COVID-19: Essential Information

New Policy on Open Expression

November 21, 2019


Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I write to you today about Middlebury’s new Policy on Open Expression. Its purpose is both to protect the expression of every member of our community and to prohibit substantial disruption of someone else’s expression on our campuses. Our commitment to open expression is integral to our vision of a world with a robust and inclusive public sphere where more and more voices can be included and heard. Pursuing our vision means creating an inclusive environment with academic freedom, where all members of our community are encouraged to engage with each other across difference, and to do so with respect. Inclusion and open expression are values that reinforce each other. The new policy reflects our dedication to these two principles.

We are also providing additional resources to explain and offer guidance on how the policy will be interpreted and enforced.

The policy grew out of the statement about Academic Freedom, Integrity, and Respect created by the College faculty and endorsed by the Institute faculty in 2018. The College’s Faculty Council then appointed a Policy Working Group made up of faculty, students, and staff who wrote a new policy on open expression. Their proposal, which Faculty Council shared with the campus for feedback in May 2019, is the primary basis for our new Policy on Open Expression. The Senior Leadership Group and I adopted the new Open Expression Policy in November 2019.

The Open Expression Policy will replace the current Demonstrations and Protests Policy in Section I of the Middlebury Handbook and will be linked to updated Demonstration Regulations, FAQs, and a new page of open expression resources that we expect to update in the future. Please send your suggestions for additional resources or new FAQs to

As I shared in my November 1 message, we are developing additional resources for inclusion, including ways to promote a culture that simultaneously embodies academic freedom, integrity, and respect with people who invite speakers as well as in our classrooms, residences, and other spaces. Our five-year action plan on diversity, equity, and inclusion is currently being circulated in draft form to key stakeholders for feedback and will be shared with the community at the beginning of the year. If you are interested in contributing to that work, please contact Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández or Director of Education for Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells.

My colleagues on the Senior Leadership Group and I greatly appreciate the efforts that faculty, staff, and students have made to our new Policy on Open Expression, including all the members who have served on the Policy Working Group during the last two years. You have given time and careful thought to these issues. In a recent communication I expressed thanks for the deliberations of the Committee on Speech and Inclusion, for many colleagues’ work to implement and use Restorative Practices, for the Engaged Listening Project, and for the multiple Critical Conversations we’ve undertaken. I want to reiterate my gratitude here. Our community will continue to benefit enormously from these efforts as we move forward engaged in dialogue with one another.

With appreciation,

Laurie Patton

Office of the President

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