a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications
by Jackie Park
I spent the past month trying to write an article about my meeting with Ron Liebowitz, the president of Middlebury College. Thankfully, I wasn’t meeting him alone, but with the amazing Gaby Fuentes. I walked out of the meeting with Ron and also the open forum on student social life with so much thought and sadness, it was really hard to write something that truly captured what I wanted to say.
During the meeting and the open forum on social, Ron said some really troubling things (to no one’s surprise though) that secured why I avoided meeting with him for the past almost-four years. It also reminded me why existing on this campus is so hard and frustrating.
Ron told me that he likes to call us “students of these variety” and “non-traditional students,” basically meaning students who will not put up with racist and oppressive bullshit. You know, the stuff that this entire college loves to perpetuate and never fix. He also told me that it was my job to feel burdened and oppressed because that is just the reality of my situation. Then to make matters worse, he told me that as a (white male) jew in the 1980s, he was more of a minority than I am.
How incorrect and patronizing everything he said was. How could a person whose job it is to work for and with students not even correctly address us, let alone make institutional changes to make Middlebury a more just place?
But, also, who am I to naively think that any institution or a neoliberal college president (aka the CEO of Middlebury, Inc.) was going to support someone like me.
There is so much more to be said about the meeting. The issues brought up are not merely discussion topics but they are other students’ and my life stories and experiences. So, putting it all together in a single article seemed too insufficient and inaccurate. But I was also committed to writing about how I have been feeling at Middlebury for quite sometime now.
So, here goes something…
I walk home every day and I think about many things. My thoughts are mostly about race, gender, class, and sexuality because my relationship with all of these identities is a very important part of my life.
But the thought that has been occupying my mind for quite awhile is something really painful and sad but also something way too common. I want to give it some context…
After the meeting with Ron, a group of us sat in Proctor Dining Hall and thought about ways we can act in order for the College to feel threatened to make concrete changes. We know too damn well that the College only does something small like talk about building an Intercultural Center for years to keep students here for four years hoping. Then they cycle through a new batch of students where everything starts over again. Nothing really changes except for the students who will then start activism from the bottom up unaware of the students that tried before them; they see that nothing has been fought for at Middlebury or that students were not angry or organized enough because of the institution’s delaying tactics. How can we break this cycle? Is it even possible?
We all concluded that there has to be a tragedy in order for Middlebury College to WAKE THE FUCK UP.
I don’t know if I immediately realized how sad it was that students had to resort to thinking about tragedies in order for us to be able to go to sleep at night or to wake up the next day.
What would that tragedy involve? Countless transfer applications sent to Old Chapel? A hunger strike or a sit-out outside of Mead Chapel in the midst of a cold Vermont winter? Death?
For me it involves the last one… death. A loss of a life, particularly my own life.
I think about my own life and wonder if it would be worth it to give it up if it meant that the lives of many students of color will be improved.
It would be worth it…
If my death also meant the death of the oppressive and pathologized experiences of students of color every time we are sent to the counseling center when we face a racist incident on this campus.
If the end to my life also meant the end of having white people’s realization of their privilege and guilt as the end goal of activism and initiatives on this campus.
If the loss of a single life also meant a loss of power given to institutionalized athletics on this campus.
If my last breath also meant that students of color can now safely breathe without having to prove their oppression to one more peer, one more professor, one more administrator.
But the truly sad and devastating thing about all of this is not these thoughts I have, but the fact that I know very well that my death won’t mean shit and it wouldn’t be worth it.
It wouldn’t be worth it because…
It would not change a single thing about Middlebury College and how it’s run.
It will just be another event that people will brush over and continue building the 43 million dollar gym.
It will be an event that will bite my rotting ass as my actions will be pathologized and regarded as my own fault and flaw.
Middlebury College does not care about poor students of color, especially those foolish enough to think that their life meant something. The only thing this college cares about is MONEY.
I am just one person.
I walk and live each day with this kind of burden in my head that Ron claims is my job, my reality. And when I hesitantly share this thought with other students, they reply with two words that speak so loudly, “me too.”
When will Ron or anyone else start taking responsibility for this burden? How do they go to sleep at night knowing that this is what they do to their students?
This is NOT okay.
I am just one person but there are many more like me.
To all of my fellow “non-traditional students of this variety”: Continue to live, demand, and never ever tone down or de-radicalize your lives and beliefs for people who will never give a damn about your life… or death.