To President Patton and members of the Senior Leadership Group,
My name is Christian Kummer and I am the Co-Chair of the Community Council. I—along with fellow student leaders—am writing to you in solidarity with the Middlebury AAUP and in support of a people centered budget for the 2020-2021 academic year and beyond. The Community Council serves as a think tank that addresses the intersections and interdependence between students, faculty, and staff at Middlebury College. As student leaders, both elected and appointed, we find it imperative to recognize the impact that compensation cuts will have on the student experience at Middlebury as well as the broader community climate.
As President Patton’s communication articulated earlier this week, we are in deep need of connection and support if the fall semester is to run successfully. Faculty and staff will be asked to transcend what has previously been asked of them and continue to deliver a world-class education despite numerous physical, mental, and emotional challenges. It is undeniable that faculty and staff are dedicated to their students and it is essential that this care is not exploited. If faculty and staff are being asked to rise to the occasion, so must Middlebury College’s financial decisions.
Cuts to compensation will serve as a catalyst for a deeply tense relationship between faculty, staff, and senior leadership. These strains in the fabric of our community will undoubtedly trickle down to the student experience. Knowing that COVID-19 will create many difficulties in the coming academic year, it will be detrimental to have faculty and staff who are rightfully unenthusiastic about fully contributing to a successful transition because their work is not being fairly compensated. If faculty and staff are losing parts of their salary and benefits while being asked to rework their curriculum and risk their health to teach, how can Middlebury claim to be an institution centered around personal connection and mutual respect?
We do not claim to have the financial expertise to make a specific recommendation about the upcoming budget. However, we are fervent in our stance that Middlebury is being given the opportunity to demonstrate its care for the people that make the College as phenomenal as it is. We urge you to prioritize investing in people over the maintenance and growth of the endowment. We have the opportunity to use this crisis to come together and to mend our community in new ways. If decisions are made that put endowment preservation over the best interests of community members, we have failed. COVID-19 is an ongoing crisis that will have lasting effects on how higher education operates. If there are no additional draws from the endowment this year, compensation cuts will become inevitable as this crisis evolves for there are no guarantees next semester will go as planned.
As final decisions are made, we urge you to consider the centrality of faculty and staff in the Middlebury experience—more than you already are. We ask that you pass this communication on to the Board of Trustees. We hope that the College’s leadership will make difficult choices that best take care of the people who continue to shape our world views and develop us into critical thinkers. We support the budgetary principles of the AAUP and request you all do the same.
Christian Kummer ‘22
Co-Chair of Community Council
Celia Gottlieb ‘21.5
Member of Community Council
John Schurer ‘21
Sophia Lundberg ‘21.5 and Roni Lezama ‘22
SGA Vice Presidents