Proposed New Policy on Demonstrations and Protests

November 26, 2018

 

A Note about the Development of the Policy

The draft found here reflects extensive consultation that has been occurring throughout our community since the spring of 2017. Input came from many groups, including the Student Policy Advisory Group, formed by SGA; the Faculty Policy Working Group at the College and faculty at the Institute; staff, including staff in Student Affairs, Public Safety and members of the Senior Leadership Group; as well as local law enforcement.

The discussions and input around this policy have been occurring in the context of our newly adopted mission and vision statements, declaring that Middlebury seeks to create a robust and inclusive public sphere, as well as the thoughtful work of the Committee on Speech & Inclusion. As you may know, the Committee on Speech and Inclusion was formed in March 2017, and included faculty, staff, and students. These student, faculty, and staff representatives were asked in the call for volunteers to serve “to identify and engage the questions raised by recent events that are most central to our mission. That work might include a consideration of process and/or format regarding speakers on this campus, as well as the possibility of principles that might guide our selection of speakers or topics for campus engagement.” The Committee issued its Report in January 2018.

Consistent with the fundamental vision of the world Middlebury seeks to create, the Committee on Speech and Inclusion reaffirmed in January 2018, that “robust disagreement is useful and necessary in higher education. Focusing specifically on questions about speakers invited to campus, the Committee expressed their belief that “hosts and potential sponsors must think seriously about how issues of power and privilege complicate arguments about free speech” and should give consideration to structuring events to foster “productive conversation” such as using “formats and venues that facilitate the expression of opposing viewpoints”. Moreover, they urged hosts and sponsors to offer “ample time for the campus to prepare.”

The Committee went on to note that “[a]ttempts to curtail speech that is considered offensive or controversial by some can lead to chilling effect, in conflict with the spirit of our vision statement.” The Committee exhorted the Middlebury community to fulfil our vision of a robust and inclusive public sphere by using “respect and careful listening.” This is based on the fundamental premise that “we are each responsible for the way we speak and engage with other members of our community.” As an educational institution educating students to lead engaged, creative and consequential lives, the Committee emphasized the importance of Middlebury creating “for a range of perspectives to prepare our students for national civic life and equip them with tools for engaging in respectful dialogue.”

BELOW IS THE DRAFT OF THE PROPOSED POLICY. Your review and input is welcome and appreciated, and a comment box is provided at the bottom of this page for relevant and respectful discussion. Please note that your comments will not appear until our moderators have approved them.


Introduction

Freedom of expression is central to Middlebury’s vision of a world with a “robust and inclusive public sphere,” part of the Envisioning Middlebury Strategic Framework, adopted by the Board of Trustees in October 2017. Expressive activity such as protests and demonstrations have historically served to prompt important and beneficial change in American society. The right of protest and dissent is a time-honored principle of America’s constitutions democracy and an honored form of expression within higher education. However, our protection of individuals’ expression is not without limits.

In March 2017, a committee of Middlebury College faculty, students and staff was formed “to identify and engage the questions raised by recent events that are most central to our mission. That work might include a consideration of process and/or format regarding speakers on this campus, as well as the possibility of principles that might guide our selection of speakers or topics for campus engagement.” The Committee issued its Report in January 2018. Consistent with the fundamental vision of the world Middlebury seeks to create, the Committee on Speech and Inclusion reaffirmed in January 2018, that “robust disagreement is useful and necessary in higher education. The Committee observed that “[a]ttempts to curtail speech that is considered offensive or controversial by some can lead to chilling effect, in conflict with the spirit of our vision statement.” The Committee exhorted the Middlebury community to fulfil our vision of a robust and inclusive public sphere by using “respect and careful listening.” This is based on the fundamental premise that “we are each responsible for the way we speak and engage with other members of our community.”

During the 2017-2018 academic year, faculty worked on both our Vermont campus and Monterey campus to articulate the central pillars of a Middlebury education. This work became the Preamble to the Middlebury Handbook, titled “Freedom, Integrity, and Respect.” The Preamble states, “In seeking truth and understanding in a complex world, scholars must have the ability to ask any question, test any hypothesis, consider any line of reasoning, and critically assess any assumption.” The Preamble goes on to explain that the free expression protected by Middlebury is inseparably intertwined with the responsibility of personal and professional integrity, and our fundamental value of respect. Members of the Middlebury community are expected to practice integrity by recognizing “the limits of one’s own knowledge and expertise…, and [engaging our] curiosity and creativity in the face of those limits.” Moreover, respect is necessary to our educational mission. As our faculty have expressed, “Engagement with the ideas and experiences of others are also key guards against our own individual limitations and biases. . . . [Therefore, Middlebury’s] defense of academic freedom must be waged in conjunction with the principle of civil discourse.”

Consistent with our mission and vision statements, the recommendations of the Committee on Speech and Inclusion, and the new Preamble statement on “Freedom, Integrity and Respect,” Middlebury expects that members of its community will express their views consistent with the values of integrity and respect within our shared learning and living environments. Therefore, when protest or expression takes the form of violating laws or policies, such violations will have consequences under those laws or policies. This policy states the core expectation for all members of the Middlebury community and visitors to our events that our academic freedom will be used in conjunction with civil discourse.

Scope:

This Policy applies to all students, staff and faculty of Middlebury in all of its programs, as well as all visitors to our campuses or events.

Responsible Senior Administrator:

Senior Leadership Group

Policy Statement:

  1. Middlebury is a community of learners and as such recognizes and affirm that free intellectual inquiry, debate and constructive dialogue are vital to Middlebury’s academic mission and must be protected even when the views expressed are unpopular or controversial. Students, student organizations, faculty and staff at Middlebury are free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to engage in expressive activity publicly and privately.
  2. Expressive Activity: Expressive activity includes all manner of speech, dissent, demonstration, protest, picketing, leafletting, sit-ins, strikes, etc. Expressive activity occurs along a spectrum ranging non-disruptive to extremely disruptive.
  3. Students, student organizations, faculty and staff are free to express their views by orderly means that do not significantly disrupt Middlebury’s curricular, co-curricular, or administrative activities.
  4. Middlebury does not permit deliberate and significant disruption of its curricular, co-curricular, or administrative events, activities, programs and/or essential operations.
  5. Disruption: Disruption is behavior that significantly impairs or prevents expressive activity of others, or obstructs Middlebury’s activities or essential operations.
  6. Such disruptions can deny individuals the opportunity to express or listen to unpopular or controversial views, interfere with essential operations, and can endanger other individuals.
  7. Expressive activity that violates Middlebury policies, including this policy, or the law, is also known as Civil Disobedience.
  8. Civil Disobedience: Civil Disobedience is the deliberate violation of, or refusal of an individual to comply with, Middlebury policies and/or local, state, or federal law, even when the refusal will result in penalties or sanctions.
  9. Civil Disobedience is not authorized on Middlebury’s campuses or at Middlebury events. Individuals or groups who engage in Civil Disobedience in violation of this Policy or other Middlebury policies may also be in violation of Middlebury’s policy requiring respectful behavior and/or the policy requiring respect for officials.
  10. Non-disruptive expressive activity is permitted at Middlebury, subject to the Demonstration Regulations regarding time, place and manner of the activity, and the Policy on Scheduling Space for Middlebury Events. The activities are permitted regardless of whether the expression concerns political issues or is directed against Middlebury’s administration.
  11. Individuals engaged in expressive activity, as defined in this Policy, should make clear that they speak and act as individuals, and do not act on behalf of Middlebury, consistent with Middlebury’s obligations as a non-profit corporation and IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) organization.
  12. Expressive activity that violates Middlebury policies, whether this policy or others such as the Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy or the Policy Prohibiting Sexual Misconduct, Dating Violence & Stalking, is subject to sanctions under those policies.
  13. Sanctions for Civil Disobedience under this Policy will be assigned consistent with the procedural requirements for the individual who is alleged to have violated the policy, e.g., student, staff member or faculty member.
  14. Members of the Senior Leadership Group (SLG) may determine that certain staff positions are incompatible with participation in certain expressive activities on campus or related to Middlebury that would impair the staff member’s ability effectively to fulfill their job responsibilities. For example, if job duties require that a staff member be neutral on a specific issue or work successfully with a broad cross-section of the Middlebury community, they may not engage in behavior that would prevent fulfilment of those obligations.
  15. For specific events and during specific times of the year, Middlebury invites the public to join us at events and extends free expression privileges during those events. Any unaffiliated individual or group who engages in Civil Disobedience, as defined below, at such events will be asked to leave Middlebury property, and/or may be subject to arrest for violation of the law.

Definitions:

Expressive Activity: Expressive activity includes all manner of speech, dissent, demonstration, protest, picketing, leafletting, sit-ins, strikes, etc. Expressive activity occurs along a spectrum ranging non-disruptive to extremely disruptive.

Disruption: Disruption is behavior that impairs or prevents expressive activity of others, or obstructs Middlebury’s activities or essential operations. Disruption prohibited by this Policy includes all behavior that significantly disrupts Middlebury events, activities, programs and/or operations. Disruptive expressive activity – such as preventing an essential operation as a form of protest, or preventing a speaker from speaking or being heard – is sometimes referred to as “civil disobedience.”

Civil Disobedience: Civil Disobedience is the refusal of an individual to comply with Middlebury policies and/or local, state, or federal law, even when the refusal will result in punishment. Civil Disobedience typically has moral and persuasive power because individuals face serious consequences for their refusal to comply with policies or laws.

10 Comments

Is white supremacy considered disruptive to Middlebury’s curricular, co-curricular, or administrative activities, or does that just go in the "controversial view" category? Thanks!

by Ami Furgang (not verified)

I do think it is important to have a process for review of proposed events/invites/speakers like the Committee created in March of 2017 post-Charles Murray suggested and has been working to create. Oversight is important to make sure that invited speakers aren't blatantly violating our community values or whatever. But I think this entire process and frame of mind is failing to address the sentiments behind the original protest against Charles Murray and the sentiments that students and faculty continue to have about protest/free speech/community. Like with the original event in March of 2017, the administration/y'all seem to just really
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be missing the point. And that's super disappointing. But not really surprising. This policy and update is very focused on "free speech," "engaging in respectful dialogue," "a robust and inclusive public sphere," "civil discourse," talking across difference, ideas and beliefs, etc. etc. etc. The new policy states that "free intellectual inquiry, debate and constructive dialogue are vital to Middlebury’s academic mission and must be protected even when the views expressed are unpopular or controversial." But this is not, has never been, just about dialogue, just about intellectual discussions that we have in class over differing viewpoints/opinions, just about unpopular or controversial views. We all know that this update is in response to Charles Murray and the events that followed, and the CM protest was not about ideas that are unpopular or controversial. The CM protest was about ideas that made people of color on this campus feel unvalued, unwitnessed, disrespected, and less than human. The CM protest was/is about the humanity of our friends and loved ones of color on this campus who felt/feel disregarded and devalued by President Patton’s willingness to be on that stage and the way that her presence symbolized approval (even if she verbally stated she did not agree with CM’s ideas, there is a difference between verbal/physical/literal/INTENT and symbolic/EFFECT). The CM protest was about our friends of color who felt/feel that they don’t belong in this place, their home for 4 years, because some people on this campus are more concerned about saying what they want to say than witnessing/respecting/actively valuing the existence/contributions/lives of people of color on this campus. It does not matter the intent of those who invited him, the intent of President Patton in getting on stage and introducing him, the intent of Allison Stanger in having a “dialogue” with him. What matters is the effects, the way that people perceived these actions. Emotions and perceptions are not irrational, they are important and drive all of us. We need to trust the emotions and perceptions of people of color, trust that what they tell us (we feel unsafe, we feel like we don’t belong here) is true and matters and needs to be acted upon. to make this issue only about dialogue and free speech is to (continue to) ignore the immense and heavy history of racism in this country and on this campus and in our own daily lives. it is not irrational or dramatic to make this about race—it IS about race, and it is immensely disappointing that this institution/administration continues to fail to be a leader in anti-racist action.
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by Lily Barter (not verified)

I have more. In this update y'all write that "The Committee went on to note that '[a]ttempts to curtail speech that is considered offensive or controversial by some can lead to chilling effect, in conflict with the spirit of our vision statement.'" But I think that the invitation/allowance of “speech that is considered offensive or controversial by some” has a chilling effect itself. that’s what happened with CM--the announcement of his invitation made a lot of students (of color) on campus feel that their speech/conduct/existence was being suppressed, that they couldn’t speak out against his invitation for fear of being
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punished, that his invitation to our school—our community, our home, the place we live in every day—made them feel that they did not belong here, were not witnessed here, not valued or made to feel valid. Because if students of color were valued/valid, they would not have to feel the symbolic pressure/violence of his presence on our campus. especially after what happened the last time he was here when he told a group of students of color they would be better off at a community college. the students who ended up protesting felt this "chill" too—after multiple attempts to go through approved routes of altering the format of the event, asking President Patton to revoke her sponsorship, etc., all of which did not work--students planning to protest felt fear of penalization, and in the aftermath of CM’s visit these students felt immense fear about retribution as the process dragged on and many did not know if they would be expelled from this place that they have grown to call home and were protesting to keep safe for themselves and their friends with vulnerable identities. Re: policy point #3, "Students, student organizations, faculty and staff are free to express their views by orderly means that do not significantly disrupt Middlebury’s curricular, co-curricular, or administrative activities." I'm sure you expected people to ask this--what does "orderly means" mean? what do you consider orderly, and who gets to decide that? Does an action stop being orderly just when the administration gets tired of it and doesn’t want to deal with it anymore? Where is the line that we cannot cross as student protestors, and how are we supposed to act if we do not know where the line is ahead of time? If we do not know what punishment to expect because your evaluations of our disruptive actions change based on past context/past actions/content of disruption and so can appear to be somewhat arbitrary? Also re: policy point #3, "means that do not significantly disrupt Midd's curricular, co-curricular, or administrative activities" -- can’t I/someone/anyone argue that the invitation of CM to this campus disrupted our curricular and co-curricular activities? Let me rephrase that--I am arguing that. Inviting a speaker that is known for being inflammatory and for inviting protest at campuses around the country is going to cause people to respond, is going to disrupt the expected curricular and co-curricular flow of campus life. Those who invite people like this are disrupting our campus and the lives of people who feel threatened by their presence on our campus. Those who invite are also probably breaking the respect of persons/harassment policy, but I think that accusation was already sidestepped last year. We need to hold responsible those who invite CM and speakers like him, those who are trying to provoke conflict and provoke students with vulnerable identities, like with the invitation of James O’Keefe last year. These policies, if they have to exist, have to go all ways. Re: policy point #5, "Disruption is behavior that significantly impairs or prevents expressive activity of others, or obstructs Middlebury’s activities or essential operations," the invitation of CM obstructed the activities and operations of many students who joined the effort to protest the event. Students spent hours and days preparing for the event, waiting to hear if they would be expelled, going to meetings with judicial affairs officers, meeting with other students involved to figure out how to act, attending hearings, and more. Plus the mental and emotional energy spent was immense and incredibly taxing, causing students to have to quit jobs, fall behind on academic work and do worse in classes, experience exacerbated mental health problems like depression and anxiety, etc. etc. etc. Point being, we need to look at all parties and consider that student protestors aren't the only ones disrupting our campus culture. Parties inviting people like CM need to be held accountable, and the administration needs to be held accountable for allowing people like CM to be invited, for putting President Patton up on stage in a symbol of approval, for allowing speech that devalues/disrespects/dehumanizes people of color. Re: policy point #9, "Civil Disobedience is not authorized on Middlebury’s campuses or at Middlebury events," well, that doesn’t matter. that’s the point of civil disobedience. but y'all already know that. if the administration going to make this about free speech and say that students who break these policies are going to face sanctions, then can’t I argue that these policies are curtailing my free speech as a protestor? Curtailing the free speech of students of color who are expected to speak on behalf of their own humanity, expected to continue to fight for their right to exist here and belong here? This whole thing is a big ol disappointing mess. I am really starting (just kidding, I started in March of 2017) to lose hope that this institution will ever make things right and come forward as a leader that supports students and people of color and student activists. I wish that y'all would be courageous and make some changes to the ways you treat students.
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by Lily Barter (not verified)

Protest is an expression of needs not being met, of people who haven't been heard crying out for change to occur. Perhaps, instead of being so focused on how to punish "effectively" the administration should consider how it can better listen and change when it receives criticism from fellow community members with less power than yourselves (students, staff, community members). Perhaps instead of "proactively" defending yourselves against the next Charles Murray protest, the administration should apologize for the harm you all caused, and genuinely work towards an anti-racist campus from a place of humility. Students will not trust any policy
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you create to be carried out evenly against students until the administration acknowledges the harm they have already caused. Additionally, you are missing a key point in your definitions: civil disobedience is carried out against laws/policies that are UNJUST! It would not have persuasive power if people were being punished for breaking laws that should be on the books. Do you as an administration want to continue enforcing unjust laws? Civil disobedience's aim is to change unjust laws, if your administration had the humility to change when called upon, disruptive protest would no longer be necessary.
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by Emma Ronai-Durning (not verified)

The Department of Justice should investigate Middlebury College's blatant attempt to "impose a system of arbitrary censorship of, and punishment for, constitutionally protected speech". This proposed action is nearly to action taken by officials at the University of Michigan. It would behoove the committee to review the US District Court case Speech First, Inc., Plaintiff, v. Mark Schlissel et al.

by Christine McDow (not verified)

I greatly enjoyed my time at Middlebury, in a large part due to being exposed to viewpoints and approaches different from my own and those that made me somewhat uncomfortable and forced me examine my privilege and biases. In a large part that was through protests that would be considered "civil disobedience" (apparently that has a negative connotation now?), and debates on the merits of such protests. If a riot is the voice of the unheard, then "disruptive" protests are often (if not always) the result of students, staff, or faculty whose concerns have been ignored or brushed off by
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the administration. They serve as a way of opening a discussion that some would rather not have and of forcing critical thinking among those who would prefer not to defend their positions, not of stifling discussion. If the administration dedicated as much time examining why so many students and professors of color feel unwelcome at the institution as they did in making sure that racist hacks such as Charles Murray are comfortable on campus, then perhaps they wouldn't have the issues this proposal seems to think it's addressing. Furthermore, the definitions of "disruption" and "civil disobedience" as detailed here are worryingly broad, and leave a great deal of room for overreach by the administration anytime they think that lots of students (especially students of color) expressing opposition to something is too scary for them. Unfortunately, much as I enjoyed my time at Middlebury, if this dystopian policy of encouraging free speech by banning protests and civil disobedience is put into place I have no plans of donating to the institution. I also will no longer participate in the alumni admissions program as I have done for years, nor will I encourage young people to attend Middlebury College as I have been doing (although with increasingly more reservations).
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by Forest Jarvis (not verified)

Three points: 1. Grounding framework Freedom of speech is a limited right held by individuals and has little applicability to discussions about the obligations of social institutions (particularly private institutions) have to invite persons to speak/perform/educate on campus. We do NOT owe everyone a right to be a speaker at Middlebury. In fact, MCAB already lists several restrictions on what constitutes an allowed speaker such as in their affiliation, impact factor/interests, and qualifications. 1. a. Rights are limited I agree that discourse on campus should be open and that people of different views should if not need to engage in conversation with each
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other. I believe that individuals have a fair right to invite their desired speakers, performers, and other professionals to campus so they may fully participate in the community, whilst having the freedom to be themselves and engage with their varying beliefs or schools of thought. But these "rights" like any other right are limited, even when those actions stem from beliefs and opinions that are deeply meaningful to people. Middlebury acknowledges this by not permitting "disruption". 1.b. How "rights" at Middlebury should be defined But the definition of disruption in this policy is based on the protection of free speech rather than whether or not activity is disruptive to our ability to function as a campus and to achieve our mission statement. It is true that curtailing speech that is considered offensive or controversial would be contradictory to our Mission statement of creating independent and critical thinkers in an academically diverse environment. Let it be clear that I do not support this. 2. What's relevant? However, what is considered offensive/controversial, what is considered harmful, and what is considered valid are separate criteria, with only the latter two being relevant to determining what should be an acceptable framework/use of our rights. 2.a. What is harmful? Research in psychology, sociology, and education studies as well as works by critical and feminist theorists all acknowledge that the legacy of historic oppression and experience of living as a socially marginalized person (particularly when in the minority) take their toll on a person's well being and ability to function, both implicitly like in microaggressions or explicitly like in hate crimes. While violence through words may not be the same experience as physical violence, research shows they have similar affects, including the internalizing of disempowered narratives, lowered self-worth, trauma, stress, etc. Furthermore, as a social institution, by presenting oppressive rhetoric/art/etc. we would further contribute to the maintaining of oppression and social hierarchy on a broader level. This is contrary to our Mission statement, globally and individually. How can we ask our students to thrive when we do them harm? How can we ask our students to make the world a better place when we work to maintain what's awful about it? 2.b. What is valid? Our mission statement claims Middlebury strives to be a center of intellectual and scholarly advancement. Murray is undeniably one of the most influential political scientists of our time whose work has influenced national policy. He is worth studying, like Freud. But there is a difference between academic influence and academic validity. I support the political science department's claim that students should study politics they disagree with, but there is a distinction between critically examining someone's work in a course and inviting a speaker to present on their work. Murray's "scholarship" is widely criticized, including by the faculty and students here. If we are to respect ourselves as an academic institution then we should respect the academic evaluations of those who make up the college community. Not only is it criticized for its oppressive and harmful rhetoric, but for Murray's methods which are commonly called pseudoscientific. The students who organized his invitation did not do so for the purpose of "rhetorical resilience", but to learn from him. I agree there is something to learn from everyone, but if our aim is to be a place of great scholarship, why are our standards so dangerously low for who is qualified to speak here? It lowers our status and academic integrity. 2.c. Understanding the consequences of misguided policy and actions Had risks for social harm or academic integrity been considered, perhaps the school would have been able to determine that inviting Murray was at best an irresponsible use of money, and at worst a grave mistake. Hosting and inviting Charles Murray was just as much of a "disruption to campus life" as that caused by the demonstrators. The difference is the dissenters were disrupting oppressive norms in society by expressing their pain and the hypocrisy while the organizers of the event and the institution for supporting them were to busy saying, "Shut up, we feel silenced!" 2.d. Relevance to this proposed policy Consequently, this policy is born out from the agenda of people with violent ideology misusing free speech rhetoric and political "neutrality". Critical and feminist theory studied and respected in this very institution acknowledge that there is no such thing as neutrality in an unequal society, and that by not actively fighting norms we affirm them. I understand the situation was difficult. Had Murray not been allowed to visit you would have had a PR mess because the right wing end of the political spectrum in this country has mastered use of the Free Speech Argument. But sadly they have taken advantage of the the administration and the rules of the institution to cause long lasting damage to our environment; and we still got a PR mess out of it. Worst of all by stating, "Students, student organizations, faculty and staff at Middlebury are free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to engage in expressive activity publicly and privately." We have let them win and worst of all have now set the precedent for allowing students to host "critical and intellectual" talks on climate change not being significantly driven by human activity, on Holocaust denial being a serious historical, or on homosexuality and transgender identity being a mental disorder. In fact, students should feel empowered to invite speakers on said topics, so long as they wrote a book about it and have a degree. And if you think those examples aren't the same, then you fail to notice the can of worms you've opened and that ignorance stems from a lack of empathy for the people who expressed rage over the institutions behavior during and after Murray's event. While I am sure you learned many things in your discussions with various parties, because this policy was written for the sake of protecting "free speech" rather than our mission statement, I do not trust the school to craft or implement any policy on protests. As seen in Spring of 2017 an unfair and oppressive amount of the blame and punishment was directed towards the dissenters and no accountability was given to the institution or the students who invited him. I encourage you all to continue asking for feedback think about ways the institution can correct this understanding and communicate that to the student body. 3. Effectiveness Protest is an inherently transgressive act and school policy should be aimed at preventing and assessing damage resulting from protests rather than silencing or tone policing them. Policies are normally made to state what is allowed and what is not allowed. Because protest inherently is not aimed at following rules, any policy that is simply a list of rules is essentially useless. Telling people what to does not make them want to listen to you. Look it up, psychology agrees. 3.a. Addressing the root issue The purpose of protest is to communicate from one body to another, nearly always for the purpose or hopes of things changing. If Middlebury truly cares about reducing harm, it's policy update should be focused on demonstrating to students that non-disruptive protests are an effective way of bringing about change or being heard, so that protesting bodies will not feel the need to turn to disruptive behavior. Note: addressing issues and voices is not the same thing as appeasement. 3.b. What's missing? There should be efforts for the school to show that it will handle punishment and investigations of protest/disobedience/dissent based on the harm that was caused and in a way that is fair. I know Middlebury can never officially say it condones rules being broken, but in an imperfect society rules will reflect those imperfections. Furthermore rules are generalizations and there will be instances that they do not apply. Knowing this and that students will always break rules, seeing that the school focuses on harm that is done rather than focusing on protecting people with "unpopular opinions" would help heal some of the significant loss of trust that has resulted since Spring 2017.
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by Lee (not verified)

Section 14 states that “certain staff positions are incompatible with participation in certain expressive activities on campus or related to Middlebury that would impair the staff member’s ability effectively to fulfill their job responsibilities,” with no mention of faculty. Does this mean that faculty are permitted to engage in “expressive activities” but that staff are not? If so, why are faculty members given “permission” to engage with certain controversial issues while members of the staff need to be told on a case by case basis whether or not they are “allowed” to? Members of the faculty are also theoretically required
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to “work with a large cross section of the Middlebury community,” so why are the staff specifically regulated in their actions where faculty is not? Furthermore, I am aware of many more members of the faculty who hold “controversial” opinions that they share with students that have created unfriendly environments for certain members of the community (POC and women in particular) inside and outside of the classroom. Does having tenure make being a racist acceptable?
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by Taite Shomo (not verified)

In 2017, SGA passed a bill with overwhelming support that asked for specific revisions of the old protest policy in the aftermath of CM. That bill is archived at go/sga. None of the language that the student body's representatives voted in favor of in 2017 was included in this draft. It is telling that the preamble excludes the SGA as a body that provided input. Only the committee "formed" by the SGA is mentioned. I served on that Student Policy Advisory Group all of last academic year and was involved in these conversations. Members of the committee that wanted nothing
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more than for the student body's wishes, as measured by the ballots of its representatives, felt frustrated by certain admins' tacit refusal to honor those requests. Honestly, not including the SGA as a body that contributed input is probably good, because the SGA's requests were wilfully compromised out of existence. More importantly, I am alarmed by one specific clause: section 14. Quoting: "Members of the Senior Leadership Group (SLG) may determine that certain staff positions are incompatible with participation in certain expressive activities on campus or related to Middlebury that would impair the staff member’s ability effectively to fulfill their job responsibilities. For example, if job duties require that a staff member be neutral on a specific issue or work successfully with a broad cross-section of the Middlebury community, they may not engage in behavior that would prevent fulfilment of those obligations." Let's unpack this for a moment. According to the policy as described in this draft, any member of the Senior Leadership Group can decide that some staff positions are not fit for protesting. The SLG includes the heads of departments all over campus, from Communications to Advancement to Human Resources to Finance to Student Affairs to International Programs. That means a crap-load of staff members. All of these SLG members can unilaterally ("members", not the "Senior Leadership Group" itself, is mentioned) prevent anyone under them from joining the community to stand for a cause they believe in. The policy does not include any specific punishment for staff members that dare to engage in "expressive activities", nor does the policy clearly provide any provisions for understanding what "job duties" might require a staff member to be neutral. As far as I'm concerned, this policy is punitive and vague enough for easy abuse in the future. Are staff members in Academic Affairs not also members of our community? If so, should they not also be entitled to the right to express their opinion as a member of that community? I do not remember discussing this particular provision in the Student Advisory committee that provided "input" on this draft, and am alarmed by its appearance.
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by Travis Wayne Sa... (not verified)

The word "respect" is used repeatedly, but I'm wondering who is expected to behave "respectfully" and who is not. For example, if a speaker is invited to campus and the content of their speech is dehumanizing or disrespectful to one or more communities (e.g., someone comes to campus and argues that LGBT individuals should not be allowed to adopt children or Latinx asylum seekers are merely criminals trying to use the system to get into the U.S.), is the group that invited the speaker held accountable for behaving "respectfully" or just the impacted communities in terms of whether or not
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they respond "respectfully" to being dehumanized? Is there a way we can engage in intentional dialogue before bringing speakers to campus that would allow for critical reflection on the potential impact of the speech and how to minimize the harm done? Otherwise all we're doing is tone policing impacted communities. There is a difference between speech with which you "disagree" or that is "controversial" and speech that is rooted in disrespect, devaluation, and/or dehumanization of communities. The latter does not align with promoting a culture of respect or civility.
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by Renee Wells (not verified)

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