I went to Mead Chapel last night to hear Robert Sapolsky talk about the psycho-biological dimensions of stress, and he was great. Smart, funny, and humane—all the things you would expect of a Stanford University neuroscientist who also happens to write best-selling science books and has won a MacArthur Fellowship. The chapel was full, and people stuck around for a lecture that lasted for more than an hour. Organized by the Ad Hoc Committee on Campus Stress, a group of faculty and staff concerned about the high-octane pace of life on our campus, this 2nd annual Convocation talk was a good follow up, though very different from, Paul Rusesabegina’s lecture last year.
The Sapolsky lecture was one of several outstanding events scheduled for this week. Tuesday, Bob Herbert from the NY Times, spoke in Dana Auditorium. Yesterday afternoon, Martha Sandweiss, an American Studies prof at Amherst, lectured on photography and the 19th-century West. Today (that is Friday) Martha Nussbaum, a prominent philosopher from University of Chicago, will talk in Mead, while some portion of the college community gathers in Dana to discuss the upcoming renovations to Proctor Hall.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Granted, April tends to be especially jam-packed with events, but the truth is that this week’s schedule is representative of our general calendar. Right behind the relentless flow of email, the idea that we are an overscheduled, overworked campus may the most talked about issue at Middlebury. It’s stressful to plan these events, it’s stressful to try and attend them, and it’s stressful to discuss their proliferation. It’s all good, and it’s all bad. We need to get a grip, bring order to chaos, and work toward a balanced calendar.
I’ve heard this lament from faculty, staff, and students, so I don’t think it’s just a voice crying in the administrative wilderness. The solution, imho, is to bring together the principal programmers on campus—students, faculty, and staff—and figure out how we can coordinate events and maybe even share resources. Amazingly enough, this has never happened at Middlebury.
Should it? What are your suggestions for how best to coordinate programming on our campus?