April 30, 2020 Letter from President Patton: Scenario Planning at Middlebury College
| by Laurie Patton
Dear Middlebury College Community,
Even though we are in more of a steady rhythm now, we didn’t want to let a week go by without updating you on the progress we are making in determining how Middlebury will operate in the months ahead. Like every institution around the country, this week we have been scenario planning. Scenario planning is its own form of storytelling.
As of this moment, our story is a cautiously optimistic one. The well-being of our community remains paramount, and as we have done since last January, we will continue to be guided by the expertise of our health officials, public orders issued by the State of Vermont, and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control.
Our scenario planning considers a variety of situations. We wanted to let you know that we are working toward a safe and secure opening of our campus for the fall semester. Because we must also continue the practice and good outcomes of rigorous public health protocols, we want to prepare you for the likelihood that life at Middlebury will be different than it was. Even in the best-case scenarios we are projecting some hybrid model of education, a blend of in-person and remote learning with the strong possibility that—because of public health protocols and individual circumstances—not all our faculty and students may be able to join us in person.
During the upcoming weeks we will continue to monitor the fluid environment, prepare our faculty and staff to deliver the most robust educational experience we can, and complete our discussions about what fall 2020 will be like. We will have a decision about the fall semester to communicate to you by June 22.
Our optimism is based in part (but only in part) on present conditions. There are no known cases of COVID-19 on our campus. Addison County and the Town of Middlebury’s curves continue to flatten. According to the University of Washington map, Vermont is one of the states that is least affected by the virus overall. We believe that these good results are due to the foresight of pro-active healthcare communities, health-conscious and cautious governors, and focused legislative approaches. Our planning for the fall is based on these same conservative approaches—and the rigorous work with our College physician, our academic and business continuity teams, our staff and faculty leadership, and our partners in the community.
However energizing that news might be, the COVID-19 losses and everyday challenges people are feeling are deeply real. As a way of archiving those challenges and losses, many of us are turning to storytelling to make sense of our experience and create a record of this time. Just as searches for the term “Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918” have skyrocketed, “COVID-19 2020” will itself become an archive for the generations that follow us. I talked about this in a conversation with Middlebury Campus Editor Sabine Poux recently, who also heads the COVID-19 storytelling project. The stories we tell now may be unexpected forms of inspiration, caution, or education for future generations facing their own global challenges. Please do let us know your own experiences by submitting your thoughts and images on the link above. It will be an extraordinary Middlebury document.
In the meantime, here is a link to our calendar of decision-making for the next few months. Thank you for your care and support as we make plans for Middlebury’s thriving well into the next century and beyond—on our campuses in Vermont, California, and around the globe. We are walking what Midd alum Dan O’Brien calls, in a beautiful essay, the “wilderness trail of recovery.” We’d like to meet you on that path.