The wires have been silent here since the holidays for reasons I will explain in my next post—in the next week or so. But the point of this post is to engage the The Campus‘ ill-informed editorializing on the recent decision not to include the MiddView program in next year’s first-year Orientation. To get a full read on the context for this post, you may want to read both the article and the editorial that The Campus ran last week.
This is a guest post, which is to say that the following take on the MiddView controversy comes from Katy Abbott, Doug Adams, Derek Doucet, and JJ Boggs. They have written a letter to The Campus editors, which I have included here while the story is still fresh in peoples’ minds.
To the editors of The Campus:
We write today to respond to the recent Campus article and editorial addressing the College Administration’s recent decisions regarding the MiddView program. As the staff members most intimately involved with the program, and most committed to working for its eventual revival, we are compelled to address crucial inaccuracies regarding the recent decision not to revive the program for Fall 2010. We hope also to reframe the discussion around these issues in a more collaborative, less confrontational tone than that chosen by the Campus thus far.
First, however, we wish to acknowledge the deep and wide support the program has among the student body. Rest assured that the College Administration is aware of the special place the program holds in the hearts and minds of generations of Middlebury students.
Given the intensity of this student support, it is not difficult to understand the frustrations recently expressed in the Campus. However simply understanding the source of these frustrations does not change the fact that the tone taken by the Campus is not helpful in bringing about the revival of MiddView, a goal we all share.
It is true that the unprecedented economic crisis from which we are only now emerging has rendered the program’s revival for Fall 2010 an unrealistic expectation. When the SGA senate heard testimony about possible program revival dates while debating their funding bill, it was made eminently clear that a 2010 revival might not be possible. Despite the Campus’s erroneous statements to the contrary, however, possible reinstatement for Fall 2011 is still on the table, and will be reexamined as staffing levels and capacities stabilize through the spring and summer.
This issue of staffing levels may not appear compelling in light of the Campus’s assertion that the MiddView program requires few staff resources, but sadly that assertion too is an error. It has always been extremely challenging and labor intensive for Facilities Services to clean and prepare rooms for the early return of MiddView leaders and participants in the narrow window of time between the conclusion of summer language schools and the beginning of the MiddView program. The return of the leaders and trip participants has always required the early opening of an additional dinning hall, with all the attendant staffing. Residential Life staff have always been present in the residence halls when the leaders and participants arrive early on campus, however brief their initial stay. Even had the cost of all of these staff hours directly related to MiddView been included in the SGA funding bill as reported by the Campus (this too was erroneous; the cost was not included), the fact remains that the College’s capacity to meet program needs with dramatically reduced staffing levels in key departments is not a given. It is this issue of staff capacity, separate from, but related to staffing costs, that is at the heart of the recent decision to postpone the possible revival of the program.
Despite these factual errors, there is happily one thing the Campus got right: There is indeed still room for creative engagement of these issues. There are alternative program structures that can be considered. The SGA has made an enormously helpful financial commitment. There is still considerable reason for optimism. The Campus can play an essential role in the process by serving as a source for accurate and balanced information. It is our hope that as we move forward, we can do so in the spirit of collaboration rather than confrontation and acrimony. That is the only way we can hope to revive MiddView.
Doug Adams, Director of CCAL, Assistant Dean of Students
JJ Boggs, Assistant Director of CCAL
Derek Doucet, Outdoor Programs Director
Katy Smith Abbott, Associate Dean of the College