Content Warning: This email contains content that can be potentially triggering as it discusses mental health, access to services, and death. Please be advised and engage however feels right to you.
To our Middlebury community,
Many of us are still in a state of grieving, and we want to ensure that all of you are taking the space and time you need to grieve the loss of our peer, Yan Zhou, also known by many as Lisa. Please never hesitate to reach out to your student life deans and/or other Middlebury leadership to secure the resources you need to feel supported. Also, please take a look at the message sent from Mark Orten on November 8th regarding memorial services to be held on November 18th.
The institutional decision to not take an official day off from academics has felt like a disappointment to many members of our community. We understand that this was a difficult logistical decision to make; however, we also know firsthand that the lack of context given publicly as to how this decision was arrived at has left many feeling unsupported and as if our loss was insignificant. This underscores the fact that many people –students and faculty alike– are frustrated with the way we approach mental health at Middlebury. We too share your frustrations.
Based on our conversations with the Senior Leadership Group, we know that there are layers to the decisions made. The SLG has acknowledged that their communication around improving the mental wellbeing of students, staff, and faculty has not been reflective of the sincere thought they have taken to this issue. This said, bureaucratic processes happening behind closed doors do not ease the minds or hearts of a grieving student body, especially when not explained. If you have concerns around how we approach mental health on campus, please reach out to college leadership so we can collaboratively do whatever we can to make Middlebury a better place. We hope that as a community we can all find meaningful ways to navigate a tragic loss through processes of healing and finding common ground.
Middlebury can be an incredibly difficult campus to navigate and as an organization committed to ensuring all students feel included and seen, we want to say that we see and hear you during this time of crisis. We recognize that some members of our community have not taken a trauma-informed approach in response to our loss and mental health in general over the last few weeks. The frustrations around exam/assignment accommodations and scheduling, inappropriate behavior, and access to counseling services are urgent and we share them. Rest assured that all of the above concerns are being addressed immediately and we will be working closely with community partners in the coming weeks to start finding avenues of addressing mental wellbeing on campus in ways that allow all of us to feel supported.
Additionally, to the Asian community, we understand how especially hard this loss and subsequent experience has been. We want to lend ourselves as both advocate, ally, and listening ear for all of you. In the coming weeks, we will be providing accessible ways to discuss your needs and bring them to the attention of College leadership.
During this time, we all will have different ways of processing the variety of emotions we are feeling as a campus community. Now more than ever, please remember to practice empathy and prioritize your mental and emotional well-being. You are all in our thoughts.
CSM Executive Board
The views expressed in these updates are that of the overall CSM Board as an entity, not necessarily as individuals. Additionally, it is our position that these updates should be an official record of the statements of CSM as an organization as it has to do with our operations.