Middlebury College welcomes dogs to offices

Editor’s note: Middlebury College recently decided to allow faculty and staff to bring their dogs to offices on campus. Here is the letter from college President Laurie L. Patton announcing the new policy.
Dear Middlebury Friends,
I write to share news of a pilot project that several members of the community have proposed and which we will be launching this coming September.
This past fall, several people visited me during my open office hours and asked that we consider revising our pet policy to give faculty and staff more opportunity to bring their dogs to campus. As many of you know, our current policy prohibits dogs from College offices during regular working hours. And yet, many argue that dogs are an integral part of many peoples’ everyday lives, and recent studies have shown that “dog friendly” workplaces can serve to humanize the office environment and enhance the quality of work there. In addition, students and others tell us that dogs can be a great source of comfort and are often used in certain contexts to relieve stress.
As a dog lover myself, I sympathized with their request, but also realized that changing a long-standing policy would be no small thing. There are many sensible reasons not to allow dogs in the workplace. Dogs may be disruptive. Dogs make messes and if the owners don’t clean up, Facilities Services must clean up. Some people are allergic to dogs or don’t feel comfortable around them. All these concerns are important.
After weighing the potential benefits and downsides of loosening our policies, I concluded that the request was worthy of further investigation. I asked a small task force of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to work with Vice President for Academic Development Tim Spears to review pet policies at peer institutions, discuss potential challenges with various offices on campus — especially Facilities, HR, and Public Safety — and develop a possible proposal. They have worked hard over the course of winter and spring terms. After several additional discussions within our Senior Leadership Group and at Community Council, I have decided to accept their proposal.
Beginning Sept. 1, 2016, dogs will be permitted in faculty and staff offices provided that the chair or director of the department or office grants approval. Some public-facing offices on campus may conclude that allowing dogs on site would not be appropriate, but this policy shift will enable most faculty and staff members with private offices to bring their dogs to campus.
I want to emphasize, however, that we are enacting this change as one-year pilot project, to run from September 2016 to September 2017. We will be assessing the pilot at regular intervals throughout this year and will determine in the summer of 2017 whether this change in policy should be permanent.
I expect full compliance with the rules of our pilot project and consideration for others in its implementation. We will be in touch this summer about the protocols governing the project and how faculty and staff members of the Middlebury community can register their dogs on campus. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this initiative you may direct them to Tim Spears.
I want to thank everyone who participated in this project for their hard work, their conscientious research, and their openness to change.
Laurie L. Patton
Middlebury College

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