When I think about what’s bubbling beneath the surface of Middlebury’s student culture, I feel hopeful. When I see students starting to create the culture they want to live in, it feels as if there’s real change in the making.
Middlebury’s perceived “tired,” somewhat “stale” social scene may be ready to bust wide open, and I want to encourage every student to be a part of it, because the more who join in, the more long-lasting and comprehensive this change will be.
What’s changing? Well for starters, the administration is trying to get out of students’ way—to accommodate activities, get rid of red tape, and make venues available. And some students are taking the lead in creating options and formats we would never have imagined. They are redefining and recreating campus spaces and events that are intimate, inviting, and inclusive—and that don’t rely on alcohol as the central attraction.
Just one example is the small concert held in Brooker House on January 14. It was an alcohol-free event with two bands—“Thank God for Mississippi,” a new campus band, and “Sigmund Droid,” from Brooklyn, New York. This wonderful concert, which more than 200 students attended and, from all reports, thoroughly enjoyed, was conceived and organized by Erik Benepe, Eyal Levy, Max Eingorn, and Jebb Norton. It was totally student-run, including crowd management. A student who was there reported that she was “blown away by how much fun everyone was having. They just danced and danced and danced.”
It seems as if the music scene is burgeoning and creating a powerful way for students to get together, have fun, and express themselves. More bands are forming, small get-togethers for jamming are showing up on the calendar, Middlebury Music United is coming up with new ideas all the time, and anyone can apply to bring a band to campus through MCAB.
Beyond music, other artistic endeavors are in various stages of germination. To name a few: Verbal Onslaught, an open-mic presentation, where people share spoken-word poetry with appreciative, supportive audiences; Middslam, the competitive poetry format that this year will take a team to national competition; the Moth, modeled after the acclaimed Moth in New York City with storytelling around a theme; and other student organizations that host concerts, fashion shows, dinners, and more.
What began as a trickle of ideas to generate fun on campus will hopefully become commonplace. And as more and more ideas are generated and tried, that trickle might become more dynamic and take on a life of its own. The process of planning and holding events will get easier, since each can be used to inform the next.
I want to thank the students who have taken an active role in helping to create a culture that feels right and works for them. And to all of you who have had a good idea: Go for it! Ask your peers to get behind it and make it happen. Tap into the many resources on campus and don’t be afraid to hold MCAB, SGA, Commons Councils, and your peers accountable.
If we don’t have what you want here, I hope that you will join in and create what you do want. Only you know what you like and need. After all, if the dean of the College threw a party, can you imagine what that would be like?