capabilities as responsible, loving, and dutiful FYCs into question.
Having been fully aware of Barrett’s friend, and having met him on a couple occasions, I can speak with conviction that, although some of his tendencies may have made certain students and staff uncomfortable, his quirks never posed a threat to Stewart Hall in any way. I also know, having talked with Barrett, Napol, and Sam about the events leading up to their eviction by Middlebury police and public safety officers last Monday night, that all three of them recognize that they could have handled the situation better, and been more open to student concerns about the guest. However, I believe that the situation was grossly mishandled on that Monday night, where, coming back from McCullough with friends, I watched as police officers literally forced the three FYCs and Louis off campus. I recognize that several people indicated discomfort towards Barrett’s guest, but I do not believe that his forceful eviction necessitated police, and I strongly believe that none of the FYCs should receive administrative punishment for hosting him in Stewart Hall. I chose to come to Middlebury due to the embracing community which I found here, a community where everyones quirks, mistakes, and talents are appreciated and accepted. I understand that this is a complicated issue which deals with more than simple hospitality, but I do firmly feel that Louis’ presence was grossly misunderstood.
I am aware that there is much administrative pressure to ask Barrett to step down as an FYC, but I would simply like to say that this situation does not have to be ‘made example of’ through drastic punitive measures. Instead, I propose that Barrett receives a warning, and that Brainerd comes together to discuss how situations involving student discomfort may be handled in the future.
I cannot imagine Stewart Hall without these three brilliant FYCs, I do not believe that their leadership roles were compromised by their decision to house Louis, and removing Barrett from his post will damage rather than benefit the Middlebury, Brainerd, and Stewart communities.
I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as well. I know it is a complex decision…I just hope that the Middlebury administration respects the love we freshmen have for these FYCs in their final decision.
Thank you for your time,