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Statement on Global Events in Haiti, Afghanistan

August 17, 2021


President Laurie Patton and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Mark Orten issued the following statement on August 17, 2021.

Dear Middlebury Community:

We have been profoundly disturbed over recent days by the news coming from two different parts of the world, Haiti and Afghanistan. We are not aware of any current loss of life within our immediate community as a result of events in those countries, but we know that many are close to both of these situations, including alumni/ae who have been working tirelessly on behalf of others. Our hearts break with theirs.

Many of you have asked how we are in touch with our alums during emergencies like the ones we have been reading about in the past weeks. In cases of disaster or violence, our Advancement Office gathers the names of alums who are in the area, and, in some cases, people whom we know to be active in the area even if they live somewhere else. They then reach out with a Middlebury message of connection and care.

While precipitating events are vastly different in each of these countries so as not to be compared, the human suffering in both is on a scale that warrants our acknowledgment during a time when most of our schools are out of session, or just gearing up for the start of the year. Given our desire to make equitable and appropriate note of domestic and world events that affect members of our community, and the impossibility of doing this every time they arise, it has become our pattern and practice to hold a regularly programmed space and time on campus for anyone to gather in order to express grief, concern, joy, or solidarity on personal and communal levels. 

Our dean of spiritual and religious life, Mark Orten, holds gatherings for such a purpose every mid-week at noon in a brief (half-hour) program called “Wisdom Wednesday.” The gathering of mostly intentional silence is interspersed with selected readings and sometimes music. The chance briefly to name concerns or celebrations voluntarily is usually included. We will resume this practice virtually this week so that all those with Middlebury connections around the globe and who are impacted or concerned can join this gathering. You may do so at noon (ET) on Wednesday and each week following using this link [Password: wisdom].

We encourage you as always to make use of all available resources for mental health and wellness during challenging times. The following campus resources for support are available in times of distress or need.  

For the Vermont campus:

At the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, personal counseling can be accessed through Well Connect or by phone at 866-640-4777 with no cost to students for up to six sessions per year, per issue. Crisis counseling for emergency situations is available 24 hours a day. 

Until we are able to be together in person at our various locations in the fall, we hold one another with great care through these and other impactful events around the world.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Orten
Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life

Laurie Patton
President