Last fall I had the tremendous benefit of arriving on this campus and beginning my Middlebury journey in the classroom of Visiting Assistant Professor of Education Studies Tara Affolter. Immediately I was challenged in numerous ways to critically analyze the complexities of systems of oppression, and seriously interrogate how education can serve as a tool to disrupt those oppressions. Professor Affolter powerfully created a respectful learning environment in which the investigation of topics of privilege could honestly be pursued. In many ways the class grew from being confronted with the discomfort of recognizing that none of us were normal or held the one true story, even if as a result of others being silenced we were led to believe so. Through being provoked to gain awareness of how each of our stories were simply one among many, we were able to validate everyone’s lived experiences and ensure that there was room carved out for each of us to learn from the ways in which we are situated in the world. Professor Affolter’s actions serve to epitomize an inclusive classroom, something for which all of our professors must strive.
Since Professor Affolter’s visiting status indicates that she is to leave come the end of the academic year, I am writing on behalf of the Institutional Diversity Committee to demonstrate our firm conviction that keeping Professor Affolter is imperative to Middlebury College’s diversity efforts. During her time here she has been an invaluable asset and resource affecting countless students in immeasurable ways. In the classroom she makes sure that she fairly addresses all students of every race, gender, sex, sexuality, ability, class, and any other form of identity that is too often marginalized in the classroom. Outside of the classroom Professor Affolter is a tremendous and dependable strength of support for many students and the various difficulties they have engaging in the Middlebury College environment.
Professor Affolter’s research efforts and work with the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity directly address difficult issues and specific ways in which our campus may appropriately deal with them. Her unrelenting passion for mindfully addressing diversity through anti-racist action and inclusive classrooms provide a precious asset to this campus. Her absence would leave a tremendous hole. The Institutional Diversity Committee advises that it is essential to retain faculty, especially Professor Affolter, who have taken a lead in fostering a diverse community embodied by an atmosphere of respect. I invite you to please read through the many passionate comments and signatures at go/keepaffolter which serve as testament to the student body’s support of this decision to keep Professor Affolter as a vital component of Middlebury College. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to helping in any way to continue to strive to make this campus exhibit excellence in dealing with serious diversity issues.
With all the best interest for the college,
Institutional Diversity Committee