Archive for the 'Issue 2' Category

Give Us Our Dining Trays!

Hamza Usmani

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The September 26th issue of The Middlebury Campus ran a story on the decision of Dining Services to remove trays from the dining halls. In that article, they quoted Mathew Biette, the head of dining services, as saying that the decision to take out the trays was made ‘swiftly’ because some students told him that if he put the decision up for discussion, it would never be implemented. Well, that’s obvious.

Dining Services is not exactly a corporation—and hence their primary objective should not be profit maximization. They are service providers, and their main aim should be to provide the best possible service to their patrons.

If we don’t take drastic steps to save the environment, we will regret our inaction in the future. However, environmental action needs to be done intelligently. It is very easy to propose that cars should be banned because they produce pollution, but it takes some creativity and intelligence to figure out a way to save the environment while also not destroying people’s lifestyle by denying them their basic means of transportation. If we make a list of things that produce pollution, we’d never be able to stop. Even the computer that I’m using right now produces pollution. But would I do away with it in order to help the environment? No, because it creates a very insignificant amount of pollution, and removing it would seriously impair my lifestyle.

If the dining service honchos claim that removing trays from dining halls is going to help the environment, they need to prove it. Please don’t tell me that the math they have presented qualifies as proof. In fact, I would think of this as an insult to the Middlebury College students. If they are listing reasons like ‘removing trays would reduce water spillage in the kitchen and less people would fall’ it just means that they themselves are not convinced about the strength of their basic reason to take the trays out. If they are so convinced, they should be willing to answer our questions.

There has been some whispering going on that the real reason to remove trays from the dining halls was to cut costs, and environmental sustainability was used as a cover because we all know it is not “in fashion” to question anything environmental. If this indeed is true, I’d say the Dining Services played their game really poorly. By using environmentalism as a cover-up, they not only put their own credibility at stake but also potentially tarnished the integrity of the environmental cause. If Dining Services were low on budget and they were finding it hard to run the operation with the amount of funding that they had, they should have taken the students into confidence about that. The students, who are interested in having a good dining experience, and who pay a college fee which increases by $2000-$2500 every year would definitely have raised their voices to help the dining services.

Consider this: a regular student who paid a $44,000 comprehensive fee last year was presented with a dining service that offered trays. The same student, after paying $46,910 this year, is now getting a dining experience without trays. If that student comes to know that despite him or his parents paying a higher fee this year, the college dining services is having financial problems, he would want to do something about that because he’d be concerned.

Here I need to reiterate why Dining Services have less of a right to remove trays from dining halls than they think they have. Fortunately or unfortunately, if one is living on campus it is impossible to opt out of the meal-plan. In other words, Dining halls are a student’s primary source of food. Yet another way to phrase this would be saying that students are stuck with the dining halls. So given this, if the dining halls decide to remove a service that students were enjoying before, the students cannot just act like ‘consumers’ in a market economy—they can’t just boycott eating at the dining halls and look for alternatives. This is the reason why I said earlier that dining halls are not commercial enterprises but are rather service providers. They are here to serve the student body, and all their actions—whether aimed at cutting costs or benefiting the environment—need to be sanctioned by the students. Otherwise it would essentially be a breach of contract.

I personally tried to contact the dining managers and ask them the rationale for removing trays. Unfortunately, the crux of the response that I got was that the decision to remove trays was ‘firm and is unlikely to change.’ There are two problems with this attitude. First, they are not open to any sort of dialogue. Second, they are acting stubborn about this, which is odd for a place like Middlebury. Everyone remembers what happened with the college logo episode: the college came up with a new logo without consulting students, the students protested, the college officials maintained their stance that the new logo is good and change takes time to get accepted, the students gave their arguments and the college officials realized that perhaps the students were correct. If the college can revise its decision about the logo, what makes Dining Services think they are infallible?

In the end, another point that I’d like to raise is that the dining services would be unable to provide examples from any peer institution of dining halls running without trays. Even cheap fast food restaurants have trays; the restaurants which do not have trays are the ones where there are people to wait the tables. An eatery with a buffet arrangement simply has to provide trays to save the hassle of making multiple trips and handling more stuff than they could handle.

The fact of the matter is that we are worse off than before, even though we are paying more. What’s worse is that the stated benefit of taking away something we enjoyed, in this case (environmental sustainability) remains dubious, which is quite a shame.

Middle School Gym Class Can Be Brutal

Simone Weisman

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So we didn’t have to wear itchy uniforms like those our parents had to put on. Nevertheless, middle school gym classes never lost their brutality. In the locker room that smelled like pickles, I would suffer teasing and dodge gossip. While I always managed to pull myself together in time for class, other girls would arrive late, or dressed in jeans. Sometimes they didn’t come to gym at all.

I realize today that middle school gym was geared towards discovering our weaknesses. Instead of building confidence in us, it created long lasting insecurities. We all dreaded particular units, knowing we wouldn’t get picked for teams. Most of my gym teachers ignored exclusive and reckless behavior, perhaps considering it healthy competition. Conventional gym class was no way to turn the rowdy boys into young men, nor the timid children into team MVPs.

Why not teach children the benefits of sports and exercise instead of simply forcing certain activities upon them? They are not animals to be trained, but human beings with the capacity to reason. First, whether it’s discussion in the classroom or drills in the gym, every child should have the opportunity to be a leader. Moreover, leadership experience boosts confidence and courage. Second, physical educators should teach a ropes course to implement the virtues of teamwork and responsibility.

I believe that many cases of bad sportsmanship, sexist attitudes, and issues with body image can be traced back to middle school gym classes. If physical educators find ways to integrate sports with the virtues of teamwork and fairness, they could help make the transition from childhood to adolescence a happier and healthier experience.

The Dating Game

Audrey Nelson

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I hate to say it, but I think the art of romance is dead. Well, maybe not “dead,” but definitely suffering, and perhaps recently hospitalized. Middlebury College, with its intellectually and sexually charged population, has lost sight of what it means to date. I do not mean “dating” in the sense that you meet up at Tavern parties each weekend, or frequent the same panini station. No, dating consists of asking someone you like out to a separate location to get to know them better— to learn things about them beyond their class schedule, and to dive into the unknown realm of, “what is it, exactly, that makes this person tick?” Do not be afraid.

A date is not a commitment for life. To woo, to romance, to court… Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a commitment for the weekend, but it does encourage a healthy exchange between two people who may discover over dinner that their chemistry inspires a certain je ne sais quoi.

Both guys and girls have every right to do the asking. Everyone appreciates being asked out now and again; why shouldn’t we all take action? Has this academic context in which we live stifled and frustrated our libidos so much that we can’t handle a one-on-one lunch date situation? For goodness sake, turn that Proctor crush into a Bobcat Café date or a legitimate dating relationship. Dating… it means you go out on dates. Try it out.

What is Happening to the Films of our Childhood?

Ceara Danaher

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Last Friday night, my teammates and I crowded around a hotel television the night before a race, scanning the channels for any show to pique our interest. As we idled past the usual menu of sitcoms and reality shows, a vision of Technicolor glory burst upon us. “The Wizard of Oz!” we cooed. With no further deliberation, a consensus was met.

We eagerly discussed old memories of the movie. It felt like the sudden discovery that, years earlier, we ha all shared a mutual friend. Our reunion was interrupted when our coach’s eight-year-old son walked through the door. “The Wizard of Oz?! I’ve never seen this!”

As Nick settled between us, we exchanged glances. How was it possible that this boy hadn’t experienced one of the staple films of our childhood? Were we so old? Had the movie’s timelessness been lost? Sadly, the movie did not stand up anymore in a technological sense. The Emerald City, we saw to our dismay, was not actually a glittering bastion of green, but little more than a fuzzily painted image on a curved backdrop, mere feet from the actors. Would Nick, ensconced in a youth of Pixar animation, recognize these flaws? We never had.

The Wizard of Oz stood its test. Nick assumed the same slack-jawed position as the rest of us and watched in rapt awe as the witch threw a blaze of fire at the skittish scarecrow.

The Wizard of Oz is not alone in the field of overlooked classic films. As the movies of today grow more advanced, I fear that the films we grew up with are being left behind. Sure, it’s impressive to have the ability to create a lively, tap-dancing penguin on a computer, but what has happened to the good old cartoons of our day? What has happened to drawing, to human handiwork, to adult characters that don’t look like glazed-over, three-dimensional cyborgs?

I am all for the improvement of art through technology. Admittedly, the children’s movies of today are masterpieces of digital animation. But I urge that, in the push forward, we not leave behind the icons of our youth. There is comfort in movies like Peter Pan and The Lion King. There is value in the stories. There is humor in the characters. There are friendships to be forged with these animated beings, and, years later, with the people who worshipped them in the same way that you did. What’s more, when we dismiss the hand-drawn or live-action movies of our past, childhood aspirations are lost. Although kids can dream of becoming animators or actors, it is far more difficult for them to comprehend how to digitally engineer the flipping of little Nemo’s fin. When my childhood friends and I weren’t arguing who sang most like the Little Mermaid (answer: none of us), we imagined being Disney artists when we aged. Computer animators? Not so much.

For generations now, Disney cartoons and The Wizard of Oz have been enchanting children. It worked for our parents, for our siblings, and for us. Why stop at that? The movies of today are well and good— accept them if you like. But don’t forget where we’ve been. As for me, I’ll take old-school movies any day.

A Return fom the “Wild”

Antoine Gara

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This weekend, I went to see Sean Penn’s adaptation of the Jon Krakauer book Into the Wild. The book was an extension of an essay Krakauer submitted to Outside Magazine in 1993. The article chronicled the puzzling journey of college grad Chris McCandless as he marched across the United States and into the Alaskan wilderness with few provisions. From its first telling in Outside Magazine to its current movie adaptation, McCandless’s story resonates in deep and varied ways with audiences. The story charms and it offends; it forces a spectrum of judgments about the ambition and the weight of Chris’s odyssey. Chris searched the extremes of his being for meaning and his experiences touches us. But all that has changed.

When I read the book, I was a high school senior who trusted in the act of intellectual pursuit. I liked Chris because he embodied the idealism I believed so strongly in, and I respected the amount of research he had done to that end. As a college senior, his idealism didn’t impress me as much as his kinship with the environment. I was more aware of Chris’s abundant love for the outdoors and his attempt at sustainable living. In these times of globalization, self-reliance is kind of out of style.

Chris was first introduced to America in 1993, and now it’s 2007. Early readers of the book wondered whether it was stupid to go to Alaska without sufficient provisions, and they judged the morality of his abandonment of society. It was a call of the wild, and we didn’t know whether to pick it up on our fancy landline phones. There seemed to be an immense border cutting between Chris in the wild, and us everyday citizens of America. Today, the border seems more fluid.

For better or worse, it is obvious now that Chris made us all more aware of our estrangement from the natural world and showed us a way to live under its rule, at least momentarily. The tragedy of Chris’s story is that if he had survived he could have been an incredible ambassador for us all. Yet his death made him a martyr— an embodiment of the fissure between nature and society.

That is why seeing Chris again made me glad that I am not an absolute intellectual and continue to live an active life. Every once in a while, when I put my books down, I realize how much they enrich what I do. In 2007, it is clear that Chris died because he could not find a way to channel his immense love of nature and his intellectual pursuits in a productive way. The best environmentalists and intellectuals create a kindred relationship between corridors of intellectual discovery and the physical neighboring world. It is a shame Chris is not around to see that this practice is becoming increasingly popular in our modern society.

Shut the Hell Up and Do Your Work, You Spoiled Nincompoops

Tristan Axelrod

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I have a problem with you, the Middlebury student body. Far too many of you are insufferable whiners with no integrity, and I am sick of listening to your crap while you devalue my college experience and belittle the opportunities offered by this amazing institution.

First off, stop asking for extensions on every assignment. There are only four reasons why extensions should be granted: the professor didn’t grant enough time, or didn’t explain the assignment properly, or the student had an illness, or a family emergency occurred. There are no other valid reasons: if you have two weeks to write a paper and are suddenly too hung over to write the paper on Sunday afternoon 12 hours before it’s due, it is your own damn fault. The same goes for tests: when the time limit is up, you’re done. You shouldn’t get to sit for an extra 15 minutes that weren’t granted to you. And why not? Because there’s something called a grading system: it’s a sort of ranking/appraisal thingy that theoretically rewards people who complete their work according to the established guidelines. When some people actually follow the guidelines, they should be rewarded, and when other people don’t, they should be punished, all according to the system, because that’s why it exists.

It’s like government: I’m not advocating a totalitarian university dominated by professors, but rather the compassionately meritocratic oligarchy that Middlebury claims to be. If you would like to take part in such a society, then you should have the integrity to accept the consequences put forth by professors if you can’t handle the workload you’ve taken upon yourself. Or maybe you prefer to be coddled: it’s your choice, but at least be honest about it, and don’t pretend you have a right to be excepted from the rules. You chose your courses, clubs, sports, and God knows, your drinking habits, so if you just can’t do it all and get all A’s, you have to accept it.

Speaking of drinking habits, if you aren’t 21 years old, drinking alcohol is illegal. As in, you have no right to do it. Is that unjust? Probably, yes. So what do you do if a law is unjust? You protest, speak out, and attempt to enlighten and engage the political community in any way possible. If you don’t care enough to stand up and do what’s right, you have to deal with the reality of the law. I shouldn’t have to remind you that most communities are not as insulated as Middlebury College; only a very fragile and nonsensical tradition of non-interference stands between us and open patrols by the Middlebury Police Department. The same goes for marijuana—take a look at the average prison sentence for marijuana possession and distribution for minorities vs. whites, and check out the economic distribution as well. We live in a veritable Bacchanalian paradise of legal immunity, so stop whining about the liquor inspector.

On a related note, there would be hardly any problems with MCPS, MPD, or the liquor inspector if people didn’t find it necessary to get ridiculously drunk in order to have a good time. Here’s a tip: if you like the people around you, alcohol is never necessary. If you need to get trashed so that you can feel confident dancing, talking, or having sex, it’s a sign of deep-seated emotional problems. And do you really think things will ever get better by continuing to abuse your body this way? My biggest point is this: if you destroy property or damage people physically or emotionally while inebriated, you are a piece of garbage.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to need or request an extension, complain about the liquor inspector, or drink heavily. There are obviously appropriate times and places for each. The issue here is integrity: people need to take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences. Relative to the ‘real world’ outside of our waspy, upper class, ivory tower communities and backgrounds, this is a pretty much unparalleled utopia— a bastion of intellectual and legal leniency, liberalism, and instant gratification. For some reason, you as a Middlebury student have been given these four years here, and will be further rewarded by the institution with political and economic connections and opportunities throughout your life. All I’m saying is, stop acting like you were born deserving it, and at least pretend that you’re worth it.

A Bold Step for the Music Industry

Melissa Marshall

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This October, Radiohead released their sprawling new album In Rainbows. However, critical attention was less on the discography and more on the distribution method. The digital deities from London not only manipulated electronic rhythms to produce the most inventive music of our generation, but also turned technology — and the record industry — on its head by making their album available as a download only, all at your own price. That’s right: you name the price and then click “download.”

Whether it’s an odd psychological experiment or admirable philanthropy, I still haven’t decided. But this bold move did more than just give a finger to the corporate middleman, placing the power back into the artist’s, and subsequently, listener’s hands — it has also brought attention to the pretentious and unanswerable debate of what art is, who has the right to define it and who has the right to prescribe its worth.

It is a certainty that their distribution tactics will reverberate in the industry for decades, if not change the face of it completely. Already Saul Williams, Nine Inch Nails and Oasis have slated “download only” releases. And herein lies the beauty of their economic upheaval: maybe college students don’t have the right to place a price on art, but conglomerated record industries certainly don’t either. At least Radiohead has now given their distribution techniques the same individuality that their music reflects.

But on the other side of the proverbial coin, do we sacrifice a bit of our humanity for this individualism? As a gigabyte generation, we are becoming more and more isolated. Look at the birth of the iPod: most of us walk around campus with the omnipresent earbuds shoved into either side of our head, completely oblivious to passing classmates. Where once we would go to a local record store, we now turn towards synthetic cybershops to get our cuts. I yearn for the nostalgia of the High Fidelity-esque hole-in-a-wall dive that smelled like Springsteen and played like the Pixies— the fading posters on the walls symbolizing a time when rock n’roll was still rock n’roll.

Still, we have to keep in mind that not all musicians have the luxury or lifestyle to do “name your own price” releases. Despite all the anarchist idealists out there, tambourine men still need their daily bread. And maybe Radiohead are idealists as well, foolish for thinking that people will pay for something that they can easily get for free. I don’t really know— but I still like to believe in the inherent goodness of mankind. That and affordable music. I can definitely believe in affordable music.