On October 12, 2012, Middlebury College welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama to campus. An announcement was made that in honor of the visit from the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, the College had chosen to demonstrate ethical leadership in divesting its endowment from war and environmental destruction. In reality, the satirical notice about Middlebury’s divestment was written by the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee, a group of students concerned that the College embraces practices inconsistent with its own proclaimed values.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama told the College, “Education is supposed to reduce the gap between appearance and reality.” The intent of the press release was to bring attention to the unsettling reality that Middlebury has millions of dollars invested in industries of violence, while it appears to stand for universal compassion and peace.
The administration attempted to expel the students; however, their effort ultimately backfired. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education quickly voiced their concern regarding the school choosing to clamp down on students’ rights to free speech. The students were granted an open hearing. In front of an audience of 272 people, filling the largest auditorium on campus, they articulated the tradition upon which they drew and morals that compelled them to act. Not only did the judicial board give the students no official College discipline, they expressed their true desire to see Middlebury divest from violence and environmental destruction.
There is a long history of academic institutions divesting to demonstrate their values. Today, a new call to divest is being heard around the nation: Bill McKibben—founder of 350.org and Middlebury College Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Residence—recently kicked off the national “Do the Math” campaign. It is focused on urging universities to divest from fossil fuels because “It just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on.”
- Seven Days - Why Middlebury College Put Five Students on Trial Over a Dalai Lama Prank
- Rutland Herald - Middlebury College students reprimanded after press release hoax
- IntheCac.com - Midd Students Pull a Yes-Men
- Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee - Community Judicial Board Hearing – DLWC Opening Statement
- Foundation for Individual Rights in Education- At Middlebury, Embarrassing the Administration Has a Cost.
- VT Digger - Middlebury Students Distribute Fake Press Release Claiming College Divested ‘Industries of Violence’ Investments
- Midd-Blog - Press Release Sent Out to College Claims Middlebury Will Divest From War
The flyer distributed around campus: