Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Wishing luck to the Middlebury campus to keep COVID at bay

Good luck to Middlebury College as it welcomes back thousands of students from all over the country. We can only hope that the college’s long list of “safety protocols” do the trick by preventing an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus and in the wider community. Much hinges on whether people ages of 17-21 can behave more responsibly than I probably would have as a student at a similar liberal arts college (Williams) during a faraway time (class of 1956).
Three factors appear to be crucial: (1) The need for mature behavior by the students, (2) the power of peer pressure on those who may be inclined to stray, and (3) no-nonsense enforcement by the college administration. Here’s what my alma mater, which like Middlebury College is re-opening for the fall semester, has to say about it.
“It is crucial for students to feel comfortable communicating to each other about following health and safety guidelines … We will fail even before we have a chance to succeed if students don’t hold each other accountable. We expect the majority of monitoring and corrective behavior to happen among students.”
New arrivals at Williams are also advised: “If we learn that students are not upholding our guidelines in regard to face covering and social distancing, we will initiate a conversation with a dean. Any continued infractions will result in removal from campus.” A partial list of “egregious actions” is set forth, where a “single violation will result in immediate removal from campus.”
Middlebury College also promises a tough stance on discipline as it embarks on what is probably the most important experiment since its founding in 1800. If administrators, faculty and students are successful, they will make history by showing that large numbers of young people can act with wisdom and maturity during the worst health crises of our lifetimes.
As the college’s website notes: “Although the 2020-21 Middlebury experience will be unlike anything we’ve come to know, we can still have social interactions in a safe way.”
Needless to say, we’re rooting for you!
Dick Beamish
Middlebury

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