The recent, very sad events at Rutgers University have lain heavily on my mind—and that of many others within our community. For Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, the world should have been opening up with exciting, new possibilities; yet, soon after beginning college, he ended his own life. He was beaten down by the unthinking cruelty of classmates and belittled publicly over the Internet.
This situation disturbs me because there are surely people among us, on our own campus, who need compassion and support. In fact, this could be any of us, given the right circumstances. But there is another aspect to Clementi’s experience that is alarming—the cavalier invasion of his privacy that seems to have become far too prevalent today.
Here at Middlebury, I hope we are taking stock of our own community, asking some tough questions: How do we, individually and collectively, look out for one another? How do we honor individual privacy and the right to exist in peace? What type of community do we wish to create and live in?
I sent the following letter to the campus last week. As always, I would welcome your thoughts.
Dear Members of the Middlebury Community,
Over the past month, there has been significant media coverage of homophobia-related suicides and deaths, bullying, and harassment among youth in the U.S., both teen and college age. It is saddening and has been weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of all of us here at Middlebury. Incidents like these affect us all, directly and indirectly, in a variety of ways. Any act of bias, hate, harassment, or violence has the capacity to diminish the quality of our lives personally and as a community.
Here at Middlebury, we continue to be committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all. We do not tolerate discriminatory behavior of any kind. We seek to encourage an inclusive, engaged, and welcoming community, in which everyone participates within an atmosphere of mutual respect. The College is fortunate to have an abundance of programs, centers, and resources that support diversity and community in many different ways.
If you have concerns or ideas related to the Middlebury community; how you fit in; issues related to disability, identity, campus climate, or respectful treatment; how we can help you explore and share your interests; or anything else that relates to our becoming a more open and engaged community, we’d like to hear from you. Our doors are open. Students may seek confidential support through your Commons deans and the Center for Counseling and Human Relations. Staff and faculty can find support through Human Resources and the Dean of the Faculty’s office. Students, faculty, and staff alike can seek assistance, as well, through the Human Relations Officer (HRO) and the Office of the Dean of the College and Chief Diversity Officer. The HRO provides support to anyone who suspects harassment.
I encourage each of us to consider what it means to be part of this community and recognize that we all play a part. There will be several events on campus over the course of the fall term connected to the awareness and education of issues facing LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty that we hope you will participate in. We believe that this kind of support enriches us as a community.
Shirley M. Collado
Dean of the College
Chief Diversity Officer