| by Derek Doucet
Dear Middlebury Community,
With students beginning to return to the Middlebury College campus, I would like to share our plans for encouraging positive student conduct and responding to community concerns over possible violations of our COVID-related conduct policies. Our plan features both proactive and reactive components. It both supports positive student behavior and addresses conduct violations when they occur.
- Communicating expectations: We have offered information via social media, email, and our website about the COVID-specific expectations we have implemented. Examples include the importance of measures such as prearrival quarantining; wearing cloth face coverings at all times, inside or outside, except when in one’s room, eating, or engaging in personal grooming; physical distancing; our phased reopening approach beginning with Phase 1 or campus quarantine; and our revised conduct policy.
- Education: Our Office of Health and Wellness Education created a mandatory, online health course for students that features content in the Return to Campus Guide, highlights the Student Health Pledge, covers information about COVID-19 and changes in campus operations, and articulates steps each of us can take to keep our communities healthy and safe. Failure to complete the course is a violation of the Student Health Pledge and will result in a referral to Community Standards for sanctioning.
- Establishing relationships with student households off campus: There are approximately 90 students living off campus this semester but enrolled in in-person classes. Student Life staff will meet weekly with groups of these students to check in and remind them of the importance of their behavior in the community. We will also have an increased physical presence in town to help us better understand how relationships between our students and the community are progressing.
We are prepared to react to reports of concerning behavior. Our plan to do so has four parts, is based on our revised conduct policy, and is designed to be consistent with Governor Phil Scott’s guidance on the reopening of Vermont’s colleges. This policy prioritizes public health at every level.
- An online reporting tool. Those who believe they have witnessed a violation of our COVID-19 health expectations may report the details in this online form.
- Investigative capacity. Our Department of Public Safety, in partnership with our Office of Community Standards, is prepared to investigate reports of concerning health and safety-related conduct.
- Prompt adjudication and sanctioning in all cases determined to be a violation of our policies by our Office of Community Standards.
- Communication of outcomes. We are building an online digest of investigation outcomes. Because our conduct processes are confidential, this information will not contain any personally identifiable information.
We are currently investigating several alleged violations. We have also closed several that were determined to be unfounded, including one report of an off-campus party that the Middlebury Police investigated and determined to be without basis.
Our ability to remain open will depend on attending closely to the relationship between our students and the wider community as well as our students’ compliance with health protocols. We will continue to educate our students on our essential expectations and respond promptly to community concerns. Our standards of conduct are configured for the COVID-19 pandemic. They include immediate removal from campus if necessary. We have exercised that option in the past and will do so again if needed.
There’s a reason Middlebury is regarded as “the town’s college,” historically and in the present moment. We have a vibrant and constructive relationship with the town of Middlebury and Addison County. We couldn’t be who we are without their partnership. That partnership matters now more than ever.
Dean of Students