Resources for Students

Where can students talk across differences?

Middlebury students regularly gather in class, over meals, or with friends.  All of these spaces provide opportunities to practice listening and deliberation, but we tend to hang out with like-minded people.  If you are looking for a place to talk students of different views and backgrounds, there are several weekly meetings:

  • Faculty Student Staff Tables is a Spring 2019 effort to convene small groups of community members over a meal.  The first round is complete, more to come! go/fsstf
  • Midd Discourse is a new student organization that seeks to facilitate free and open discussions among Middlebury students.  Believing that every voice should be respectfully heard and intellectually challenged, these students have set up a space where the participants decide on the topic and then seek reflection and mutual understanding.
  • Tuesdays at 12:30 – Matt Dickinson (PSCI) leads a weekly politics luncheon.  Dozens of students and community members gather over bagels to discuss various viewpoints on current political issues. Meets in RAJ ’59 House Conference Room.
  • Thursdays at 12:30 – the Woodin Colloquium convenes a weekly lunch series on environmental issues for the college and public (BYOB).  The speaker is limited to 30 minutes, followed by a robust Q&A in which students always go first.

We are also experimenting with a new format for visiting speakers that facilitates deeper discussion among audience members.  Attend one of the talks listed here or use the new format for your own event!

What are some models for doing this myself?

There are some great, easy-to-use models, including the World Cafe model, restorative justice circles, and reflective structured dialogue.

These approaches informed one model we tried on campus in 2017-18. With support from the Fund For Innovation, the “Listen/Learn project” experimented with new spaces for deliberation on campus.  We ran six deliberation cafes for students. Our topics:

  • On May 13, for seniors, “How will you describe Middlebury after you have left this place?”
  • On April 24, “How do we overcome divisions within the student body?”
  • On February 28, “How does social media shape your community?”
  • On November 15, we partnered with the provost’s Committee for Speech and Inclusion and discussed a half-dozen questions around protest, speech, inclusion, race, and open inquiry.
  • On October 18, “Should we tolerate the intolerant?”
  • On September 27, “How do religious and spiritual activities shape the Middlebury College community?”

Sarah Stroup (PSCI) and Jin-Mi Sohn ’18 (SGA president) ran this initiative.  If you’d like to see the data we gathered from 103 responses to our follow-up surveys, please email Stroup.  If you’d like to read about the lessons of the deliberation cafes, see our description in this online journal hosted by Brown University’s Swearer Center. Below are some examples of the resources that we shared in advance:

  • On Thursday, 4/26, a group of college juniors met over dinner at the house of Wonnacott Commons dean.  This was an informal chance to get to know one another and think about our role in constructing communities and bridging differences. We suggested listening to this podcast in advance.
  • On Wednesday, 2/28, we tackled the question” how does social media shape your community?”  We worked with Amy Collier (Digital Learning @ Midd) to identify some interesting takes on this topic.  Some pieces to get the mental juices flowing: a New York Times article, a piece in Wired Magazine, and an interview on NPR.
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