COVID-19: Essential Information

Message to the Community from President Patton

April 18, 2019


Dear Members of the Middlebury Community,

Yesterday’s decision not to move ahead with the scheduled lecture by Ryszard Legutko was both difficult and necessary. The safety of our community is essential for academic engagement. But this decision does not define who we are.

Middlebury is committed to the values of academic freedom, academic integrity, inclusivity, and respectful behavior, which are intertwined at the core of our educational mission. Over the past two years, we have constructively engaged many controversial speakers, demonstrated peacefully and persuasively, and stayed in conversation with each other over very difficult issues. We will continue to do so. I appreciate that the organizers of the lecture and of the event the students planned in response have worked with us. Working together and listening to each other is the way we live up to our core values.

The event planned by the Alexander Hamilton Forum with Ryszard Legutko is protected by our commitment to academic freedom and free inquiry. The Hamilton Forum has extended a provisional invitation to Legutko to return next fall.

It is equally important to note that this event did not occur in a vacuum. In recent weeks we have experienced several incidents of bias that are causing pain and anger in our community. It is clear that we need a deeper campus-wide engagement about classroom climate and inclusive pedagogy. Members of the STEM faculty have expressed interest in a facilitated dialogue about course content, its potential impact, and how to develop and maintain more inclusive classroom environments. We will meet with those faculty members early next week. That conversation with them can become a model for engaging all faculty in every department in these dialogues throughout the rest of this semester and continuing in the fall.

It has been a difficult time on campus. As a community, we must continually reaffirm and balance our commitment to the inseparable values of academic freedom, academic integrity, inclusivity, and respectful behavior on our campus and in our classrooms. Living these commitments is the biggest challenge facing not just Middlebury but colleges and communities across the country.

Sincerely yours,

Laurie Patton

Office of the President

Old Chapel
9 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753