| by Laurie Patton

Faculty, Staff, Students

Dear Middlebury Community,

One of the few certainties we are experiencing in the global coronavirus pandemic is the uncertainty it has brought to so many aspects of our lives. To help you understand what is happening at the College—and its impact on you as students and families, faculty and staff—we have operated on this assumption: That we can’t over-communicate with you in an environment that is so fluid, with things happening so quickly and, too often, tragically.

Two questions have guided our correspondence these last two months, and we try to communicate these themes as often and as clearly as we can. What are we seeing and anticipating that drive our decision making? and What upcoming information can you expect from us?

We have considered the recommendations of public health experts at the national and state levels, as well as the shelter-in-place and similar directives of state officials across the country and internationally. Staying home to stay safe, as Vermont Governor Phil Scott prescribed in his March 24 executive order, is the prevailing policy nearly everywhere. Public health authorities are stressing that it should be heeded for some time to come.

As we constantly monitor the situation here in Middlebury—and keep up with what is happening across the country and the world, wherever you are right now—we have concluded that there is only one responsible and safe path to take regarding the remainder of the spring semester and Commencement.

That is:

  • We will complete the spring semester remotely, continuing the emergency approach to teaching and learning our faculty and students have already begun. That said, we will never tire of saying that nothing can replace face-to-face learning. We, too, long to get all of you back to Middlebury as soon as humanly possible. Our commitment to liberal arts and sciences depends on it.
  • And we will have two Commencement ceremonies. The first will have to be a virtual celebration, to take place the weekend of our regularly scheduled graduation this year. I know this is disappointing news for everyone. I am going to miss so many wonderful traditions large and small, and I know you will miss them even more. Partly because of our powerful connections to Midd people and places, we have decided that the second Commencement will remain an in-person, traditional ceremony to take place sometime in 2020 or 2021: held outside, families present, speeches given, honorary degrees awarded, student degrees awarded, and not combined with another graduation. We will do everything we can to make it affordable and equitable for people to return to campus. You will find more details below.

So, what does this mean for you and for us right now? Here are some logistics.

Students’ Belongings

For all students and families who boxed up and left belongings on campus before departing three weeks ago, rest assured that we have been storing them. For those of you who will return this fall, we will have a process in place for you to retrieve them when you arrive for the semester. To our seniors and your families, we will be in touch very soon with details about how we plan to get them back to you.

Remote Learning, Credits, and Refunds

Nearing the end of our first week of remote learning, we are hearing overall that things are going fairly smoothly. That is good news for an effort of this magnitude. Faculty and students tell us they are feeling supported by our DLINQ and IT colleagues, and that the tech infrastructure is holding up well. Yes, we have heard some frustrations—and sadness brought on by isolation and distance—but also humor and joy, which we knew just had to be evident with Midd students and faculty finding themselves navigating unexplored terrain. As we have said, for those experiencing challenges with Internet connectivity, please share your concerns with your deans. We will continue to stay on top of things, and in communication with you, to deliver the smoothest experience possible for a successful completion of the semester.

Later today, we will send a letter to students and families answering questions about credits and refunds for room and board, which many of you have written to us about. We appreciate your patience as we have worked out the details.


Ours is such an intimate community, I know that we all feel the weight of having to postpone in-person Commencement for a later date—but none more than our seniors and families. Still, our spirits were lifted this week as we discussed Commencement with our students on the Senior Committee. They have been amazing, of course, and will send a letter to students and families outlining their thoughts on Commencement very soon. They permitted us to give you the important details.

Here is some of what they will say to their classmates:

“We want you to know that we sympathize with the extreme feelings of loss we know many of you are experiencing. That being said, we are fully committed to creating a plan that includes the whole class and adheres to Commencement traditions. In that pursuit, we are planning on conducting two senior celebrations: one a remote ceremony on May 24, 2020 and one in-person, on-campus celebration to occur on a later date. The dates for the in-person celebration will be relayed as soon as it is feasible to do so. Additionally, we are committed to providing financial support so students can return to campus for the celebration. The College administration, SGA, and Senior Committee are all working together and will be reaching out for your input. We look forward to celebrating the many achievements of the Class of 2020 with all of you soon.”

How great. We couldn’t have said it better.


Finally, a word about Reunion 2020 that we just want you to know about. We have notified alumni of our (difficult) decision to cancel Reunion in June and will be working with Reunion committees for the classes ending in 0 and 5 to plan other ways for meaningful, Midd connections.

Our archive of announcements and FAQs on Middlebury and the novel coronavirus can be found here.

As usual, we will be back in touch very soon.

And as always, we are deeply grateful for your understanding and partnership during this unsettling time. I walk through the campus every day. Even, or perhaps especially, in its emptiness, I am aware of the power of the people who built this place. You are those people, and this is your Middlebury. We can’t wait to see you back in your place soon.



Laurie Patton