Category: Uncategorized

Armed Ex-Officers Could Patrol Local Schools This Fall

In light of recent gun violence across the U.S., the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district is looking to hire a new security force this fall. These officers would dress a bit differently than the current staff of security aides: khakis, polo shirt, a police badge and a gun.

The new roles seem the most controversial among a long list of security improvements planned for the districts’ ten schools. To some parents, the idea of an armed officer roaming the hallways, especially at the younger elementary schools, is worrisome. But for others, the alternative of not having an armed officer onsite is even more so.

According to superintendent David Aderhold, the position officially known as Class III police officer, is “fundamentally different” than the role of the existing five security aides at the local high schools. These officers, often retired from the police force, would be responsible for community policing, educating staff about best security practices and in some cases, acting as an informal counselor to students.

“While the officer serves to support both threat assessment and threat deterrence, their responsibilities are so much greater,” said Aderhold.
The plan was first discussed at the school board meeting on May 8. A week later at the board’s next meeting, West Windsor resident and former board candidate Veronica Mehno presented an online petition with about 70 signatures in protest. Her children attend Dutch Neck elementary school.

“I don’t think that putting Class III officers with a gun in a school will prevent a shooting,” Mehno said. She believes tightened security at school entrances and technological solutions like reinforced windows, locks and surveillance cameras should be implemented before escalating the solution to include arms. She also cited studies linking police presence in schools with increased rates of juvenile delinquency and later, incarceration through what’s called the “prison pipeline.”

Another reason for pushback has been the proposal’s cost — which the petition estimates to be upwards of $500,000 each year.

“This money could very well be used instead to hire more counselors for the schools and fund educational programs that can be more useful and productive, or be returned to taxpayers,” the petition reads. According to Mehno, the board of education did not comment on the petition. In an email statement to The News, Aderhold also said he had no comment.

But for some parents, the costs and risks associated with increased police presence in schools are worth the extra security.

“I understand that other parents are concerned. They’re concerned that the weapon will be drawn for other reasons other than a school shooting … but I trust our entire police department with my children’s lives and that’s not an easy feat by any means to earn that kind of trust,” said Plainsboro resident Amy Diaz, who is a mother of four WW-P graduates, two sons who currently attend Community Middle School. “The most compelling reason is out children’s lives. While the risk is minimal here in West Windsor, our children still need to be protected for the ‘what if’ [scenario].”

Aderhold said the salary, hours and hiring process are still undetermined, though the positions are slated to be filled by September. There will be some police presence during the day at all public schools, with likely double the coverage at both high schools.

“Based upon discussions between school administration and the police leadership, it is our collective recommendation to have a police presence during the academic day at all schools in the district,” Aderhold said.

School shootings are near impossible to predict and difficult to prevent; most tactics from stricter gun control law to arming classrooms with rocks are met with skepticism across the political spectrum.

And as noted in the Sante Fe shooting, a tragedy that unfolded in Texas despite the presence of an armed officer (who was critically wounded in the fight), Class III officers might not be foolproof in preventing student deaths. However, research indicates they could be helpful.

A 2018 report on a school officer program across five Canadian high schools showed a decrease in property damage, injuries from student fights, drug overdoses and 911 calls. The two-year study also found that students and staff felt an enhanced sense of safety in their day-to-day.

There is also recent anecdotal evidence of the program’s value. Earlier this month, a school resource officer in Illinois chased off a potential shooter from the building, eventually wounding him to end the threat.

The WW-P school district would be joining the growing minority of schools who have hired school officers. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, 42 percent of public schools had an officer working at least once a week or more.

Following the debrief and feedback sessions at this month’s board meetings, the next steps will be discussing the program’s logistics with West Windsor and Plainsboro town officials — details such as hours, pay and hiring. A formal resolution will need to be signed by both towns and the school board for the proposal to move forward.

Both town police departments are in favor of having armed officers patrol local schools.

Plainsboro police chief Guy Armour gave a brief statement that he “fully supports” the initiative. It would protect students and create “more opportunities for community policing with the citizens that we serve,” he said.

For West Windsor chief Robert Garafalo, the benefits of having an armed officer onsite in the event of a school shooting, however unlikely, are worth the cost.

“Let’s face it, a well-trained police officer assigned to the school has enormous potential to save lives and neutralize a shooter,” he said. “So, if a Class III officer in the school has the potential to save just one life, just one — what cost do you put on that?”

The likelihood of a school shooting is still low, about 1 in 614,000,000 according to the Washington Post. But most shootings are over in minutes, “long before patrol officers can arrive on scene,” said Garafalo.

And students, especially at the middle and high schools, may already be used to seeing cops in the hallways, according to Garafalo.

“Some complain that they don’t want armed officers in the school, but we are there already. Our officers are constantly in the school for events and to just walk through, and socialize with the kids. Our officers teach DARE and a host of other courses and seminars. Our kids are very comfortable with seeing officers in the hallways,” Garafalo said.

According to Aparajita Rana, the senior class president at High School South, students would feel more comfortable with an armed officer if they were a familiar face, someone who had worked in the school before — whether it be teaching DARE or working as a security aide.

“If armed guards were present, I have heard students say they would be the most comfortable knowing the guards. And it potentially being someone who has been part of the security team for a while.”

Though student opinion remains split on how to stop this national threat, there’s been a loud and united call for action.

“Students argue on both sides with the idea that armed guards and thereby more guns, increases the problem. Others argue in order to combat and protect students, guns are important. I don’t think I could say the entire student body is one side or the other, but the population is being more vocal with the common goal of just overall safety,” Rana said.

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NJ State Prison Under Scrutiny Limits Access to Sanitary Pads, Tampons

For New Jersey’s female inmates, unlimited access to basics like sanitary pads and tampons remains a dream.

While federal inmates were granted free access to both feminine products last summer, inside the Edna Mahan correctional facility (the state’s only female prison), thin off-brand pads are rationed. Tampons are only for those who can afford it. Meanwhile, the prison continues to trip on a string of sexual abuse allegations.

Earlier this month, corrections officer Ronald Coleman Jr., who worked at Edna Mahan since 2000, was charged with seven counts related to sexual assault and eight counts of official misconduct. He joins five of his coworkers charged in the last year, and later indicted by grand jury for sexual assault or misconduct — coercing inmates who cannot give legal consent into sexual relations. One officer, Thomas Seguine, pled guilty to misconduct and was sentenced to three years in prison last May. The other four men still await trial.

For lawmakers, better access to feminine hygiene products is low on the totem pole compared to these ongoing allegations of sexual abuse. But if the supply of sanitary pads and tampons is inadequate, it could violate the 8th amendment, protecting women from cruel and unusual treatment inside Edna Mahan.

“I don’t know if it’s directly related [to the sexual abuse cases], but it has to do with how they’re treated. Are they given inhumane treatment? … If there aren’t enough sanitary napkins, that’s insane,” Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) said, who chaired a committee hearing on sexual abuse inside prisons at the Trenton statehouse last week.

According to the state department of corrections, each woman is rationed 36 pads per month. Lydia Thornton, who was released from Edna Mahan in 2014, described the rationed pads as a quarter-inch thin with no plastic bottom. She said to prevent leaks, they needed to be layered three or four at a time to equal one brand-name sanitary pad.

“I’ve never seen anything like them [in the store],” Thornton said. But even the rationed pads appear to be a commodity, traded by menopausal women for “a couple pack of cigarettes.”

She also described a common trick to make tampons from rationed pads; tampons are only available for purchase at the commissary ($1.25 for a generic pack of 8, or $5.93 for a box of Playtex super tampons). Women serving time at Edna Mahan can also purchase brand-name sanitary pads; a pack of regular-sized Always maxi pads costs $4.88, according to the department of corrections.

Matthew Schuman, the department’s public information officer, said there are supply closets in each housing unit with extra sanitary napkins “if needed,” that are free of charge. Whether inmates have direct access to these closets, or need a staff member to gain access, Schuman didn’t know.

There’s also a link between sexual victimization and access to basic feminine hygiene, according to American University law professor Brenda Smith who testified at the hearing as an expert on sexual abuse in prisons.

She said in a later interview: “It particularly relates to a women’s sense of privacy and autonomy. There is such a deep need to maintain whatever piece of dignity that you have within an institutional setting.” Prison abuse cases in Washington D.C. and Alabama specifically referenced limited access to feminine hygiene products.

A national movement to improve feminine hygiene inside prisons is gaining speed. All federal prisons began offering unlimited access to tampons and pads last fall. In Virginia, a state lawmaker introduced a bill in January to provide state inmates with free tampons. And just last month [February 21], Arizona’s department of corrections agreed to triple the monthly ration of sanitary pads from 12 to 36 and include tampons in the mix, after public backlash. There are now 16 states that offer free tampons to state inmates.

It’s unclear whether New Jersey lawmakers or the department of corrections will follow suit. Instead, lawmakers are considering bigger changes, especially at the Edna Mahan facility where roughly 600 women are now serving time.

“We need an overhaul of the whole system,” said Senator Greenstein. “We’re talking about changing the culture, not only this prison, but all prisons in this state.”

Senator Nia H. Gill (D-Essex and Passaic) agreed that the hearing “demonstrated a systemic failure at the facility that left women vulnerable to assault,” emphasizing the need for a third-party investigator — the department of corrections looks into complaints under its own special investigations division.

Vice president of the local Policemen’s Benevolent Association Sean Sprich, the union representing state corrections officers, suggested that part of the solution be an extra week of training to “keep that line” between inmates and officers; the curriculum used today hasn’t been updated since at least 2010, Sprich testified.

In contrast, advocate Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee pinned the stubborn pattern of sexual abuse on a larger culture of mistreatment, documenting horror stories from state inmates for 45 years.

“I do not know how you legislate a culture in which the powerful make sanitary napkins and toilet paper currency,” she said in her testimony.

 

WW&P Inbox: 3.11.2018

Hello!
Welcome to WW&P Inbox, your weekly update on hometown shenanigans from that gal who never left…

Whether you’re curious about your old stomping grounds, warding off some homesick blues or want to remind yourself why you love/hate the ‘burbs, this is it.

Here’s your latest digest on town happenings feat. dramatic local politics, notable blotter items, the latest store openings, bizarre tweets from townships officials and more.
If you’ve got a news suggestion or any hometown-related q’s, please let me know! Otherwise, thanks for reading. 😀

1. #Thundersnow = “Ludicrous” Conditions, Blackouts

We woke up to maybe a half-inch of snow, then rain, then slushy sleet. Schools and township offices closed in advance — seemed overkill. Then sometime in the afternoon, absolute chaos…
A frantic 4 pm update from the West Windsor police department:
And some photos I took near Clarksville Road later that night, around 9 pm:
One of those disabled cars!
Fallen tree completely blocking Hereford Drive. It uprooted the sidewalk (literally).

#Thundersnow left over 1,500 homes in the area without power. Downed trees (see above) and iced cables were the biggest culprit, but power company PSE&G fixed most issues by noon the next morning.
For me, life without power felt like the longest 20 hours — no heat, no wifi, a dead phone! But it did shed perspective on the still-dire situation in Puerto Rico: 11 percent of the island reported without electricity six months after Hurricane Maria hit. Welp.
 
 

2. Plainsboro’s New Superfresh is Super Asian

After five years of schlepping to ShopRite or McCaffreys, Plainsboro finally got its Superfresh back! It’s in the same location with the same name, but some of the aisles… owner Kevin Kim has given some Asian flair. There are lots of Korean snacks like Chocopies and more cases of Indomie noodles than boxes of Kraft. At the grand opening last month, Kim insisted this huge store (more than twice the size of the old Acme or Mrs. Green’s, now WooRi Mart) has enough space to stock both American and Asian items.
Given that half of Plainsboro identifies as Asian according to a 2016 census, this seems to make some business sense…
But there seems to be a hoard of unhappy Plainsboro residents, sharing discontent on this Facebook page (“Plainsboro Needs a Supermarket“).
Complaints include the overpricing of “Western” items like organic milk and dishwasher pods, to smells wafting from the fish section. With similar stores nearby, like Plainsboro’s Asian Foods Market and West Windsor’s WooRi Mart, some believe this Superfresh would best serve residents if it just did less and gave up the Asian thing, reverting to traditional American groceries.

3. How Many Parking Spots For a Family of Five?

West Windsor’s planning board nearly grappled with this debate on Wednesday, but the meeting was cancelled due to #thundersnow.
The latest development on the table is a neighborhood of seven luxury 5-bedroom homes and three townhouses (two affordable, one market-rate) off Bear Brook Road. At the last meeting re: this proposal, the planning board spent three hours debating its details, specifically whether four parking spots were plenty for a family of five. Off-street parking would be v limited based on the current plan.
One of the town’s planning experts suggested it could be, with the growing popularity of rideshare apps. What “Uber” modern planning…
 

4. Hot From the Blotter

Nothing to report this week. *sigh*
 
 

5. But One Fun Quote!

“West Windsor is famous for what it’s not and what didn’t happen here.” -West Windsor Council president Alison Miller.
Background: we’re not Princeton and that alien invasion of Grover’s Mill from Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast, is straight fiction. Damn it.
 
 

6. And In Case You Missed It…

Last year in West Windsor, three candidates ran in a heated mayor race to replace then-mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh. ICYMI, the most conservative ticket won (longtime board of ed prez and councilman Hemant Marathe) under the slogan “Standing Up For West Windsor.”
Meanwhile, there is no elected mayor in Plainsboro; it’s by appointment. Township voters elect a five-person committee that chooses one of its own to be mayor. Current mayor Peter Cantu, who’s served for 36 years and counting, “ran” unopposed this year. His election = unanimous, 5-0.
That’s all, see you next week! Thanks for reading!
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Guilt of an Immigrant Daughter

I admit I’m an immigrant of privilege — not quite EB-5 wealth, but the H1B-visa kind.

Looking back, my family’s accelerating ride into the upper-middle class stains most of my childhood memories. My clothes from elementary school came from Old Navy; I remember heading straight to the sales rack for the thinnest cotton tank tops, running around half-naked in the summers, trying to keep cool in the apartment we kept at 80 degrees (to save on air conditioning). Then, we moved into a cozy, aging home on a busy town street, until a half-decade later, we had saved enough for a modern house in a quiet cul-de-sac with dramatic skylights and big windows. I daydreamed from the backseat of a beat-up Camry, a used Azera, then a brand new Genesis. Growing up, I remember my parents fought a lot, always about money, until one day I realized their threats for divorce had quietly dissolved into the background of our comfortable, suburban life. And with the help of a little financial aid, I got to attend a very expensive four-year college.

Yet, I have no ambitions to be a doctor, a lawyer, or some kind of broker/consultant on Wall Street. I want to be a journalist. And my parents are puzzled — that’s supposed to be their grandchild, not the daughter they sacrificed everything for to raise in a foreign country, struggling to speak English, lacking a safety net. In a way, I was raised to be their safety net — similar to how the dad of U.S. gold-medalist Chloe Kim calls his daughter, “his American dream.”  

Maybe that is why most first-generation Asian immigrants don’t pursue journalism as a career. After witnessing our parents struggle for financial security, it nearly feels like betrayal to risk their sacrifices (still warm in our memories) for a struggling industry that pays little.

Some days, my journalism itch feels more like a curse.

College Reputation as Wall Street Pipeline Linked to Stubborn Gender-Pay Gap

*ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS, CENTERFOLD IN FALL 2016*

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery.” -Horace Mann, 1848.

Nearly two centuries later, this quote from an early pioneer in U.S. education still rings true – especially among Middlebury graduates. The gender-pay gap among alumni is shocking: female graduates employed full-time are paid half as much as their male peers ten years after enrolling, according to a 2016 report by the Center for American Progress. Compared to other elite liberal arts schools like Bowdoin, Williams and Amherst, our “College on the Hill” ranks worst.

Because the report’s sample size is limited, it’s hard to pinpoint why Middlebury women make so much less than men or even whether the disparity is as large as the numbers suggest. However, national research on the earnings of college graduates confirm that a gender-wage gap is widespread, and persists. Most studies blame this divide on men being more likely to major in fields related to high-paying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

But at a liberal arts college, nearly 80 percent of  Middlebury students don’t major in STEM, according to a 2015 Student Profile report. The College also doesn’t offer pre-professional degrees like engineering. 

Statistics from the College’s Center for Career and Innovation (CCI) suggest it is finance — male students are more likely to pursue and stick with lucrative banking jobs — that explains why this gender-wage gap exists. So as an established hiring pipeline for many Wall Street firms, should the College try to balance the gender gap in finance? It’s complicated.

Report’s Nuts and Bolts Show Some Rust

The Center for American Progress tracked student earnings by matching tax records with federal financial aid forms. The data comes from a single cohort, students that enrolled in college during the 2000-2001 academic year who received federal aid.

According to the report, Middlebury’s gender-wage gap ranked first among NESCAC schools at $51,373. The median difference was $22,964. Williams had a 10-year earnings difference of $25,835; Bowdoin’s was $19,698. The school that came closest to Middlebury was Amherst with a wage difference of $49,393.

But economics professor Caitlin Myers, who studies how economic policies affect women, warned against jumping to conclusions about Middlebury’s performance compared to other NESCACs.

That [gender-wage] gap is for people who attended Middlebury 15 years ago. It’s not necessarily the case that it’s the experience current Middlebury students will have,” she said. She also noted that the report only included the earnings of students who received federal aid so the data might not reflect the gender-wage gap among the entire graduating class.

Another caveat, the sample sizes were likely very small. Only 24 percent of the College’s students received federal aid according to the FAFSA website. If the average entering class is 650 students, the numbers from the report were calculated using just 155 students.

It’s about statistical significance,” Myers said.

Professor Peter Matthews, head of the economics department, raised concerns about the sample size as well.

The sample is small enough that one or two well-paid ‘outliers’ might explain the 2011 outcome,” he said. “It might have been more useful to know, for example, how median compensation for men and women from the NESCAC evolved over this period.”

The Center for American Progress only reported the mean earnings of graduates in its 2016 report. Without the medians, it’s impossible to know whether a handful of salaries skewed the results.

The researchers of this report said they were unable to explain what was causing the national wage gap between men and women because the available data was not broken down by major or career path.

Both professors insist that Middlebury’s gender-wage gap doesn’t stem from discrimination in the classroom. The economics department has actively tried to recruit and retain its female economics majors by hiring more female professors. The current economics faculty is about 50% female.

The proportion of female majors has never been higher, and we expect that it will continue to grow,” Professor Matthews said.

In 1999, only 17 percent of economics majors were women, according to Professor Matthews. In 2016, it has nearly doubled to 35 percent.

This said, there are still more men than women in economics, and the economics major here is larger than at most, if not all, NESCAC schools,” Matthews said. He also noted that the College, as opposed to the economics department, is well-connected to Wall Street and that many male graduates across different majors end up in finance.

If Not a Pipeline Problem, Then What?

Most big firms recruit a junior analyst class that is roughly 50/50 men and women according to CCI director Peggy Burns.

We have recruiters in finance and consulting industries that are really very committed to recruiting women and under-represented groups,” Burns said.

A 2016 international report by World Economic Forum found the percentage of women in junior roles within finance was 43 percent, higher than the average across all industries. In mid-level positions, the proportion of women declined to 33 percent. Among senior analysts, it dropped to 20 percent. At the CEO-level, women held just nine percent of all positions.

Economics major Erin Giles ‘17 worked at a small investment bank in Boston last summer.

I felt like I had an advantage in getting hired because I’m a woman. But I was at an immediate disadvantage once I stepped into the office. It was a very ‘bro’ culture,” she said. “I had to go outside to use the women’s bathroom because there wasn’t one in the building. There just weren’t that many women in the office.”

The Campus reported last spring that Middlebury men were slightly more likely to major in fields linked to high salary jobs, like computer science and economics, than women. But a survey of the class of 2015 graduates revealed the finance was the only sector to remain stubbornly male-dominated six months after graduation. Of the 435 respondents, almost a quarter worked in finance: 29 women and 66 men. A survey of these graduates reported a median salary greater than $70,000, much higher than the $48,821 average salary of all respondents. 

Graphic 1

Graphic 2

When I look at what our women and men [Middlebury alumni] are being offered, I can tell you there is no difference between men and women in that field. If you’re a man offered a finance analyst job and your starting salary is for $80,000, it’ll be the same if you’re a woman,” Burns said.

Difficult Working Conditions for Women in Finance

The wage disparity appears to stem from the unique challenges women must endure to succeed in a competitive work environment that is dominated by this “bro” culture. A recent New York Times op-ed paints a grim picture of Wall Street’s misogynist culture that “go far beyond exclusion from meetings and golf outings,” i.e. public groping to settle a bet.

Wall Street is a specific culture. It is a specific culture of men,” said business psychologist Sharon Horowitz who consults Wall Street firms, in an interview with the Huffington Post.

Professor Myers said work interruptions for having a family could also explain the gender-wage gap in general, not just among Middlebury alumni.

That gender-wage gap widening has been observed in the country. I don’t know if there’s anything unique to Middlebury. Career interruptions for family are disproportionately born by women,” Myers said.

They’re set back by that. [Taking time off] is something they continue to pay for throughout their working lives. Once you step down a few rungs, there are other people passing you by,” Burns said.

The U.S. is the only country that doesn’t require companies to offer maternity leave. But companies who have experimented with generous family-friendly policies have produced staggering results. Patagonia’s child care program has a 100 percent retention rate for moms returning to workforce in the past five years; the national average is 79 percent. In addition, 50 percent of Patagonia’s managers and senior leaders are women. If the wage gap is perpetuated by the lack of women in higher paying positions on the corporate ladder due to taking time off for family responsibilities, one solution might be to mandate generous child-care and maternity leave policies.

The College’s Role in Changing Wall Street Culture?

Higher education has no legal power to change national labor policies. But could elite private schools like Middlebury, as established pipelines to finance careers, reform Wall Street culture to be more women-friendly?

If students are made more aware of the work-life balance challenges specific to women, this future generation of Wall Street bankers could be more willing to create generous parental leave policies or actively change the hyper-masculine office culture.

Fortune Magazine published an article last year citing multiple studies showing that firms could benefit from hiring and retaining more female investors: women are less stubborn, less impulsive and better at evaluating risk.

One possible idea that the College could implement is requiring a “professional ethics” class that includes a gender studies component for all economics majors. But as the College’s most popular major, that could mean hiring new faculty when the endowment has taken a hit. 

Tyler Belmont ‘17, an International Politics and Economics major, thought a mandatory class on gender studies or banking ethics would do little to change Wall Street culture.

I think the learning that needs to take place is outside the classroom,” he said, “For example, stimulating social discussion by inviting outside faculty and making it mandatory for certain majors or classes. A lot of these conversations take place within a social vacuum and never bleeds out to the people who need to participate.”

This gender disparity is also not limited to jobs in finance. It exists in other sectors like computer science (male-dominated) and education (female-dominated). Some students thought it should be required, or at least offered, to all Middlebury students.

I think it should be interdisciplinary because you benefit from getting insights from people who are outside your major. You can get different perspectives,” said political science major Nicole Caci ‘17.

While no course on professional ethics currently exists, the closest offering is Economics and Gender taught by professor Tanya Byker.

Salary as a Measure of Professional Success

A mandatory class like this would work to address the wage gap by creating a better environment for women on Wall Street. But should the College be encouraging more women to work in finance at all?

The Center for American Progress’ 2016 report makes a tricky assumption: the success of female graduates can be measured by whether their income matches male peers.

“It’s not a stereotype but it’s certainly a generalization that women tend to go into fields that are lower paid — like education, like nonprofit,” Burns said. “If women are making a choice about pursuing a career path that is about social justice, social impact, affecting change in the world and it pays less, then god bless them for doing that.”

Moreover, getting women to pursue male-dominated careers might not translate to higher wages in the long run, according to gender studies professor Laurie Essig.

Whether something is more paid or prestigious is who’s working in that field, not about that field in itself,” said Essig. “The more likely the job is likely to be women dominated, the less we pay. ” She cited computer science, bank-telling and gynecology as jobs varying in pay and prestige within the last fifty years.

At least historically, there’s nothing innate about certain fields that make them higher compensated or worthwhile. We make a social decision. Wall Street is valuable. Teaching 4th grade is not,” Essig said.

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So You Wanna Be a Midd Kid?

A plain cheese quesadilla –- no salsa, no sour cream – and a glass of milk.

Middlebury senior Dan Terhune reminds me of his lunch: an American classic, timeless, confident with an effortless old school cool. Little about him is spicy; his opinions are mild. His logic, rational. He’s not bubbly like cola or soft-spoken like warm tea. In one word, Dan, like his lunch, is balanced.

The College’s admissions office hired Dan to work as a tour guide last summer. A self-described introvert, he said giving daily tours to high school hopefuls and their overeager parents wasn’t as stressful, once he “psychologically prepared” himself to do it.

He wrote a script. It even included strategic “off-hand” remarks to ward off moments of uneasy silence that inevitably taint most college tours.

“I had a list of them in my head and would just go down them one by one,” he said. He tears off another perfect bite-sized quesadilla piece and puts it in his mouth. He chews, he swallows. He sips his milk.

It’s clear Dan plans ahead. Dan studies philosophy and writes mostly-A papers. He plays club volleyball. He serves on the judicial board. Dan seems like someone who’s mastered being a Middlebury student, who was maybe born to be one (he’s the eldest son of a “Midd marriage”; both his parents are Middlebury alumni).

Which is why I’m taken aback when he tells me he has no post-grad plans besides working as a barista in Boston, bumming with friends while he considers writing screenplays (though after a couple years, he admits he’ll likely end up in law school).

When I ask Dan what he’s passionate about, he replies with a casual smile, “Baseball, but I know I’m not good enough to play for the Red Sox.”

I ask him again, in my most serious tone with my most stern gaze.

“That feeling I get when I finish a great book or watch a really good movie.”

Dan doesn’t have a favorite film genre – he likes to watch it all. He’s open-minded and unbiased and has a face that could be carved on Mount Rushmore. He’d fit right in on the Supreme Court bench.