What do you want to change about Middlebury?

Change the Culture and Civilizations Requirement

Dear Middlebury community,

We are writing to you today because we strongly believe that Middlebury’s current system of academic requirements, more specifically the Culture and Civilizations requirement, is outdated. We believe that an institution like Middlebuy can adopt a better system, and we ask that you help us achieve that.

Our college claims to believe “that students should have a broad educational exposure to the variety of the world's cultures and civilizations1;” however, its current Culture and Civilizations requirements do not reflect this belief. Students are required to take four different courses in each of the following categories:

a. AAL: courses that focus on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of

b. CMP: courses that focus on the process of comparison between and among cultures and civilizations, or courses that focus on the identity and experience of separable groups within cultures and civilizations.

c. EUR: courses that focus on some aspect of European cultures and civilizations.

d. NOR: courses that focus on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of northern America (United States and Canada)

Under the current requirements, the college seems to place an emphasis on the study of Western cultures and civilizations, while minimizing the importance of all other cultures and civilizations of the world by lumping them together into one category. Not only are these requirements failing to reflect our college’s belief about the importance of the study of different cultures and civilizations, but they are also limiting educational opportunities for students. With the pressure to fulfill the Culture and Civilizations requirements, students who have already taken an AAL course are forced to take courses that fulfill a EUR or NOR requirement over courses that might only give them another AAL requirement, but covers a different region than their previous AAL class (i.e. one class called Trade and Foreign Aid in Latin America and another called African Politics).

Although we see the importance in the study of Europe and North America, we feel that the study of the other regions of the world holds great value as well. Furthermore, we understand what might be the logic behind the NOR requirement, since our institution is located in North America, but we believe that the EUR requirement and the lumping of many regions into an AAL requirement is not justified.

Because of this, we would like to propose an alternative to the current distribution requirements that would improve the current system and provide students with a greater opportunity to be exposed to classes focused on different cultures and civilizations.

Under our proposed alternative, students would be required to take two courses in different geographic areas and one focused on North America; however, the requirement to take courses in EUR would be removed. Students would be required to take:

a. Two courses that focuses on some aspect of the cultures and civilization of:

a. AFR: Africa
b. ASI: Asia
c. LAC: Latin America and the Caribbean
d. MDE: the Middle East
e. EUR: Europe

b. NOR: one course that focus on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of northern America (United States and Canada)

c. CMP: one course that focuses on the process of comparison between and among cultures and civilizations, or a course that focus on the identity and experience of separable groups within cultures and civilizations.

In this way the Middlebury College curriculum will not only better reflect our community standards but also students will have a more egalitarian exposure to different cultures and civilizations. Moving forward we hope that these suggestions are seriously taken into account as a step in the right direction for creating a more inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds.

Sincerely,

Daniela Barajas ’14.5
Rana Abdelhamid ’15

1. http://www.middlebury.edu/about/handbook/academics/Degree_Programs_and_Projects#dist

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    Guadalupe D. Barajas shared this idea  ·   ·  Admin →
    under review  ·  AdminMiddlebury SGA (Admin, Middlebury SGA) responded  · 

    Dear We the Middkids Users,

    Thank you for voting and commenting on We the Middkids! Changing the AAL requirement has been discussed at the SGA senate and cabinet meetings last fall. President Liddell has also discussed the idea with relevant administrators at the College and the topic has consistently received support from the senate. While the conversations will continue, changing the AAL requirement is a significant curricular change that necessitates time and further discussion.

    We will update you if there are any important changes.

    Thank you,
    Jake Nonweiler
    Chief of Staff

    8 comments

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      • Anonymous commented  · 

        To respond to the most recent comment: The fact that we live in a Western civilization is all more the reason to implement this proposal. By living in a Western civilization most of the students at this school have been exposed to western ideals, thoughts, history, culture, etc.. The idea of liberal arts is to branch out explore different topics, is it not? Mandating a EUR requirement seems rather counterintuitive. Also to state that EUR is more important than any other civilization for us is a very misinformed opinion. Other civilizations like African and Asia have just as much an impact on this country, but most won't notice that because...guess what...western thought tries to either mask it as their own or not even recognize it.

      • Anonymous commented  · 

        While I appreciate your angle, we live in a Western civilization that is the product of European history, philosophy, science and arts; as such, EUR is indeed more important than any of the civilization currently covered under AAL. And if EUR must be studied, then students must make a choice of at least one AAL course; this means that there is no reason other than public image to divide the AAL category into AFR, ASI, LAC and MDE.

        -A Middle-Eastern student.

      • Guadalupe D. Barajas commented  · 

        UPDATES from Midd Included:

        1) Tomorrow, we will be having a meeting with President Liebowitz and other administrators to discuss our initiative further and ensure that we are all on the same page going into the summer.
        We'll give you details on how that goes!

        2) Last week, we had an interview with The Campus, and this week they've written two articles about the proposal. One is in the news section and another one is the editorial piece in the opinion section. Check them out!

        http://middleburycampus.com/article/faculty-to-vote-on-aal-reform/

        http://middleburycampus.com/article/aal-is-a-no-brainer/

        3) We are still figuring out details about the meeting with you all that we mentioned earlier this month. We'll be in touch about that this week.

        4) Please jeep sharing the proposal (on fb, on twitter, on tumblr, with your friends, etc). I know that it might seem like we're done with this proposal, but we're not! It is absolutely essential that we show the faculty with hard facts and numbers the support of the student body. We can only do this together!

        Please continue to show your support. I know that sometimes it can be frustrating to not see immediate results, but we are making progress. It is important that we keep reminding ourselves that, however slow the progress might be, it is nonetheless progress. We are part of a movement that is actually moving things forward, rather than allowing this issue to just remain stagnant. This is a marathon, and endurance is key, if we hope to achieve our goal. So keep the energy and continue spreading the word! We need every single one of you. You are the movement, so let's keep it moving!

        As always, please feel more than free to be in touch with us with any feedback or questions.

        Email: inclusivitymovement@gmail.com
        Join our facebook group: Midd Included
        Follow us on Twitter: @MiddIncluded

      • Guadalupe D. Barajas commented  · 

        Thank you to everyone who has supported us with this initiative! Also, we want to thank SGA for their support and help in bringing more attention to this issues by passing a resolution about it.

        Here is an UPDATE: Just last week a couple of members of the Midd Included group, which is leading this campaign, had a meeting with Andi Lloyd, who is Dean of faculty and Chair of the Educational Affairs Committee, and Bob Cluss, who is current Dean of Curriculum, to discuss the our proposal. They are both very supportive of the reform. However, the final decision will be made by the faculty, as they are the ones that vote on these kind of changes to the curriculum. The steps below outline the process that must follow to ensure that this is (hopefully) approved.

        1) Educational Affairs Committee drafts legislation.
        2) The issue is put on the agenda to be presented at a faculty meeting.
        3) Legislation is presented at a faculty meeting.
        4) Faculty has open meetings to discuss legislation and propose amendment(s).
        5) The Faculty Council makes a final vote.

        It seems like the EAC will present the draft of legislation next semester, but we must continue to work to make sure this actually happens. Wee have a lot of work to do THIS semester to ensure that the Faculty hears our voice as students and makes the right decision once the legislation is up for vote next semester.

        Sometime within the next two weeks, WE WILL HAVE A MEETING, hopefully, with YOU to talk and actually make a strategic action plan to reach out to as many faculty members as possible about this issue so that they understand why it is important to us and our education. If you are interested in taking part in this meeting please email us to inclusivitymovement@gmail.com.

        In the meantime, please continue to encourage your friends to vote for this proposal so that once the time comes we can show Faculty the student support that this initiative has. Let's make it reach 700 by the end of the week!

        SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!

        Also, check out the new Q&As on our page to help you answer some questions that you might get asked when talking to friends about this issue:
        http://sites.middlebury.edu/buildinginclusivity/change-cultures-and-civilizations-requirement/frequently-asked-questions-fqas-2/

        Thank you so much to everyone who has reached out to us with your comments and feedback. We made sure to incorporate as much feedback as possible to improve our initial proposal into the recently passed SGA resolution that we co-authored. You can read the complete resolution here:
        http://sites.middlebury.edu/buildinginclusivity/change-cultures-and-civilizations-requirement/sga-resolution-on-aal-reform-2/

        Keep the comments coming! You can email us with any questions or concerns at inclusivitymovement@gmail.com.

        Join our facebook group Midd Included
        Follow us on Twitter: @MiddIncluded

        GO/AAL to read more about what we have been up to.

      • Guadalupe D. Barajas commented  · 

        No, we do not intend for everyone to take two courses in each of the five sections. The proposal suggests that each student take two courses focused in any two of the five regions.

      • Anonymous commented  · 

        is this two course in each of the 5 sections? Because that effectively removes science majors from Midd...

      • Guadalupe D. Barajas commented  · 

        The first sentence after the AAL is meant to read: "courses that focus on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean."

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