The Drug and Alcohol Awareness Task Force sponsored “It’s Your Choice: Drug and Alcohol Free Weekend,” in an effort to provide as much alternative campus programming as possible in one weekend. Events included concerts, scavenger hunts and a tie-dye workshop.
Dean of Student Life James Montoya appointed David “D.B.” Brown, a counselor in Metcalf House, to the newly created position of associate dean of student life/director of residential life. "This is a position," Montoya explained, "which fills a gap. It will provide one person who oversees the Residence program. One of D. B.'s strengths is that he has close ties with students and faculty, which will lead to faculty involvement on a different level than we've seen." The Miscellany News
The Vassar Environmental Group held a series of events to celebrate Earth Day, including a workshop called “How You Can Make a Difference,” a film screening of Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1980), a VICE sponsored concert by a “biodegradable band” and a Poughkeepsie cleanup. The Miscellany News
English mathematician Roger Penrose, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, spoke on "Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics." Penrose asked students at the outset of his talk whether human thinking could be conceptualized as “the carrying out of some complicated computation,” later concluding that the brain— affected also by incalculable influences such as memory, association and emotion—was much more than an algorithmic machine. The Miscellany News
Professor Emeritus of English and American Studies Alan Trachtenberg from Yale University, a scholar of twentieth century American identity, delivered the lecture "Photography as Cultural Memory." Evie Klein '90 wrote for The Miscellany News that she found found Trachtenberg’s approach to reading photography “a valid and valuable dimension of history,” and postulated that “it looks as though this way of thinking is proliferating.” The Miscellany News.
Professor Trachtenberg’s book, Reading American Photography: Images as History, Mathew Brady to Walker Evans was published in 1989.
The college rededicated Sanders Chemistry Building as Eleanor Butler Sanders Hall. When the chemistry department moved into the new Seeley G. Mudd Chemistry Building, the renovated and refurbished Sanders Hall became the new home for the English and classics departments.
Composer, music theorist and professor of music at Queens College Leo Kraft spoke about his music. A proponent of sight singing and ear training, Kraft primarily wrote chamber music, but he also experimented with vocal and electronic compositions.
Hoping to improve the pass/fail option, the faculty approved a non-recording option (NRO) that allowed students to chose the lowest grade they would like to have recorded in courses offering the option. If they received this grade or above, it appeared on their transcript; if their grade was lower than that which they selected but not F, students received a grade of SA, “satisfactory.” Course instructors had the right to exempt courses from the option.
Dean of Studies Colton Johnson supported the NRO, saying that it should make students more inclined to take unfamiliar courses and to work more consistently in them. “Working to achieve a goal that’s realistic seems to be a better system” than simply aiming to “pass,” said Johnson. The Miscellany News
Dr. C. Everett Coop, United States Surgeon General from 1981 to 1989, delivered the address at Vassar’s 124th Commencement to 550 graduating seniors. Urging the graduates to put the highest priority on their family lives, Koop said he’d seen “too many people determined to be right there for the initial phases of a new project at the office, but absent for the initial phases of a new child at home.” “Life,” he declared, “awards no greater responsibility and no greater privilege than the raising of the next generation.” The New York Times
President Emeritus Virginia B. Smith, a trustee of Mills College since 1988, became acting president of the California institution until a new president could be found. Smith succeeded Dr. Mary Metz, who resigned five weeks after a student strike convinced Mills’s trustees to reverse their decision to begin admitting men to the previously all-women’s college.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait, provoking international protests. On August 3, the Arab League passed a resolution calling for a resolution of the conflict within the League and warned against Western intervention.
On August 7 President George H. W. Bush authorized the start of Operation Desert Shield, “a wholly defensive” stationing of American forces in Saudia Arabia to protect the country from invasion by Iraq, and on August 8 Saddam Hussein declared that Kuwait was now the 19th province of Iraq.
On August 25, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 666, the fourth of an ascending order of resolutions denouncing the Iraqi invasion and imposing sanctions on Iraq. Resolution 666 authorized a naval blockade to enforce the previous sanctions.
An archeologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska, announced the discovery of the mummified remains of over 30 Aleut bodies and numerous artifacts estimated to be 1,000 years old. One of two researchers permitted to remove items for further analysis by the Aleut Corporation, the regional native organization to which the site belonged, was Vassar archeology professor Lucy Lewis Johnson. “We found bodies of both sexes and all ages,” Johnson said. “This cave has given us a priceless glimpse of a realm of culture. It is unique not just because of the number of bodies, but also because it has so many well-preserved organic artifacts.” Among the artifacts was “a finely carved wooden sculpture of a whale or fish with a sea otter or small human on its snout and a bird in flight at the tip of its jaw.” The New York Times
In operation since 1935, the Juliet Theater on the corner of Raymond Avenue and Collegeview Avenue closed, reportedly because it could not compete with the malls’ multiplexes. “No one even knew it was closing until just two days before it shut down,” said one student. “The mall theaters are just so glossy, high-tech and huge,” said another. “The Juliet just seemed to celebrate film for film’s sake.” The Miscellany News
A November 9 editorial in The Miscellany News proposed that Vassar buy the Juliet and convert it to a bookstore and lunch bar.
Edward Pittman ’82 assumed the new position of director of multicultural affairs. Pittman said that while his primary job was “to serve as a resource and advisor to Black, Latino, Asian and International Students, my mission expands to the entire community.” A Poughkeepsie native, Pittman also hoped that Vassar would form a more “substantial relationship” with the city. The Miscellany News
Two “student-age” males sexually assaulted a female student at 2 am on the Town House path. In response to the assault, the security office posted a guard on the TH path from 8 pm to 6 am and accelerated the installation of security phones in isolated areas of the campus, a system proposed earlier by former Vassar Students Association President Heather Fox ’90.
The incident “made everybody think about security in a much more tangible way,” said the head student supervisor of Campus Patrol. A restructuring of Campus Patrol’s budget, raising the hourly wages paid patrollers, was expected to attract more students to the job. The Miscellany News
An oil portrait of former Vassar President Alan Simpson, stolen from the library’s 24-hour room over a year earlier, was mailed back to The Miscellany News. The brown cardboard tube containing the canvas had a New York City postmark, but no return address.
The fourth annual Step Beyond fall festival focused on raising both money and consciousness about school children in Poughkeepsie with the theme “Issues Facing Children in Our Community.” The festival included a Volunteer Day, a 24-hour ultimate frisbee marathon, dorm auctions whose proceeds went to the Step Beyond Children’s Fund, a candle lighting service and an outdoor screening of the Walt Disney film Lady and the Tramp (1950) and a performance by English singer and songwriter Billy Bragg at the Outdoor Theater. "The concert," wrote Brett Cohen '93 in The Miscellany News, "showed Bragg to be a performer with compassion and wit. Hit wide palette allowedhim to paint pictures with rebellious, almost violent vigor and to portray the subtle intricacies and sadnesses of a sensitive boy."
Folami Gray, executive director of the Dutchess County Youth Bureau, gave the keynote address, and Step Beyond’s head coordinator Lisa Collins ’91 hoped that one day Step Beyond would be a “fall festival as big as Founder’s Day.” The Miscellany News
Vassar students joined about 500 community members at the Poughkeepsie waterfront to rally for reproductive rights. The rally was organized by the Student Mid-Hudson Alliance for Choice (S.M.A.C), a consortium of college students from Vassar, Dutchess Community College, Bard and The State University of New York at New Paltz. The Alliance hoped to educate rally participants on issues surrounding sex and reproduction, namely “maintaining safe, legal and accessible abortion, family planning and AIDS education,” as well as domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.
Those who attended heard speeches by “some of the best people that have ever been to Poughkeepsie to address reproductive freedom,” according to historian, activist and the event’s master of ceremonies Allida Black, including Lynn Paltrow from the American Civil Liberties Union, Russ Funk from the National Organization of Men Against Sexism and Patricia Hennesy from Catholics for Free Choice.
The Society to Stop Planned Parenthood held a counter-gathering attended by about 150 anti-abortionists at Our Lady of Lourdes High School. A group of students not associated with S.M.A.C. practiced civil disobedience outside of this gathering and were arrested. The Miscellany News
As one of 30 grantees in the Carnegie Foundation’s Project 30 program to improve science education for elementary school teachers and recruit more minority teachers, Vassar, said Professor of Education Tom McHugh, recognized that the study of multi-cultural education was integral to these goals. McHugh, who headed the Vassar project, explained, “prior to dealing with issues of multi-cultural education, one has to do a lot to better educate the white students to work with minority students. After all, the majority of minority students will be taught by white teachers so we need to expose those teachers to multiculturalism.”
McHugh saw an intellectual exchange between Vassar and Howard University in Washington D.C., a historically black university, as a valuable and fruitful multicultural opportunity. Fourteen students visited Howard to attend the “Cross the Road to the Other Side Multi-cultural Education Symposium.” Following up on a conference held between students and faculty from the two colleges the previous April, this symposium included panel discussions, workshops and presentations, along with informal opportunities for students from each college to get to know one another. The Miscellany News
Dr. Jessica Tuchman Mathews, founding vice president and director of the environmental think tank, World Resources Institute, spoke on “Preserving the Global Environment: The Challenge for the 1990’s.” Matthews discussed population growth, tropical deforestation and global warming, questioning whether political frameworks that saw the nation-state as the basic unit of political-economic systems could deal with global ecological problems. Acknowledging the political difficulties of adapting to sustainable economies, she proposed environmental issues be considered as matters of national security.
In 1997, Dr. Mathews assumed the presidency of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Newbery Medal-winning children’s book author Virginia Hamilton gave the Louise Seaman Bechtel ‘15 Lecture in Children’s Literature in the Villard Room. The following day, Hamilton participated in a panel discussion and storytelling workshop with Harcourt Brace Jonvanovich editor Bonnie Ingber, author and illustrator Barry Moser, New York-based storyteller Laura Simms and poet and children’s book writer Nancy Willard from Vassar’s English department.
As a managing editor at Macmillan Publishing (1919-34), Louise Seaman Bechtel ‘15 was head of the first juvenile book division in America. After retiring from Macmillan, she became a successful author of books for young people. Barry Moser was artist and writer in residence at Vassar in 1998.
The college hosted a conference on the “Crisis in the African Economy” in the Villard Room. Under Secretary General of the United Nations His Excellency Adebayo Adedeji, the Nigerian former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, gave the keynote address. Othe speakers included Dr. Dunstan Wai, a former Sudanese government official who was at the time working with the World Bank; Kenyan political scientist Professor Mahmood Mamdani; Dr. Shelia Smith, a UN official dealing with economic restructuring programs; Claude Ake, an African political scientist with the Brookings Institution; the Senegalese head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, Marie-Angélique Savané and South African political scientist and anthropologist from University of Connecticut, Bernard Magubane. The conference addressed such issues as the effects of imperialism in Africa, the place of women in the structural adjustment of power and the role of the World Bank in Africa.
In a letter to the editor published in The Miscellany News, David E. Burns '91 reminded the college that "one of the first steps in confronting any political problem is understanding it and conducting open discourse on possible solutions," and that the conference was "an excellent opportunity for all to become more informed about the current conditions of the African political-economy and their historic origins." The Miscellany News
A heavy rainstorm over October Break caused flooding in the library. Discovered around midnight, the flood was declared an “all-campus emergency.” Staff was called in, and a call went out for students who were on campus to go to the library to help rescue books. Students and staff removed 16,000 books from the library basement.
1,200 books suffered treatable water damage, and just a few were beyond repair. The Miscellany News
The Miscellany News reported plans to open a lesbian, gay and bisexual students center in the basement of Lathrop. Michael Silverman ‘91, a member of the Committee for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns, stated that the center would be “something along the lines of the Women’s Center,” providing space for meetings and social gatherings. The Miscellany News
Famous for his “Weekend Update” appearances on the television program, Saturday Night Live, Dennis Miller performed a stand-up routine in the Chapel. The Miscellany News found Miller’s kind of humor “accessible and easy to relate to, not simply obnoxious, profane and offensive…. We laughed at jokes about bitchy airline stewardesses and [Vice President] Dan Quayle’s stupidity, but we left the Chapel a little more aware of, and cynical about, the irony and hypocrisy of the human condition.” The Miscellany News
The board of trustees approved an affirmative action policy for hiring faculty, administrators and staff, designed “to alter a pattern of limited participation by one sex or race and to provide a diverse and representative educational environment.” Vice President for Administrative Affairs Natalie Marshall ‘51 drafted the policy, which also created an Affirmative Action Committee made up of members of the faculty, students, administrators and clerical staff. The goal of the new hiring policy was to create a faculty comprised of ten percent minority and fifty percent women within two years. The Miscellany News
The board of trustees approved the construction of the $600,000 Facilities Operations building near South Lot.
Pulitzer Prize winning African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks gave a reading of her poetry in the Villard Room. “She revealed her gift as a reader and interpreter of poetry. Voice and written words combined to create one, emotionally powerful medium,” reported students who had attended the reading, “she proved herself to be a brilliant and inspired poet who continues to produce provoking and sensitive work…her humor and wit kept the audience laughing.” The Miscellany News
Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950 and was Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985.
Hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest played a “short and disappointing set” in ACDC. “Tribe seemed to do well when it wanted to, but never seemed to take control of the show and build up the tension,” reported The Miscellany News.
Tracy Nichols ‘91 finished first out of 170 competitors at the Eastern College Athletic Conference cross-country finals held at Tufts University. With multiple course records, Nichols subsequently traveled to Grinnell College to compete in Nationals the following weekend, where she finished in 19th place, high enough for All-American status.
In 1992 Ms. Nichols received the “Inspiration Award” at the Honda Awards Night, held annually in conjunction with the National College Athletics Association’s annual convention.
A statement signed by 26 black members of the senior class denounced the student commencement committee’s “constant neglect” of black concerns and announced their intent to form a separate black commencement committee to “ensure that our needs are met.” Presented to the senior class officers, the statement said the official committee had ignored the views of the 21-member committee’s three black members and that putting decisions to a vote automatically put the black voice in the minority. “Understand that our graduation means at least as much, if not more than it does to you,” the statement declared. “We should not have to ask that the Class of 1991 include us in its plans for Commencement. It is our right, earned in three hard, alienating years. Given no other choice, we have initiated our own agenda.” All three black commencement committee members resigned. The Miscellany News
A Black Commencement Committee formed from the Class of 1991 revived the long abandoned Baccalaureate ceremony at Commencement. The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at the ceremony in May.
The Miscellany News announced that the Class of 1991 had voted by an “overwhelming majority” for their Senior Class Gift to be used to help make the college more accessible to persons with disabilities. Senior Class Treasurer Tim Decker ‘91 observed that if every member of the class of ‘91 donated $19.91, the class would raise over $11,000, or $4,000 more than any previous class. Decker said he hoped for at least a 91per cent participation rate.
The Vassar Students Association approved the allocation of $70,000 to the newly created capital improvements fund. The fund provided financial assistance to student groups for purchases “designed to save them money in the future and provide long-term benefits,” such as the recently purchased desktop publishing lab. The Miscellany News
Jean Stewart, novelist, poet and disability activist delivered a lecture on the disabilities movement as a part of Women's Week. The author of The Body’s Memory (1986), she spoke about her work at Vassar in 1989.
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 678 requiring Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait by January 15 and empowering states to use whatever force was necessary should Saddam Hussein not comply. The Bush administration called on Western governments to prepare to join in a military coalition to enforce the resolution’s deadline.
Two bands, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors, performed in the Villard Room from 9:30 to 2:00 am. Blues Traveler, the main act, "extended their playing to such an extent that someone had to pull the plug,” literally turning the power off to end the show. The "incredible" show ended with an onstage jam featuring both bands, described as "an orgasmic centerpiece... to a neverending show that numbed many eardrums and proved to the audience the showmanship and funloving nature of all the musicians in the Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler." The Miscellany News
Legendary Jewish Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková performed in Skinner Hall. A survivor of the Terezin ghetto, Růžičková was sent to a series of Nazi concentration camps for five years in her childhood, leading to a lifelong commitment to human rights. Resuming her studies after the liberation of the camp at Bergen-Belson, she won the International Music Competition in Munich in 1951, thus initiating an illustrious international career as performer and teacher.
Nationally recognized environmentalist Robert H. Boyle gave a lecture on “The Hudson: The Microcosm of the World” in Rockefeller Hall, as part of the lecture series “Issues in the Nineties.” Author of The Hudson River: A Natural and Unnatural History (1979), Boyle founded Riverkeeper, the pioneer organization devoted to restoring and protecting the river in 1966.
Robert Boyle spoke at Vassar on restoration and conservation of the Hudson River in April, 1971.
Complying with a law passed by the County Legislature the previous June, Vassar institutionalized its recycling program. Oversight of the program changed hands from the student-run Vassar Environmental Group, where it originated, to the director of halls and residential services, Faith Nichols, and the manager of custodial services and grounds maintenance, Jayne Barry-Smith. “I think it’s much better for the administration to be taking care of recycling now,” remarked Michael Wilmeth ’92, a coordinator of VEG, “there really isn’t any reason why recycling shouldn’t be integrated into the ordinary pattern of running this college.” The Miscellany News
Having installed telephones in all dorm rooms and set up a centralized phone service, the college removed pay phones from residence hall hallways, with the exception of one phone on the first floor of each building.
As the United Nations Security Council’s January 15th deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait passed without compliance, the U. S. led coalition launched Operation Desert Storm, targeting first air support and anti-aircraft facilities and then attacking communication and command resources. Iraq responded with missile attacks on Israel, and what Saddam referred to as “the mother of all wars” began.
Professor of Anthropology Charles Briggs marched alongside 150 other area residents in a “Demonstration for Peace” through downtown Poughkeepsie, protesting the U.S.’s recent entry into the Gulf War.
Returning from their winter break, students formed several organizations in response to the war, representing a spectrum of political perspectives. Vassar Opposed to the War (VOW) was “against the war and for an alternative solution to military action.” During the group’s first meeting in Josselyn House, the 90 students in attendance discussed organizing a protest and blood drive on campus, providing draft counseling and conscientious objector information and coordinating a teach-in day to educate the campus on issues surrounding the war and U.S. involvement.
The Vassar Conservative Society and the conservative student publication The Vassar Spectator jointly formed Vassar Students for a Free Kuwait. A third group of students founded a group that took no political stance, instead focusing on the troops themselves. A member said, “…men and women who are deployed in the Gulf are our peers, relatives and friends…The war is no longer an issue of ideology, of if it’s wrong or right. It’s that it is happening and we need to appreciate their sacrifice.” The Miscellany News
About 300 students, faculty and community members attended a “multi-faith prayer service for peace” in the Chapel. The event’s organizers hoped it would allow people with different political opinions and backgrounds to “find some common ground on which they could come together, pray, and express feelings.” Delores Mack, the director of the counseling service, promised that subsequent such events would be planned, “depending on the needs of the community,” and that a support group would be available for those with friends or family involved in the war.
Responding to a letter signed by nine faculty members, President Fergusson set a date for a faculty forum to discuss how the college would formally respond to the war. “It’s a political act to say ‘we can’t go on with business as usual,’” she observed. Similarly, the Vassar Students Association had not yet taken an official political stance on the war, although it offered financial and logistical assistance to student organizations. The Miscellany News
Fifty Vassar students joined 150,000 people from around the country in an anti-war protest in Washington, DC. Many of the students were members of the recently-formed student organization Vassar Opposed to the War. After the protest, three students attended a National Network of Colleges Against War conference, attempting to link VOW’s efforts with other Hudson Valley colleges.
Iraqi forces attacked and occupied the Saudi Arabian city of Khafi, and coalition forces, under heavy air cover, forced them back. Twenty-five Americans were killed, including 14 in an American gunship that was shot down by an Iraqi missile. Two American soldiers were captured.
The recently authorized Vassar Forensics Team competed in its first meet at Marist College against teams from Cornell University, West Point, Syracuse University and Boston College. Four Vassar students qualified for the national competition in the spring.
The club “offers a forum for people not cast in plays, for example, the duo and dramatic interpretation categories, poetry readers,” explained John Mulkeen ’93, forensics team president. The team was open to “anyone who is interested in any sort of public speaking, not just those who are analytically oriented.” The Miscellany News
The Black Students Alliance organized Black Week, coinciding with Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. A dance and poetry performance called “Rewombing” by Camille Thomas ‘90 kicked off the week’s events, which included Afro-Caribbean dance lessons from the National Dance Theatre of Jamaica, lectures, films and an African goods market.
Pianist Blanca Uribe from Vassar’s music department performed at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Of her “dazzling performance” of Albéniz’s Iberia, New York Times music critic Allan Kozinn said her “fluidity gave dimension to the flamenco guitar and vocal figuration at the music’s heart,” and “…her balancing of bass melodies against dense, syncopated treble accompaniments threw the perfect combination of shadow and light on the music.” The New York Times
Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Chapel for Vassar’s fourth annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, honoring four members of the Vassar community for work in the spirit of Dr. King. Residence hall guards Betty Graham (later known as Betty Francis) and Genie Thrasher received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Presidential Citation for Excellence. “The Lord gave me two things,” said Graham, an employee of 13 years, in her acceptance speech, “he gave me two wonderful parents, and he gave me you, my extended family.” Graham thanked the faculty (“my special friends”) and students (“my little loved ones”). Students Tanya Odom ’92 and Elizabeth Meyer ’91 were recognized for their work with local social service organizations in Vassar’s Beyond the Gates program.
The ceremony featured performances by the Vassar College Gospel Choir and the Ebony Theatre Ensemble. Professor of Sociology, Africana Studies and Religion Lawrence Mamiya stood in for the scheduled keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Oscar L. McLaughlin, who was delayed because of traffic. In his impromptu speech, Mamiya recalled his experiences with voter registration with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Georgia during the 1960s.
Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis gave a lecture, which was followed by a sold-out concert in the Chapel, on “Jazz as a Form of Resistance in Black Culture” in the Villard Room. Both events were major components of the student-organized Black Week. The Miscellany News found Marsalis’ speech to be “full of contradictions and lacking in coherence, in strong contrast to the clear, linear improvisations that he later performed in the chapel with grace and ease.” The Miscellany News
The Junior Year Abroad office offered to accommodate any change because of the Gulf War in students’ plans to study abroad in the coming semester. At least six students who had planned to study in Israel, Russia, Germany and Italy had already cancelled their plans. The Miscellany News
Ellen Timberlake, acting director of religious activities and chaplaincy services, announced her resignation, effective in April. Timberlake replaced Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson the previous spring, temporarily leaving her position in the career development office at the request of Dean of Student Life James Montoya. “One of the things we’ve…tried to do this year,” Timberlake said, “is complement the traditional Catholic, Jewish and Ecumenical Protestant services with alternative ways of exploring other expressions of faith.” The Miscellany News
The Vassar Students Association authorized the Black Commencement Committee (BCC) as an organization separate from the Senior Class Commencement Committee (SCCC), institutionalizing an informal split in the committee earlier in the year. “This is not a committee for the present,” said the new committee’s chair, Rita Grosvenor ’91, “it will stay as long as the need exists.” President Fergusson gave the decision her blessing, telling The New York Times, “I think something good has come out of a very difficult situation.”
One student called the creation of the BCC “a giant leap backwards that is symbolic of the disintegration of our campus community.” Others questioned the precedent that a separatist committee of this sort would set, and whether it would encourage the formation any number of minority commencement committees. But, Grosvenor said, “The only precedent we’re setting is that it’s O.K. to be different.” The object of the new committee, she said, “is to provide an outlet for cultural and social needs that are not being met.” She added that, while planning special events such as a trip to Great Adventures theme park and the Baccalaureate service and reception, the BCC would continue to collaborate with the SCCC. The Miscellany News
At Commencement time, Vassar’s innovation was sometimes deplored and sometimes misunderstood. Syndicated columnist Richard Reeves, the stepfather of a graduate, wrote in a column, “President Fergusson invited Jesse Jackson to speak, for a fee paid by the school, at a black-run baccalaureate…. Jackson blamed the White House for campus divisions. Most parents seemed ignorant of these events. The black students did attend commencement ceremonies after their own program, many of them wearing colorful tribal sashes from Ghana or Togo over their gowns.” Reeves excoriated the “administrators and instructors unwilling to teach that in the life beyond this isolated pastoral environment, the answer to petty demands is usually ‘no.’”
Clarence Page, the African-American columnist for The Chicago Tribune, imagined, as did others, that the college had a separate Black Commencement. In “Solidarity Needn’t Keep Blacks Out of the Mainstream,” Page reported that at “super-liberal Berkeley, for example, Hispanic students held separate bilingual commencement exercises this year. Black students at Vassar and Northern Illinois University did the same, although in English and with an ‘Afrocentric’ orientation.” William F. Buckley, Jr. shared the same delusion with his readers—missing also by two years the event’s numerical status—writing, “Vassar’s 127th commencement became two commencements, the second one organized by black students.” The Seattle Times, The Chicago Tribune, William F. Buckley, Jr., Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist
Coalition troops, mainly American, invaded Iraq from the south, in a feint move to draw Iraqi responses. On February 24, large numbers of British and American armored forces moved from Kuwait into Iraq, capturing many Iraqi troops.
On February 25, an Iraqi “scud” missile hit an American barracks in Dhahran, Saudia Arabia, killing 28 Americans.
The women’s swimming and diving team set eight school records and 48 personal bests at the state championships at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, finishing sixth in the overall competition. Freshman Patty Lewandowski ’94 was the highest scoring diver in the meet, winning both the preliminaries and the finals, and qualifying her for the NCAA Division III championships to be held in March. Lewandowski’s win marked the “first time in Vassar history that a diver had won at board at the state meet,” and Coach Lloyd Goldstein said the girls’ performance was “one of the better meets Vassar has ever had.” The Miscellany News
Draft counselor and Vietnam veteran Alan Nelson spoke to students about militarism, pacifism, the reinstatement of a draft and ways to be exempted from military service. Deeply involved in the peace movement, Nelson traveled throughout the country talking to young people. Toward the end of his talk, Nelson declared that Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon (“three great men”) would be against the war if they were alive today. The Miscellany News
Professor of Anthropology Walter Fairservis, Jr., the director of Vassar’s Asian studies program and the main planner of the permanent exhibition hall of the peoples of Asia at the American Museum of Natural History, wrote to The New York Times, deploring the lack of cultural knowledge in the nation’s policies and actions. Charging that the “great factories of learning such as Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Chicago…should be throbbing with discourse aimed at finding understanding of a basis of our actions,” he claimed that “politicians, news commentators and journalists” had “made no real efforts to know about the history or motivations of the Arab peoples.”
“Should the United States,” Fairservis asked, “continue to furnish armaments and armies for friend and foe alike and remain essentially passive as the innocent are slaughtered in consequence?”
By a unanimous faculty vote, the college cancelled a day of classes for an all-campus Gulf War teach-in. Organized by an ad hoc committee of students, faculty, staff and administrators, the teach-in included a variety of panels and faculty and guest lecturers. Professors Betsy Amaru, Constance Berkley and Michael McCarthy discussed Judaism, Islam and Christianity in relation to the war. Associate Professor of Political Science, Frederick Bunnell a moderated panel on Middle Eastern Politics and the future of the Middle East with Professors Lew Brownstein and Ahmad Haffar from the State University of New York at New Paltz, Jerusalem Post reporter Joe Bainerman and Asaf Cymbal ’91.
Other panels talked about race and class in the Persian Gulf, and Georgetown University political ethicist Professor Marilyn McMorrow led a broader discussion of whether war was justified, looking at changing American attitudes towards war throughout time. Draft counselor Jo Becker from the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Vassar Students Association President Christopher Kimm ’91 led a workshop that explained reasons for possibly reinstating a draft and discussed how to file as a conscientious objector.
“Instead of each group speaking to their own limited audience, it was a day where we could all educate ourselves,” Ron Eckstein ’92 reflected. “Although there was definitely a leftist slant, it was a good idea to gain perspective on some issues that weren’t previously discussed. It was a pleasant change from the usual Vassar separation,” he concluded. “Unfortunately, it didn’t clear anything up for me personally,” said Olin Thompson ’93, “but I do feel it provided some valuable information.” The Miscellany News
The Vassar Students Association approved the student organization Vassar Opposed to the War in a vote with 11 in favor, six abstentions and none opposed.
The board of trustees voted to increase the cost of room, board and tuition from $20,170 to $21,770, the smallest percentage increase in four years, according to Vice President for Finance and Treasury Anthony Stellato. Additionally, the board raised the admissions application fee from $50 to $60, up from $30 in 1988.
Meeting sporadically strong resistance, coalition forces with heavy air cover moved into Kuwait and headed toward Kuwait City. As 150,000 ground troops and 5,000 tanks advanced, retreating Iraqi troops set fire to some 700 oil wells and laid extensive waves of land mines to slow down firefighters.
After 100 hours the coalition ground campaign had forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. On February 28, President Bush declared a cease-fire and proclaimed Kuwait liberated.
The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre gave its annual Bardavon Opera House performance, which included an appearance by guest artist Phillip Otto of the Pennsylvania Ballet.
The college announced a projected fiscal year budget deficit was between $1.4 and $2 million. Asked about immediate responses to the deficit, Treasurer and Vice President for Finance Anthony Stellato said, “I don’t envision any layoffs…We are embarking on a program whereby we are going to scrutinize a number of functions we are performing to see if we can perform them more efficiently.” The Miscellany News
Vice President for Administrative Services Natalie Marshall ’51 announced that she would retire at the end of the school year. Marshall’s duties were absorbed by other senior officers. A former professor of economics, dean of studies and vice president for student affairs, Marshall planned to attend law school and specialize in labor law or arbitration. “I expect to be a neighbor and a loyal alum,” Marshall said, “I have enormous respect for the College.” The Miscellany News
An article in The New York Times imagined “a student at Vassar College looking dreamily out of the Victorian-modified, Elizabethan-style casement window in Rockefeller Hall in the middle of a lecture in 1897” when reviewing Windows Through Time: American Windows From the 1630s to the 1930s, an exhibit in The National Buildings Museum in Washington, DC. Although set a year too early, the image was provoked by an original window from Rockefeller Hall (1898), one of 18 windows chosen by the exhibit’s curator, Charles E. Fisher, “to foster a greater appreciation of historic windows in historic buildings.”
None of the windows were cleaned or repainted, and all were hung at the height they would have been at in their original settings. Among other windows in the exhibit were a large, industrial steel window from the Lippincott Press Building in Philadelphia from 1911 and two windows from Lowell, MA, one from the house of a millworker and the other from a mill owner’s home.
Jeffrey Chance, assistant professor of chemistry and Jewett house fellow, died at the age of 33. A memorial service was held in the Chapel, and gifts in Chance’s memory could be made to Vassar’s scholarship fund.
Having been a first- through fifteenth-place finisher at the National Collegiate Athletic Conference Division III meet held the previous fall, cross-country star Tracy Nichols ’91 was recognized by the National Coaches Association (NCA) as an All-American athlete. Nichols had later been disqualified for stepping on the boundary on a hairpin turn, an error made by several other competitors on that day. Vassar cross-country coach, Ron Stonitsch appealed the decision, noting inadequate course markings, the disproportionate punishment for a minor infraction and Nichols’s physical disadvantage, a health disorder that limited her vision in bright sunlight. Despite acknowledgment by the NCA, recognition of Nichols’ title by the NCAA remained pending. The Miscellany News
Fishbone, “the band that defies categorization by melding rock, ska, hardcore and funk together to form a unique sound” performed in Kenyon Hall. The Miscellany News called their “hyper-kinetic” music “hard, loud, and yet cohesive.” The band’s instrumentation included guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, alto saxophone, trombone and trumpet.
Dr. Bernadine Healy ’65 became the first female director of the National Institutes of Health. During her first weeks as director, Healy announced a major research effort on neglected female medical issues. Healy “commands attention,” wrote The New York Times, “with her palpable intelligence, her clear sense of direction and her neat, very blonde presence.” Self-identified as a Republican, she told The Times “my heart and soul is feminist.”
The Miscellany News reported Governor Mario Cuomo’s proposal to cut state-administered Bundy Aid subsidies to independent colleges. Anthony Stellato, vice president for finance and treasurer, predicted, “the loss to the College will probably approach a half of a million dollars.” Stellato doubted that these cuts would affect financial aid awards for the coming year, since packages had already been set. The Miscellany News
The conservative student newspapers the Right Angle and the Vassar Spectator announced that they would merge as one publication. “After almost three years of division, this action will effectively reunite the Conservative constituencies at Vassar,” stated a letter read at the Vassar Students Association Council meeting. The Miscellany News
Professor of Dance Jeanne Periolat Czula arranged a last minute visit to campus by American tap dancing legend Gregory Hines, who was in Poughkeepsie for a benefit concert. Despite short notice, several hundred students gathered in the Kenyon gymnasium to hear Hines talk and give a tap dance demonstration. “While speaking, he changed into his tap shoes,” reported The Miscellany News, “and from that point on, dancing was a fully integrated part of his talk.” The Miscellany News
The student organization Vassar Opposed to the War (VOW) held a rally in protest of President Bush’s proclamation of April 5-7 as “National Days of Thanksgiving…to give thanks to Almighty God for the liberation of Kuwait.” One student protestor burned an American flag at the poorly attended protest. The Miscellany News
For the first time, students were able to pre-register for courses online. Accessible from any campus computer, the new system made course information immediately available, and cut back registration inaccuracies as wells as hours previously spent waiting in line to register in Kenyon Hall, according to Registrar Dan Giannini.
The AIDS education committee proposed that Baldwin Health Services offer confidential HIV/AIDS testing. A student survey administered by the committee showed overwhelmingly support for AIDS testing, but more than half of the respondents said they would only use the service if it were anonymous and not noted on their medical charts. The committee suggested the tests be free for students, and since the college already employed four certified testing counselors, costs for the college, “will not be high,” Dr. Irena Balawadjer, the director of health services, explained, “It’s just a question of lab time.” The Miscellany News
The task force on science and math, a group created by Dean of the Faculty Nancy Dye ’69, proposed a quantitative analysis course requirement. “The purpose of the requirement is to allow students greater exposure to the development of quantitative skills and to enhance the general educational experience at Vassar.” The Miscellany News
The Lesbian and Gay Alumnae/i of Vassar College held its Spring Conference on campus. Events included panel discussions on “The Future of the Gay and Lesbian Movement” and “The Lesbian and Gay Community at Vassar Through the Years.” A workshop focused on “The Personal and the Professional: Workplace Issues for Lesbians and Gay Men.” The student organization Bisexuals, Gay and Lesbians in Alliance also sponsored a dance in the Aula.
The College hosted its first All-Parents Weekend, the successor to Freshman and Sophomore Parents Weekends. Parents attended classes and panel discussions, visited with professors and administrators and participated in a parent/student one-mile walk.
The varsity women’s crew team won first place at the Knickerbocker New York State Collegiate Rowing Championships. “The successes of both the men’s and women’s crew teams this year were astounding,” wrote The Miscellany News, “considering the facilities and resources with which the team operates.”
The college flew an Earth Flag beneath the American flag on Main Building during Earth Week at the request of the Vassar Environmental Group, the student organization responsible for Earth Week programming. Upset that the Earth Flag was placed below the American flag, one student said, “Vassar is making the statement that allegiance and concern for the global environment is important, but only insomuch as such allegiance and concern is subordinate to nationalism…. It is imperative that we place the interests of nation-states in proper perspective and realize that those interests are meaningless unless the natural systems of the biosphere are intact.” The Miscellany News
President Fergusson, architect Cesar Pelli and Frances Lehman Loeb ’28 wielded Matthew Vassar’s spade to break ground for the Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center, nearly ten years to the day from when the facility was conceived, as President Fergusson noted in her convocation address a few days earlier.
Cesar Pelli’s lecture to the year’s last Art 105-106 class, “Pelli on Pelli,” preceded the groundbreaking ceremony. “This is not a normal art gallery,” Pelli explained. “It is primarily a teaching experience…. Natural light is important in a teaching collection. It is more real for studying ancient pieces made before electric light.” As to the 20-foot square galleries, they were, Pelli said, “the size of the galleries at the Frick.”
Pelli’s description was echoed by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith in her review nearly three years later of both the new building and an exhibit, The Golden Age of Florentine Drawing. “Inside the Loeb Art Center,” Smith wrote, “the high ceilings of the central hallway and main galleries have cathedral-like clerestories that bathe nearly 500 artworks, from Chinese ceramics and Egyptian sculptures to paintings by Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, Arthur Dove and Mark Rothko, in soft natural light.” The Miscellany News, The New York Times
A red maple tree was planted in memory of Jeffrey Chance, former assistant professor of chemistry, who died earlier in the year. The memorial was funded by donations from various administrative offices, the chemistry department, the Vassar Students Association, Jewett House officers, and the student/faculty/administrator band The Raymond Avenue Ramblers.
Retreat and Mug manager Helen Huber announced plans for her “all-campus wedding” to Vassar buildings and grounds employee Bucky Northrup, to be held in the Chapel and followed by a reception in the Villard Room. “There’s an electricity students have about life and people in general that fascinates me. Society needs that type of energy, and students have it,” Huber explained, “I am happy with students, so I wanted them at my wedding.” Fliers posted in buildings and a large sign in the College Center invited the whole campus to the events.
Huber gave students full responsibility of coordinating entertainment for the wedding. “Not knowing adds an element of surprise that fascinates me,” Huber said. The entertainment included songs by the Vassar College Gospel Choir, Measure 4 Measure and several students from the class of ’91, plus an original Jamaican ballad. The Miscellany News
Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at Baccalaureate services. His statements that “we cannot bury our heads in a single language and a narrow historical tradition and call that education. We must learn to live together in the real world and find strength in our diversity” were particularly resonant given the ongoing controversy on- and off-campus over the creation and actions of the Black Commencement Committee at the start of the 1990-91 academic year. The Miscellany News
Founding co-chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research Dr. Mathilde Krim delivered the 1991 Commencement address. Krim spoke about the lessons learned from the AIDS tragedy, saying, “From our flawed and slow national response to AIDS, we ought to learn that in a democracy, the government rarely leads. It must be the people, we the people and voters, who must lead and make the government act through the legislative and appropriations process that make things happen.” She noted that, “AIDS teaches us that we must never let our innate sense of what is fair and just be dulled, that we must participate in the political process to make our opinions heard, and that, when necessary, we must exercise our right and civic responsibility to express indignation, to protest and even to engage in civil disobedience.” Press & Information Office, News
The department of halls replaced a new scheme of rotating desk messengers around the residence halls with the earlier plan that placed messengers in specific halls. Joyce Ackert, a messenger in Main Building, supported the decision: “As messengers, I feel that we should give it our all. By being in one dorm, we get to know each and every individual, and we get to know them as one of our own. We can protect them a lot better this way.” The Miscellany News
Construction began on a new South Parking Lot adjacent to Skinner Hall along Raymond Avenue. The lot added 500 spaces, roughly doubling the available parking on campus, some of which had been lost due to recent construction and landscaping changes with the implementation of the Sasaki Associates’ landscape master plan that began two years earlier.
Dean of Student Life James Montoya left Vassar to become dean of undergraduate admissions at his alma mater, Stanford University. Dean of Studies Colton Johnson added the duties of acting dean of student life to his dean of studies work for the 1991-92 academic year. Montoya was Vassar’s first dean of student life, leaving his position as director of admission in the summer of 1989. “…although I am thrilled to be at Stanford again,” said Montoya in a Miscellany News interview, “the phone call to President Fergusson, notifying the school of my new appointment and my upcoming departure, was the hardest one I’ve ever had to make… I’m convinced there are few colleges as exciting and as academically challenging as Vassar.” The Miscellany News
The Senior Commencement Committee changed its name to the Senior Class Council, to better encompass the breadth of the committee’s activities, which encompassed the whole of senior year. Going forward the council would be comprised of four elected executive class officers and a panel of seniors who would apply and be selected by the executive officers.
President Fergusson chaired the first meeting of the new Priorities and Planning Committee, a group comprised of the senior officers of the college and members of the two major faculty committees, the Faculty Policy and Conference Committee (FPCC) and the Faculty Appointments and Salaries Committee (FASC) and supplemented by members of the staff of the vice president for finance. The committee’s charge was to meet at least monthly to review, line by line, all aspects of the college’s financial operations with the goal of defining and making plans to eliminate the structural deficit that had been revealed in the last audit of the college’s operations.
Within two years, the committee’s goals were accomplished, and it continued to meet as an oversight group.
Congress passed the Student Right-To-Know and Campus Security Act, requiring college campuses to collect and publish and distribute campus crime statistics and security policies to all students and employees.
President Fergusson announced that she would take a six-month sabbatical beginning January 1, 1992, to travel to England, West Africa, Southeast Asia and potentially Latin America. Her letter distributed to the campus community said the leave would enable Fergusson “…to return to the campus next summer rested, with new insights, and ready to work on the very significant challenges the college will face in the next few years.” The Miscellany News
Step Beyond ‘91, a week dedicated to encouraging awareness and engagement with social issues and the Poughkeepsie community, focused on domestic violence. Step Beyond sponsored a gallery exhibit, residence hall auctions, Volunteer Day in Poughkeepsie, an all-campus party and an Ultimate Frisbee marathon on Noyes Circle with food and live music. The money raised was donated to Grace Smith House, a Poughkeepsie haven for victims of domestic violence, and the Dutchess County YMCA’s battered women’s services.
Gwen Wright, executive director of the New York Coalition Against Domestic Violence, gave the week’s keynote address, “Issues Concerning Domestic Violence.” “The problems of domestic violence are a microcosm of violence in society at large,” Wright said. She urged students to fight domestic violence through educating youth. The Miscellany News
African-American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron performed as part of Step Beyond week.
Jamaican dancer and choreographer Barrington Montcreef, a founder of the Jamaican National Theatre, produced an original 19-minute piece for the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT), complete with original costumes and live drums and flute accompaniment. Montcreef taught dance classes for Black Week in 1990/91 and was asked to return by Professor of Dance Jeanne Periolat Czula. “This year is VRDT’s tenth year of performing at the Bardavon Theatre and we wanted to do something special,” said Periolat Czula. “Barrington is a very hard worker and [Jamaican dance] is an extremely alien form of movement for dancers trained primarily in classical dance.” The Miscellany News
Producer and director Zelda Fischandler, master teacher of acting and directing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, spoke with drama majors and members of the college community in Avery Hall about theater and its place in society. The director of The Acting Company, Fischandler cofounded the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, in 1950. Ficshandler brought The Acting Company to campus in October for a workshop.
A member of the Class of 1994 committed suicide in Raymond House. Her parents attended a memorial service on campus. The Miscellany News
The Miscellany News reported that the college had accepted a proposal by Dean of Studies Colton Johnson that students approved by the Committee and Leaves and Privileges to enroll in more than 5.0 units in a semester need not pay an additional per-unit fee.
The Vassar Experimental Theater presented The Wheel, by Bangladeshi playwright Selim al-Deen, directed by drama professor Denny Partridge. Partridge directed The Wheel, an adaptation by Steve Friedman of Syed Jamil Ahmed’s translation of Al-Deen’s Bengali play, Chaka, at its American premiére at Antioch College in 1990, before coming to Vassar. Al-Deen’s play combined traditional story-telling methods of folk theater with more experimental forms.
Investigative journalist Allan Nairn lectured in the Villard Room on “Human Rights, the Media and U.S. Foreign Policy: An Investigative Journalist’s Perspective.” A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, The Nation and the Public Broadcasting System series, Frontline, Nairn discussed the influence of the oil and chemical industries on U.S. military involvement in Central America, Israel, Iraq and East Timor.
He “challenged the integrity of the press,” The Miscellany News reported, “in accurately covering these actions and in communicating the truth to the public.” Nairn told his audience, “What matters is not what is on public record, but what is on the public mind.” The Miscellany News
The 12-member male a cappella chorus Chanticleer: An Orchestra of Voices, founded in San Francisco in 1978, presented a program ranging from Renaissance songs to contemporary musical selections, in Skinner Hall.
Vassar women’s tennis team won the New York State Women’s Collegiate Athletic Association Championship Tournament at Syracuse University. Of the nine final matches, Vassar women played in seven.
Director of Food Services Jim Hartman, an employee of the college’s food vendor, ARA, resigned after a letter recently released by the VSA Council accused him of being “unresponsive and unsympathetic to students’ concerns.” ARA District Manager Robert D’Angelo said that Hartman stepped down because of “personal frustrations” and that together they had decided that resigning “was the right thing to do.”
Acting Dean of Student Life Colton Johnson urged ARA to work with a projected student-faculty Food Committee to correct by Spring Break the problems outlined by the council. ARA’s contract with the college was on an annual basis. The Miscellany News
Craig Harris ’80, director of education for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Organization and an AIDS patient, and Eric Moscow, M.D. ’80, a doctor who treated AIDS patients, spoke together in the Villard Room. “There is no group more difficult to convince of the risk of AIDS than heterosexuals,” Harris said. In response to how he was dealing with his disease, Harris responded that he would live every moment as fully as he always had and to “go out like a f***ing meteor.”
Harris died from the disease on November 26. The Miscellany News
Jonathan Kozol spoke in Avery Hall on his recent book, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. Telling his audience, Jennifer Rappaport '93 wrote in The Miscellany News, that "He is shocked, "that legislators "think it bizarre" to suggest "that money is the solution to poverty," Kozol laid out six actions that needed to be taken if the country's school systems were to become effective: universal access of all eligible three and four year-olds to the Head Start program; capping enrollment in all classes at 20 students; teachers' payscales that rose inversely to the level of poverty of those they taught; remediation of decayed facilities through a Federal School Construction Bill; strict government oversight of equity of educational access and quality—"he believes in justice, not the charity of rich people"—and abolishment of property taxes as the primary means of public education. The lecture was presented as a part of the campus lecture series, Issues for the 90’s.
Kozol spoke at Vassar in 1968 about his controversial first book, Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools (1967), written after Kozol, a substitute teacher in Boston, was discharged for reading African-American poetry to a fourth grade class. He also spoke at the college in November 1972 and November 1973.
The president of New York City’s Planned Parenthood, Alexander Sanger, grandson of the organization’s founder, Margaret Sanger, spoke in the Villard Room in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the birth control movement in the United States on “Is Access To Birth Control Rights Unraveling?” Fifteen Poughkeepsie residents picketed Main Gate, protesting the presence of a pro-choice speaker on campus. “The American people have a great deal of common sense and want to protect women’s reproductive freedom,” commented Sanger about the protestors. “These people are here to restrict and censor that freedom.” The Miscellany News
In the summer of 1926 Sanger’s grandmother participated by means of a radio address called “Racial Betterment” in the first Euthenics Institute at Vassar, creating a stir when she praised attempts to “close our gates to the so-called ‘undesirables’” and proposed efforts to “discourage or cut down on the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable at home,” by government-subsidized voluntary sterilization. Esther Katz, ed., The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, vol. 1 (2003)
Sudanese novelist and short story writer Salih Al Tayyib spoke on “Writing as a Moral Action: The Arabic Literary Tradition.” Salih’s fiction worked frequently with themes of cultural dislocation and of conflicts between the cultures of the east and the west. He once told the Arabic press, “I have redefined the so-called east-west relationship as essentially one of conflict, while it had previously been treated in romantic terms.”
In 2001 the Arab Literary Academy in Damascus declared his novel, Mawsim al-Hijra ila al-Shamal (1966)—translated in1969 as Season of Migration to the North—the most important Arabic novel of the 20th century. “Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih dies aged 80,” The Guardian, 19 February 2009
Detroit Mayor Coleman Young delivered a lecture on “Rebuilding America’s Industrial Cities.” As Detroit’s first Black mayor, serving five terms from 1974 to 1993, Young wrestled with issues of race, white flight to the suburbs and police brutality, and he oversaw the controversial construction of landmarks such as the Renaissance Center and the Detroit People Mover.
Dr. Lenora Fulani, chair of the New Alliance Party spoke in the Villard Room. In 1988 Fulani became the first African-American and first woman to be on the presidential ballot in every state, representing a Black-led, multi-racial, pro-gay, progressive political party.
The bookstore installed a $15,000 high-tech security system over winter break in response to an increase in theft, mostly of such items as clothing, books and toiletries. Bookstore manager Claire Tooker said, “We have had our share of students stealing. The college gave permission for the system, and the college means business.” The Miscellany News
Vassar announced that it was “considering joining a program that would enable the college to provide millions of dollars in low-interest loans to its students and their parents.” The program would provide $45 million dollars in bonds to six area colleges, whose tax-exempt status would allow the interest to be “lower than conventional loans.” On January 11th, Governor Mario Cuomo officially invited Vassar into the program, which would “help more low- and moderate-income students afford to go to six of New York’s best private colleges.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Tracy Nichols ’91, a former member of the cross-country team and “only the second All-America selection in the school’s history,” won the Honda Inspiration Award “for overcoming an ailment that has plagued her since she was 11.” The disease, pandysautonomia, prevented her from perspiring. The Poughkeepsie Journal reported, “The only way Nichols [was] able to compete throughout her collegiate career [was] with the help of people literally throwing buckets of water on her along the course so that she wouldn’t overheat and collapse from heat stroke.”
Nichols, who studied in Leningrad on a fellowship after graduating, set several cross-country records and won several awards while at Vassar.
Nicki King ’92 became Vassar basketball’s all-time leading scorer during a victory over Nyack. Four days earlier, King, a psychology major, became the third player in the school’s history to score 1,000 points. “I just like playing basketball because it is fun,” she said. “If the records come that is fine.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Following a recommendation by the Security Advisory Committee, the college began locking residence halls days and nights, allowing entry only by individual keys and student ID cards. The policy was implemented to prevent non-students from entering the halls, in response to a series of recent incidents that included a Poughkeepsie resident using showers in Main Building and a man found hiding in a student’s closet.
Many students expressed disappointment in the new system, particularly because keys were fitted to individual dorms rather than allowing students universal access to all residence halls. “This has done something to our psyche,” said one sophomore. “Our fundamental rights have been taken away. We should have the right to enter the dorms freely.”
A temporary measure, the key system was replaced with a more flexible electronic card-entry system the following year. The Miscellany News
An anonymous caller targeted several gay students with threatening voicemails, leading one student to take a leave of absence. The Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alliance (BiGALA) staged a protest in the College Center, playing tapes of the voicemails for four days and urging students with information about the anonymous caller to come forward.
A student was eventually charged as the caller, and although the College Regulations Panel found insufficient evidence to find him guilty, he withdrew from the college. The student who took a leave of absence also chose to withdraw. The Miscellany News
Members of the women’s swim team broke ten records during the Seven Sisters Swimming and Diving Championship, held at Vassar. The team finished fourth out of the five competing schools, but “every woman on the team swam her best time of the year,” according to Coach Cheri Jurgens, who attributed the women’s success to their hard work during the winter break and pre-season training. “We put in obscene amounts of time in the pool over break and the hard training really paid off this weekend,” added co-captain Gail Krovitz ’93. The Miscellany News
The Vassar College Madrigal Singers performed works by composer Bill McClelland at Dance Theater Workshop in Manhattan. The 16-member ensemble sang McClelland’s “The Ballad of Don and Dan,” crafted by Ian Frazier from “news items describing a bizarre murder in Montana in the mid-1980’s,” as well as musical adaptations of nature poems by Elizabeth Bishop ’34 and Richard Wilbur. Though the choir struggled with the “dry commentary” of “The Ballad of Don and Dan,” they “delivered an otherwise smooth performance.” The New York Times
Dr. Betty Shabazz, a civil rights activist and the widow of slain Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, lectured on equality in the Villard Room. Shabazz urged students, “Consider your own time and your own space, and consider what you must do to make this world a better place.” The director of communications and public relations at Medgar Evers College, Shabazz made a number of pointed statements, citing blacks as “the only ones who truly understand multiculturalism” and disavowing comparisons between the situations of blacks and gays, saying, “No way, there’s no comparison… you weren’t brought over here on slave ships.” The Miscellany News
African-American historian and activist Dr. Vincent Harding, a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke in the Chapel to commemorate Dr. King’s life and to award the Martin Luther King, Jr. awards for community service to Tyrone Forman ’92 and Shepley Orr ’92.
The next day Dr. Harding spoke on “Hope and History: Lessons of the Civil Rights Movement for the 1990s” in the Villard Room. Among Harding’s books on the subject were There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (1981) and Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement (1990).
Dr. Harding’s Martin Luther King, Jr., the Inconvient Hero was published in 1996.
Armenian-Canadian independent filmmaker Atom Egoyan lectured in Sanders Auditorium as a guest of the Luce Program on Cinema, Literacy and Culture. Some of Egoyan’s films were screened in the days prior to the lecture entitled “What You See is What You Beget.”
All five residents of Town House A2 were found guilty by the College Regulations Panel of charges of illegal drug possession, aiding and abetting and interference with the public order after thirteen marijuana plants were discovered in their house during a routine inspection on January 8th. Two of the students were served with one-month suspensions, while the other three received 30 hours of drug-related community service and probation. The Miscellany News
Vassar student leaders attended a conference at Barnard College, held by Barnard activist group Students Tackling Issues of the New Generation (STING). Vassar students organized a workshop called “Clubs Working Together on Social Issues” and attended similar workshops held by students of the 20 other Northeastern colleges in attendance. Attendees said “they wanted to dispel the notion that… today’s students, compared with those of the 60’s, are ‘just a bunch of apathetic money-grubbing yuppies.’” The New York Times
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17, students from the Vassar Experimental Theater performed an original play in the Powerhouse Theater. The play, “Happy Birthday Vincent,” featured four puppets by puppeteer Amy Trompeter that “[added] a ghostly presence to crucial moments in the production” in addition to a cast of eleven human actors dressed in white.
The actors wrote the script collaboratively by dramatizing a selection of Millay’s poems, each of which “had some connection to major events in [her] life.” The students reported that “knowing that Miss Millay had been a Vassar student made it easier to relate to her,” although “they had a hard time identifying with the Vassar of 1917, where male guests, smoking and skipping chapel were all forbidden.” In the end, though. “we felt like we got her back,” said Denny Partridge, the director of Vassar’s theater. The New York Times
Two students were attacked outside Matthew’s Mug in the early hours of a Saturday morning shortly after an employee failed to contact Security about several non-students trying to force their way into the Mug. The suspects, ten or twelve black males of high school age, called the students “Vassar fags,” then began punching and kicking the two victims. The assailants fled toward the Terrace Apartments and were not apprehended. One victim was treated for a concussion, and the other received ten stitches in the head. The Miscellany News
Nigerian novelist, poet and critic Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart (1958), read from his works.
Conservative columnist and commentator Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum and an indefatigable opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, spoke to a crowd of over 400 people on women’s needs for male protection. Campus groups including the Vassar Pro-Choice Coalition and Refuse and Resist protested the event with signs that proclaimed “Ain’t I A Woman?” and “We Will Not Buy B.S.”
“It’s about time we had a conservative speaker at Vassar,” said Mary Green ’92, editor of the conservative campus publication, The Spectator, which sponsored the talk. Jason Ein ’94, commented, “Phyllis Schlafly is a threat to my life and livelihood. Her perspective is one of ignorance and she fostered a lot of hatred, bias and discrimination with her talk.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Cast members of the popular television comedy program Saturday Night Live Rob Schneider, David Spade and Adam Sandler performed in the Chapel.
A Democratic presidential debate scheduled to take place at the Chapel on March 28th was canceled after frontrunner Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton declined his invitation on the grounds that he would be “too busy” campaigning across the state. His opponent in the debate was to be former California Governor Jerry Brown. “The Democratic hopefuls were attracted to the forum by Hudson Valley’s status as the state’s fastest-growing region and by its reputation as an area of transition between Democratic-dominated New York City and overwhelmingly Republican upstate New York,” a local official said when the debate was originally announced. The Poughkeepsie Journal
Caribbean-American novelist, short story writer and journalist Jamaica Kincaid lectured and read a chapter from her recent novel Lucy (1990). Kincaid told the audience of some 200 about her motivations for writing: “If I didn’t write, I would go insane or something, or I would bomb things. People always say I’m very angry, and they’re quite right. I often think they should be very glad I’m angry and write instead of angry and not write.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Jamaica Kincaid spoke at Vassar in 1986.
Vassar professor and pianist Todd Crow debuted at Carnegie Hall as a guest artist, playing the Concerto No. 2, Op. 2 of the Scottish-born German composer Eugen D’Albert with the American Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Bard College president Leon Botstein. The Poughkeepsie Journal
The Alumnae House Inn and Restaurant stopped serving the public after losing more than $500,000 in 1991. The college planned to continue serving faculty members and alumni at the 68-year-old facility, donated to the college in 1919 by Blanche Ferry Hooker ‘94 and her sister Queene Ferry Coonley ’96, and the inn would be opened for reunions, commencement, and parents weekend. “We cannot justify subsidizing businesses that divert resources from Vassar’s primary mission—providing an excellent education to our students,” said acting president Nancy Dye’69, explaining the decision that cost 50 employees their jobs.
“I never thought this could happen,” laid-off Alumnae House worker Debbie Walsh commented. “We basically have three weeks to relocate our lives.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a psychosexual therapist known for her radio show “Sexually Speaking,” spoke to a large audience in the Chapel about changing roles in relationships, sexual expectations, sexual practices and disorders and her experiences in hosting her radio show. She declared her support for sex education promoting safe sex rather than abstinence and answered questions from the audience. The Miscellany News
Vassar’s varsity baseball team made its debut against John Jay College, losing 11-0 and 14-3. “Vassar history will say on opening day we played intelligently, with enthusiasm, with poise in difficult situations, and we acquitted ourselves well,” said coach Charlie Crawford. Baseball was a club sport in the eight prior seasons. Poughkeepsie Journal
Frances Kissling, former founding President of the National Abortion Federation and president of Catholics for Free Choice, lectured in Rockefeller Hall on “Irreconcilable Differences? Catholicism and Reproductive Freedom.” "When I understood," she said, "that the Church had no position on whether or not the fetus was a person, but that the Church surely knew that pregnant women were persons, it became difficult for me to understand why the Church valued the potentiality of fetuses more than it valuied the actual reality of women as persons."
"Ms. Kissling," wrote Emily Smith ’94 in The Miscellany News, spoke with a passion that stems from her strong religious faith and her dedication to feminism and reprodcutive freedom." A member of the Pro-Choice Coalition, Smith said Kissling “listened to and answered questions very well, especially those from the few anti-choice people,” mostly members of the Poughkeepsie community. The Miscellany News
After three instances of trespassing, including an incident in which Security caught him showering in Main Building, a Poughkeepsie resident was arrested and charged with criminal trespass in the third degree, a misdemeanor. The man, between 45-50 years of age, was described by Security as “somewhat eccentric.” The Miscellany News
In compliance with New York State’s new Clean Indoor Air Act, the college removed designated smoking areas from residence halls, allowing students to smoke only in their rooms with the doors closed. Some students objected to the new policy, including Dave Howard ’94, who said, “I think it’s outrageous that people can’t have cigarettes when they’re watching TV or hanging out in the lobby, as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else.” Several students complained directly to the Board of Health, which had the power to fine institutions up to $1,000 per incident for noncompliance with the Clean Indoor Air Act. The Miscellany News
Three hundred Vassar students traveled to Washington, DC, to lobby the Supreme Court to keep abortion legal nationwide, joining a crowd of approximately 500,000. “We’re trying to send a clear message to George Bush and the other presidential candidates that a majority of people want legalized abortion and it’s a big issue in the upcoming election,” said Allison Tichy ’92. The Poughkeepsie Journal
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, a leader of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland since the 1970s, lectured in the Chapel after a presentation of her documentary film Off Our Knees (1988). A former Member of Parliament, McAliskey spoke in support of the rights of political prisoners in Northern Ireland and against Britain’s shoot-to-kill policy there. “Americans could take a leading role in bringing Irish Nationalists and the British government to the bargaining table,” McAliskey said, urging her audience to pressure the Bush administration to “bring the two sides together.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Susan Peterson ’66, the executive vice president of Random House Inc. and an anti-censorship activist, lectured in Sanders Hall. Her lecture, “Right Livelihood: Responsibility and the Workplace,” was part of Vassar’s executive-in-residence program, established in 1982 to demonstrate the relationship between the liberal arts and the business world.
Jane Smiley ’71 won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Thousand Acres. Smiley, who earned an MFA and a PhD at the University of Iowa, received the prize for her “update of King Lear,” in which “an Iowa farmer decides to divide his land among his three daughters, unleashing a family tragedy.” The New York Times
The college announced plans to redesign the All Campus Dining Center over the coming summer at a cost of $2.5 million. The renovations aimed to alleviate problems of overcrowding and quality of service by instituting a point system in place of the buffet-style system, relocating the dishwashing stations, presently on the second floor, and the beverage dispensers, moving the card-checkers and removing dividing walls to open rooms C and E into the main dining area on the east side of the building.
After several months of renovation and restoration the Aula reopened for student use with a “big bang,” a grand opening party that lasted from midnight until 4 A.M. and featured D.J. Stretch Armstrong from New York City as well as Doom Patrol, a Poughkeepsie dance group. “Tonight is just the beginning of what will hopefully be a successful new social option at Vassar,” said The Miscellany News, adding, “The new Aula is nothing like the old one.”
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Ani DiFranco performed in the Café for Women’s Week. She performed again at Vassar in 1993.
Trinidadian-American author of adult and young people’s fiction Rosa Guy, one of the founders of The Harlem Writers Guild, read from her works. Guy’s fiction ranged from thoughtful considerations of race and gender to a series featuring a young detective, Imamu Jones. Her novel, The Music of Summer, a study of the yearnings of a young African-American Julliard student, and Caribbean Carnival: Songs of the West Indies, a collection of songs for children both appeared in 1992.
An obscene caller began harassing female students, including student fellows and at least one CARES counselor. Sometimes he would identify himself as a doctor at the Poughkeepsie Mental Health Clinic or as a Town of Poughkeepsie police officer, telling the victim that he was with a friend of hers who had been sexually assaulted, and then luring her into “discussing her personal sex life in graphic detail.”
On other occasions, he disguised his voice to sound like a woman and claimed that he was raped, then described the assault in graphic detail. Pam Neimeth, director of the Resource and Education for Rape, Assault and Harrassment (REACH) office, noted that the calls were particularly troublesome because a student counselor “would feasibly get a call of this nature,” making it difficult to detect the deception.
In May, Town Police, with assistance from Vassar Security and the REACH office, arrested the caller, whom they identified as a local man arrested for similar acts in 1985. The Miscellany News
Baldwin Health Services was forced to cancel a planned anonymous AIDS testing program due to New York State Health Department regulations that made it “virtually impossible for private health care providers to offer anonymous testing,” according to Dr. Irena Balawadjer MD, the director of the health service. The college was forced to look into alternatives to the system they had planned—which would have allowed Baldwin to assign a number to students’ HIV/AIDS test results rather than associate them with a name—because the state would license only municipal and state-run health care providers to perform anonymous testing.
The campus celebrated Matthew Vassar’s 200th birthday with a series of events and exhibits and the traditional visit to the his grave at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery on Founder’s Day, celebrated on April 24th. (The celebration was moved in 1873 to the Friday closest to April 29 and at a later date to the closest Saturday.) Using a 19th century recipe supplied by College Historian Elizabeth Daniels ‘41 for ale similar to the Founder’s product, a microbrewery near Kingston supplied the brew at Ballintine Field. The brewer, however, reduced the level of alcohol significantly from the original, saying that it was far too high for modern consumption.
Professor Daniels also mounted an exhibit in the Library, Matthew Vassar: More Than a Brewer, which detailed the Founder’s career as a Poughkeepsie citizen and businessman. A monograph of the same name was available for visitors “Vassar was a man who believed in change,” she said, and, asked if Vassar would recognize his college were he on campus now, she replied, “He’d be surprised at first by what he saw, then pleased.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
On Vassar’s birthday actual birthday, April 29, Vice President for College Relations Dixie Massad Sheridan ’65 undertook to have a photograph taken of everyone on campus during the day. The result appeared as A Sense of Occasion (1992).
Riots, arson and looting rocked Los Angeles after a jury acquitted four white policemen in the violent beating of a black motorist, Rodney King. At least 37 people were killed and hundreds arrested in the riots, the worst violence the city had seen since the 1965 Watts riots. Racial violence occurred in other cities, including Poughkeepsie, where a crowd of 350 vandalized storefronts, overturned at least one car and fired guns.
“People are horrified by the verdict in Los Angeles, which very quickly reveals the racial divisions in this city that we know so well,” said the Rev. David Toomey of Christ Episcopal Church. At Vassar, “interested students discussed the riots freely, and often heatedly,” though a few students embarked on “a righteous crusade to glue door locks and scrawl messages across campus.” The Poughkeepsie Journal, The Miscellany News
Feminist and activist in the Asian anti-violence movement Helen Zia, the executive editor of Ms. Magazine, lectured in the Villard Room, sponsored by the Asian Students Alliance and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The lecture, “Neither Black nor White: Those Who Don’t Fit the Color Scheme,” discussed the results from a Ms. Magazine survey on race and women. The Miscellany News
Town of Poughkeepsie Police arrested Melvin Mendleson on 14 counts of aggravated harassment for the series of obscene telephone calls he made to female students during the prior months. Mendleson, remanded to the Dutchess County Jail on $5,000 bail, faced a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 per count. The Miscellany News
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a leading women’s rights activist and the District of Columbia’s first female Representative, spoke at Vassar’s 126th Commencement.
“Your national legislature,” Representative Norton told the 630 members of the Class of 1992, “the Congress of the United States, of which I am a member, is down in the dumps and down in the polls. I came this morning to look on the face of a new generation to renew my faith that this country still has the capacity for self-generation…. Vassar is known as a college that looks as a college ought to look. Vassar also is known for graduates set on making the world look like it ought to look.”
Congresswoman Norton spoke at the 1971 Commencement, and during her speech, she compared the two occasions: “At Vassar in 1971, I spoke to a college generation that graduated in the midst of social ferment and change. At Vassar in 1992, I look to a college generation to help make change happen again.” The Poughkeepsie Journal, Press & Information Office, News
War and the Ivory Tower: Algeria and Vietnam by history professor David L. Schalk was nominated for two prestigious awards: the Society for Military History’s Distinguished Book Award and the Free Press Association’s Mencken Award. The book compared the Algerian revolution from 1954 to 1962 with the era of American involvement in Vietnam a decade later, focusing on the roles of American and French intellectuals, artists, and academics in both periods.
The Powerhouse Theater and New York Stage and Film presented three major plays, a New Plays Reading Festival, screenings of new films and two students’ theater workshops during their eighth summer season at Vassar. The offerings included plays by Broadway playwright Jon Robin Baitz – “the hottest playwright around,” according to Beth Fargis-Lancaster, the producing director at the Powerhouse –by Pultizer Prize winner Lanford Wilson and by Eric Overmyer from the Yale Drama School.
The Vassar Jazz Festival was held at the Outdoor Theater, featuring a “mixture of slashing jams and bittersweet ballads” from tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and his quartet. “Buoyed primarily by Shepp and his drummer Steve McCraven, the quartet moved confidently through the music, allowing each member time enough for personal interpretation. McCraven and pianist Sam Dockery dueled regularly, resulting in a delightful tension of musical genius," reported Bennett Graebner in his review of the concert for the Miscellany News.
The faculty instituted a new requirement for students, beginning with the Class of 1997. The quantitative analysis skills requirement, meant to allow students to “learn and improve their analytic skills,” included graphing, statistics, problem solving, calculus and computation. Former VSA academic executive Sue Tedeschi ’92 explained that a survey of the Class of 1988 showed that “approximately 20% of [Vassar] students have never taken any courses in quantitative analysis skills throughout their four years at Vassar.” Courses that satisfied the requirement were offered in many departments. The Miscellany News
The college announced plans to construct a $2.4 million computer center in the former facilities building, built in 1930. The project required a complete interior reconfiguration and took nearly a year to complete. “The computer center,” said Dean of the Faculty Nancy Dye ’69, “is a place where many students spend a significant amount of time doing their most serious intellectual work. The new facility will enhance their academic experience.” The Miscellany News
Despite coach Andy Jennings’s prediction that the season would be “a rebuilding one for his team” with a roster full of “youth and inexperience,” the Vassar men’s soccer time defeated nationally ranked Trenton State College 1-0. The strong start to the season meant that the team could potentially play for a spot in the NCAA rankings. The Poughkeepsie Journal
Modern dance choreographer David Dorfman and his six-member company gave a performance and three master classes. Dorfman, who started out in sports and took his first dance class as a junior in college, geared the performance and classes toward athletes. “As a serious athlete who dreamt of playing professional baseball, football and basketball,” Dorfman said, “it’s the rhythm, contact and risk that drew me to dance.” To make dance accessible to a wider audience, he explained, his work emphasized the connection between dance and the movements of daily life: “I try to get at the core of what we’re about when we go about our day’s activities. I think…people can understand that without having a big background in dance.” The Miscellany News
The College Regulations Panel established new minimum sanctions for sexual assault and rape. A student found guilty of sexual assault would be suspended for a minimum of one semester, while a student found guilty of rape would be expelled from the College immediately. The regulations acknowledged that college sanctions did not compromise the legal redress available to a victim.
Town of Poughkeepsie police arrested a Vassar student after he burglarized two student rooms in Main Building. The student was charged with two counts of second-degree burglary, a felony charge, and was released on $5,000 bail. The Poughkeepsie Journal
Vassar College Entertainment (ViCE) brought two computerized machines to the College Center, where students could play games in which they wore special glasses to enter a “virtual world” through a new technology, virtual reality, “an interactive, computer-driven process by which a person virtually becomes part of an elaborate 3-D world of computer-generated surroundings.” Miscellany News
The women’s squash team enjoyed the best victory in its history at the CAN AM Series in Toronto, Canada. Playing the international version of the game on international-size courts, they defeated archrival Williams College and the University of Waterloo and lost to the eventual tournament champions, the University of Western Ontario. Team members Shireen Kaufman ’95 and Mishka Zaman ’93 received invitations to the elite Princeton Invitational Singles Championship, where they placed second and fifth, respectively, among the top twenty players in the nation. Miscellany News
The Food Committee, comprised of student representatives and house fellows, was formed as a liaison between the student body and the campus food service, handling students’ complaints about food quality, service and the cleanliness of the facility. The committee, in cooperation with new director of campus dining services Andrew Meade, to address issues such as improving vegetarian offerings, providing nutritional values and installing a comment box for student input. “The Food Committee is a real ally,” said Meade. “Its goal is the best quality, service and product.” Miscellany News
The men’s soccer team finished second at the East Coast Athletic Conference Finals, ending their bid to compete at the NCAA Regionals after an up-and-down season with a team that started the season with fewer than half of its starters from the previous year. “You have to take each game as it comes,” coach Andy Jennings said, “and try not to look ahead.” Miscellany News
The Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alliance (BiGALA) celebrated Pride Week with a series of lectures, discussions, and social events. In “Reclaiming the Closet,” the kickoff event, the group redecorated their newly acquired space in the Lathrop Basement; they also hosted speaker John Corvino , a graduate student in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin, who delivered a lecture called “What’s Morally Wrong With Homosexuality?” that examined some of the basic arguments against homosexuality. Former television journalist and producer, AIDS activist and member of the Lesbian Avengers Ann Northrop ’70, who spoke on “The Politics of AIDS.”
Other events included an open mic night in the café, a Bisexual Information Discussion and a Family Dinner and Tea for Relatives of Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals. The week culminated with the annual Homo-Hop in the Villard Room. Said Andrea Roberts ’95, “We want [students] to realize most importantly that queer students on campus are reclaiming it as their own. We want it to be educational and at the same time very fun. Harassment will not be tolerated in any form by anyone.” Miscellany News
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States, defeating incumbent President George H. W. Bush. Clinton pledged to revive the slumping U.S. economy.
Vassar students held parties across campus to watch the results on CNN, and the subsequent reaction was nearly unanimous in its support.
Natalie Friedman ’95 organized a workshop and discussion, “Ethnicity or Religion,” to discuss Jewish identities at Vassar. At the workshop, Jewish students discussed issues they faced on campus, from interactions with non-Jewish students to their relationships with the Vassar Jewish Union. “We talked about why we tolerate Jewish jokes,” Friedman said, “what it means to be Jewish, is it ethnicity, is it religion, et cetera. I thought to myself, ‘If people could only talk about this more often. We ought to do it again.’” Miscellany News
A male student was assaulted outside behind the College Center around 2 A.M. Police responding to the scene found the student bleeding from an injury to the back of his head. He said one of three black males who were harassing female students as he attempted to help the women into their car pointed a revolver at him, then threw a cup of beer on him and hit him on the head with the gun. The assailants shot at the car as the students drove off, flattening a tire but injuring no one. The assailants then left campus. The Poughkeepsie Journal
In lieu of the traditional fall formal, a Black and White Ball was held to “serve the dual purpose of improving awareness and raising money for AIDS research and support services,” according to organizer Joel Etheridge ’93. Held in the College Center, the ball was sponsored by ViCE, the Black Commencement Committee, the Black Student Union, Raymond and Jewett Houses, Metcalf counseling services, Baldwin health services and the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Association, with all proceeds going directly to charitable organizations in the memory of Craig Harris ‘80 and all other Vassar students and alumni who suffered from the AIDS virus. “It’s time,” said organizer Marla Dansky ’94, “that the Vassar partied with a higher purpose in mind.” The Miscellany News
Priscilla Bullit Collins ’42 donated $3 million to the environmental science program, to be used for faculty salaries, research funds, environmental scholarships and the construction of a new field research station. “The fund will encourage our faculty to develop integrative and interdisciplinary approaches to scientific explanations of the complex forces that connect us to the natural world,” Dean of the Faculty Nancy Dye ’69 said of the gift, which became the nucleus the Class of 1942 Fund for Environmental Sciences. The Poughkeepsie Journal
Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller ’31 died of Alzheimer’s disease complicated by pneumonia at the age of 83. Rockefeller graduated with a degree in music, and she served on the board of trustees between 1948 and 1956. The daughter and niece of the two donors of the Alumnae House, sister of the donor of Ferry House, mother of a Vassar student and married to the grandson of one of Vassar’s greatest benefactors since the Founder, John D. Rockefeller, she held the college highly among many philanthropic interests. Among her gifts to the college were the funds for the removal in 1959 of the Frederic Ferris Thompson Annex (“Uncle Fred’s Nose”) from the front of Main Building and the restoration of the original façade, an extraordinary collection of Asian art, another of modern art that included works by Rothko, Klee, Miro and Matisse and funds for the construction of Cesar Pelli’s entrance pavilion to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.
At the time of her death, The New York Times said, “For four decades, Mrs. Rockefeller was a regal presence in philanthropy, helping to attract financial support and volunteers for causes ranging from children’s welfare to the Julliard School. But it was for the Museum of Modern Art that was her predominant interest. She twice served as its president, although she insisted she had no curatorial expertise. ‘I’m not an expert on modern art,’ she once said, ‘just a person who has become interested.”
Rick Lazio ’80 attended an orientation for newly elected Congressmen in Washington. The Republican representative from Long Island, New York noted ’I’ll be the first male from Vassar College elected to Congress,’” neglecting to mention that he also had a law degree from American University.
While at Vassar, Lazio majored in political science, chaired the Student Advisory Comittee, wrote for the Miscellany News, and actually lost the election for senior class president. He was highly active in both student government and Republican causes and groups on campus.
Lazio served in the House until 2001 when he ran for U.S. senate, losing to Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times, The Miscellany News
Tony Rowe, conductor of the Vassar College Orchestra and director of Opera Workshop, was named assistant conductor of New York’s American Symphony Orchestra for the 1992-93 season. Rowe also conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in England on December 15. Poughkeepsie Journal
Former professor Emile Jean Pin filed a $7 million lawsuit against the college, citing age discrimination based on the school’s policy requiring faculty members to retire at age 70. Though federal law prevented most employers from setting a mandatory retirement age, private colleges were exempted until the end of 1993. “Why at age 70 are you suddenly considered incompetent?” said Pin, who claimed that Vassar denied him the opportunity to ask the board of trustees for a one-year extension. “I can tell you I was teaching better at age 70 than I was at 50.” Poughkeepsie Journal
Professor Pin’s suit was unsuccessful.
Eight students from the Vassar Debate Society competed in the World Debate Tournament in Oxford, England. One pair, Michael Fanuele ’94 and Tim Yusuf ’94, placed within the top 32 teams in the world. In describing his experience, Yusuf commented that "[Oxford] tried to make the tournament as internaitonal as possible," and reflected on a fulfilling competition in which "the top thirty teams were all very close [in terms of skill.]" The two debaters planned to compete again at the following year’s tournament in Melbourne, Australia. The Miscellany News
New Federal rules reducing the amount middle class families put toward college costs, increasing governmental contributions and leaving a larger gap for colleges and universities to cover for the 1993/4 academic year posed a potential $1.5 to $2 million additional expense for the college. Explaining that Vassar simply didn’t have the money, Director of Financial Aid Michael Fraher told the States New Service, “Basically, we’re going to continue to use the old formula.” Students already receiving aid would receive the same packages in 1993/94, but students not qualifying for Vassar aid at present wouldn’t qualify for it in the future. The New York Times
The Vassar Experimental Theater’s production of Caryl Churchill and David Lan’s play with dance, A Mouthful of Birds (1985), directed by Denny Partridge, was selected for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, one of only two plays in the state to be chosen. “We’re delighted that Vassar can compete so well against pre-professional schools,” said Partridge. “It’s a measure of how bright, talented and committed the students at Vassar are.”
In the end, due to scheduling problems and the size of the production, Vassar was unable to participate in the festival. Poughkeepsie Journal
Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd President of the United States.
The Night Owls were among nine musical groups selected to perform on “The Voice of America,” the final float in President Clinton’s inaugural parade. Unfortunately, the float’s brakes locked up as it entered the parade, forcing it to remain on the sidelines. “All of us felt very honored to be asked to participate in the parade, and there were a lot of broken hearts,” said Night Owls business manager Rebecca Lewison ’93, adding, “But we all got much closer because of the time we spent practicing for it.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Along with Liquid Soul from Chicago, the Mello-Hawks Steel Orchestra from the Virgin Islands and the San Bernardino Westside Steppers from California, among others, the Vassar singing group was one of the “stationary acts” in the “Pre-Parade” at Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997.
President Bill Clinton nominated Washington lawyer Margaret Milner Richardson ’65, former general counsel to the Internal Revenue Service, to be the IRS’s head. A Texan who defined herself as a “yellow-dog Democrat,” Richardson served as IRS commissioner through President Clinton’s first term, emphasizing the use of technology and redoubling compliance efforts.
The River Arts theater group performed “A Balancing Act,” a series of vignettes about social problems such as drugs, alcohol and co-dependency, in the Villard Room. “‘A Balancing Act’ opens the door to communication, gets social problems out in the open, starts people discussing the issues,” said Liz Rossi, River Arts’s business manager. “It’s a good way,” Ann Dadarria, nurse practitioner at Baldwin health services said, “to talk about drugs and alcohol without sitting down and preaching.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
A bomb in the basement garage of the World Trade Center in Manhattan exploded, killing six people and injuring over 1,000 others. Islamic terrorists with possible ties to the al-Qaeda organization were later indicted and found guilty of the attack.
A planned recruiting visit by the U.S. Marines was canceled after protests from the Vassar Student Association, the Student Activist Union and the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alliance. “In light of the current outcry regarding the ban on homosexuals in the military,” the VSA Council said in a letter to the Office of Career Development, “we feel that a visit would be not only unwelcome, but potentially chaotic.” The Miscellany News
Shady Cosgrove ’96 finished second at the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association championships at Walker Field House, where she competed in a women’s épée competition for the first time. “It’s the first time she’s actually had the chance to fence women’s épée because it is not offered at Vassar,” said coach Christina Christidi. “In fact, she fences that weapon on the men’s team.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
The Office of Residential Life proposed the elimination of desk messengers and a revision of the schedule for night security guards in the residence halls, because of the installation of personal telephones and an electronic ID card entry system in the halls.
Smoking was banned in the Retreat and limited to designated areas of the Mug and Café after a visit from the Dutchess County Board of Health determined that the college was in violation of the Indoor Clean Air Act, which prohibited smoking in any public facility. Many students expressed dismay in the lack of an alternative space for smokers, including Vassar Student Association president Jung Yun ’94. “We have to deal with the fact that there are strict legal restrictions that the college must enforce, but at the same time, there should be a place where people can smoke and know that they’re not violating nonsmokers’ space,” she said.Dean of the College Colton Johnson agreed. But, he said, “We have to observe the smoking laws of the State of New York.” The administration was also considering removing cigarettes from residence hall vending machines. The Miscellany News
George Williamson Jr., former chaplain at Vassar, lectured on "Religion on the Wrong Side: The Gay and Lesbian Repression, a Model."
The president of the Nickelodeon channel and creator of Nick at Nite, Geraldine Laybourne ’69, spoke on “Creating a Career out of Personal Passions.” Receiving an award from the Mid-Hudson Association for the Education of Young Children, Laybourne urged her audience to “Multiply your strengths and bolster your weaknesses,” Laybourne, who cited her involvement in campus politics as the key to her subsequent successes, concluded by saying, “above all, do what you are best at.” Miscellany News
The ski team was placed on probation after the college received two letters from motels where the team had stayed, complaining of their destructive behavior. The Vassar Student Association Council mandated that the team mail letters of apology to the hotels, along with paying for the additional cleaning fees and writing a separate letter of apology to the college community. Additionally, the team was informed that their organization would be deauthorized if the incident were repeated. Miscellany News
The Intercultural Center (ICC) opened as a permanent home for the main student of color organizations, the Black Student Union, the Asian Student Alliance and Poder Latino. A part of the renovation of the old facilities buildings behind Main Building made possible by the opening of the new Buildings and Grounds Services Center at the south end of the campus, the center was built in half of the “vehicles building”—originally the open-air “coal pocket” for the college boilers. The rest of the building became the Coal Bin Theatre, renamed a few years later as The Susan Stein Shiva Theater. The architect for these new facilities was Jeh V. Johnson, senior lecturer in art.
The fulfillment of a trustee promise made to students of color many years earlier, the ICC contained office space for each group as well as a community room, a conference room, and a kitchen. A number of events commemorated the opening, including remarks from President Frances Fergusson, exhibitions of cultural music and dance, lectures and workshops sponsored by the Center’s resident groups. The new center’s director, Edward Pittman ’82, director of multicultural affairs, called the ICC “an essential piece of the goal of the college to make the campus a comfortable place for students who come from diverse backgrounds.” Miscellany News
Author Tom Wolfe, a key figure in the “new journalism” of the mid-1960s, gave the first Alex Krieger Memorial Lecture, “End of the Century and Spirit of the Age.” Wolfe punctuated his discussion of recent changes in American culture with personal anecdotes and quotations from psychologists. “This is an extraordinary time,” he said. “Suddenly we have the feeling we are immune to ordinary dangers and we get the hubris to sweep away moral codes that have been in place for years.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
The Alex Krieger Memorial Fund was started by his parents in memory of Alex Krieger ’95 who died in his freshman year in an automobile accident while driving to Pennsylvania for an ultimate Frisbee match. The annual lectures brought eminent American humorists and cultural critics to Vassar in recognition of Krieger’s keen appreciation of the genres.
African-American author, social activist and feminist bell hooks, professor of Women’s Studies at Oberlin College, lectured on "Race, Gender, and Representation" as a part of Women's Week. Molly Salkein '94 found the lecture to be "amazing, bizarre and fantastic. [hooks] placed the burden of education and coalition on everyone." hooks’s Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black was published in 1989, and Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics appeared in 1990.
Women's Week events also included a concert by singer, songwriter, guitarist, and feminist icon Ani DiFranco, and a lecture by El Salvadoran educators and activists Regina de los Angeles, Garay Gómez and Dora Alicia Lainez Escamilla, who spoke on "Women in War, Women in Peace." A devastating civil war in El Salvador of 12 years’ duration, in which the United States had been clandestinely involved and in which some 75,000 Salvadorans had died, ended in January 1992.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and feminist icon Ani DiFranco performed in the Villard Room. She had also appeared at Vassar in 1992.
In 2004, DiFranco, along with Brian Grunert, won a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package for the album Evolve.
Puerto Rican-American Salsa musician Tito Puente and his orchestra played in the All Campus Dining Center. Puente, who brought salsa music to national attention throughout his decades-long career, was also known for his charitable efforts, including a scholarship fund at the Juilliard School and a number of concerts to help Puerto Rican victims of the 1989 Hurricane Hugo. “It’s good, exciting music,” said Puente of his work. “We’re giving it from our heart and soul. We’re laying it down and the people are eating it up. And that’s good.” The Miscellany News
The music department presented “A Tribute To Cole Porter,” a lecture and recital celebrating American Culture professor Richard Severo’s gift to the college of 104 rare recordings by the American composer. Speaking about Porter and his work, Severo said he thought the collection belonged at a liberal arts college. “A generation is losing songs that were standards,” he said. After Severo’s talk, Vassar voice teacher Richard Lalli performed twelve Porter songs, including “Begin the Beguine” and “Miss Otis Regrets.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Vassar women’s heavyweight four boat won first place at the prestigious Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia, beating out second-place finisher Northwestern by six seconds. “We are ecstatic, but not surprised,” said coach Ed Clark. “I knew they would do it. They’ve worked very hard.” The Poughkeepsie Journa
Music professor Richard Wilson premiered “The Prelude” and “Scene 1,” scenes from his opera about much-maligned 10th century English king Ethelred the Unready, with the American Symphony Orchestra. Wilson wrote the opera, his first, after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1992. “I wanted to do something different with the award,” he said. “I thought it would be amusing to try.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Political activist, author and teacher Angela Davis spoke at the Baccalaureate Service of the college’s 127th commencement, an annual pre-graduation event sponsored by the Council of Black Seniors. Davis, a professor of history and philosophy at the University of California at Santa Cruz, spoke of the political changes in the United States. “During the Reagan-Bush years,” she said, “there was a great deal of hopelessness and despair. When the Reagan-Bush reign was overthrown, a lot of us felt we had a new lease on life…. The good news is we have created new space. The good news is that it is possible to forge a measure of hope.” In conclusion, she implored the standing-room-only audience to “address each other’s differences with respect.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
The Daisy Chain carried its traditional 150-foot long tribute—3,500 marguerites and 250 pounds of laurel—and President Fergusson conferred the bachelor’s degree on 583 members of the Class of 1993 at the college’s 127th Commencement. Commencement speaker Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, discussed his company’s socially conscious “caring capitalism.” “It becomes more and more clear to us at Ben and Jerry’s,” he said, “that our success is testament to the human spirit—people joining together for a common good.”President Frances Daly Fergusson also spoke, urging students, “Be generous with your talent and knowledge.” After the ceremony, Ben and Jerry were generous, treating the commencement crowd to free ice cream. The Poughkeepsie Journal, The New York Times
Some 2,300 historians from 220 institutions in 31 countries traveled to Vassar for the triennial Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. Started in 1936 by a group of female historians from Northeastern colleges in response to the exclusion of female scholars from the prestigious history conferences of the day, the “Berks” was the largest regular meeting of historians, except that of the American Historical Association. Vassar professor emeritus Evalyn Clark ’24, who joined the conference in 1939, noted in a 1993 New York Times article that the men’s conferences were dedicated to “introducing grand old men to young men of promise.” She said that she supposed she was now “a grand old woman.”
Dean of the Faculty Nancy Schrom Dye ’69 observed that her professors “like Evalyn Clark, who exemplified a tradition of women who were scholars,” were her most direct influences, and Cynthia Russett, a historian from Yale, said that without women’s colleges like Vassar, Smith and Bryn Mawr, “there for sure wouldn’t have been a Berks.” The New York Times
President Clinton ordered a missile attack against Iraq in retaliation of an alleged plot to kill former President George H. W. Bush.
H. Daniel Peck, professor of English at Vassar, directed a summer institute “to study the national importance of an area that has produced great writers and painters and ultimately produced one of the first visions of a national culture for a fledgling America.” Professors from universities across the nation attended the institute, called “Hudson River Valley Images and Texts,” studying such artists as painters Thomas Cole, Asher Durand and Frederick E. Church and writers of the stature of Washington Irving and John Burroughs.
“’We really did prove to ourselves through the course of our study that the Hudson River Valley provided a paradigm for national culture,’ Dr. Peck said. ‘It was an extraordinary experience that left everyone feeling rewarded.’” The New York Times
Art critic Roberta Smith profiled Highlights from the Vassar College Art Gallery, a wide-ranging exhibition at the IBM Gallery of Science and Art in New York City, in the The New York Times, writing, “From the start of the exhibition, the highlights, or at least the points of interest, come fast and furious.” The show, she said, “roams across the map of Western art history, touching on ancient Greece, the Renaissance north and south, 16th-century and 17th-century paintings of the Dutch, Flemish, Venetian and French schools.”
“But the star of the show’s American landscape section” Smith said, “is George Inness’s 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' of 1867. A large and dark, nearly monochromatic painting in which deep browns and blues barely signify earth and sky and the white-robed figure of Christ is small enough to be missed at first glance, this painting has the plainness abstraction that takes the breath away. The painting lends one of the world’s oldest stories an aura of diffuse, ecumenical mysticism, while being in its own right remarkably ahead of its time.”
The paintings were in New York City for much of the summer, and the exhibit closed on September 11th in time for the paintings’ return to the campus and the opening of the new Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in November.
The new “variable use” meal plan substituted declining “points” for the fixed times and numbers—14 or 21 per week—of meals in the old plan. The food committee and the new director of campus dining, Andrew Meade, hoped that the more flexible plan would allow for more variety in students’ campus dining experience, deliver more variety and higher quality in the offerings and reduce waste, which under the old plan was unacceptably large.
The Russell and Janet Doubleday Studio Arts Building opened, another renovation in the old facilities buildings behind Main Building made possible by the opening of the new Buildings and Grounds Services Center at the south end of the campus. The new space provided cohesive space for student artists, with a room for studio artists, a printmaking studio, a sculpture area and a welding area. “It is a much improved facility,” said associate professor of art Peter Charlap.
The new facility, funded by the Doubleday Foundation, housed printmaking, sculpting and welding classes; drawing and painting classes remained in Ely Hall. The Miscellany News
Alice Kessler-Harris of the women's studies program at Rutgers University, lectured and led a discussion on "The Politics of Culture and the Cultural Concept in American Studies." Speaking on the struggle for a unified American culture and the reasons why that stuggle has been unsuccessful, Kessler-Harris reminded her audience that "if the fight for identity is a request for inclusion and if the heart of our project is the pursuit of what constitutes our collective or democratic culture, then we, all of us, need to see the new politics of culture as a tug of war over who gets to create the public culture and how." The Miscellany News
The Ford Foundation awarded a $100,000 Ford Diversity Grant to the college to develop a great level of multiculturalism in lower-level courses central to several disciplines. Vassar’s proposal to the foundation, “Diversity at the Center” stipulated that students would work in conjunction with faculty to recast these central courses.
“This is part of a broad ongoing effort to diversify the faculty and the curriculum,” Dean of the Faculty Nancy Schrom Dye ’69 said of the grant. “What is most important about this grant is that students are empowered to be agents of curricular change.” Dean of the College Colton Johnson and Director of Multicultural Affairs Edward Pittman ’82 administered the grant. The Miscellany News
Milwaukee alternative rock band The Violent Femmes— with singer, guitarist and songwriter Gordon Gano, Bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Guy Hoffman—performed at Walker Field House.
Eighteen U. S. soldiers were ambushed and killed by Somali militiamen in Mogadishu. Some 200 Somali civilians were killed in the ensuing fighting.
The college dedicated the newly renovated Ely Hall to launch the interdisciplinary program in environmental science, which linked biology, geology and chemistry, using the campus and Dutchess County as living laboratories. The building renovations and the new program were made possible by a $42 million gift from Priscilla Bullitt Collins ’42. To celebrate the building’s opening, the environmental science program presented a panel called “Environmental Sciences and Public Impact: The Role of Undergraduate Education.” The Poughkeepsie Journal
Linda Nochlin '51, groundbreaking feminist art historian and author of "Why Have There Been no Great Women Artists?", lectured on "Vassar, Art, and Me: Memories of a Radical Art Historian." Her remarks were published in the Spring 1994 issue of The Vassar Quarterly.Nochlin taught at Vassar from 1952-1980.
The college announced a $200 million capital fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Vassar. President Frances Fergusson launched the effort, the largest ever undertaken by an undergraduate liberal arts college, with an event at the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, where she stated that the campaign would have “a significant impact on the college, solidifying its position at the forefront of American undergraduate education.” Vice President for Development Kathleen Kavanagh reported, “Donors are telling us that they believe in Vassar and its future.” The Miscellany NewsCompleted in June, 1996, the campaign raised over $206 million.
The college celebrated the opening of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Designed by Cesar Pelli and named for Frances Lehman Loeb ’28, whose gift of $7.5 million for the center was the largest gift even given the college by a living individual, the 20,000-square-foot center replaced the Vassar College Art Gallery in Taylor Hall. Providing extensive exhibition space in galleries, “the size of the galleries at the Frick” according to Pelli, the center also contained more intimate venues and curatorial and office space. “This is not a normal art gallery,” Pelli pointed out. “It is primarily a teaching experience…. Natural light is important in a teaching collection. It is more real for studying ancient pieces made before electric light.”
A thorough renovation and reconfiguration of Taylor Hall was part of Pelli’s project, which also included a sculpture garden designed by landscape architect Diana Balmori. Students expressed their enthusiasm about the new facility: “I am very excited about it,” said Gabrielle Tenaglia ’94. “This is a wonderful opportunity for students and the community.” The New York Times, The Poughkeepsie Journal
Comedian Nora Dunn performed in the All Campus Dining Center. Dunn was known for quitting her job on “Saturday Night Live” to protest the show’s hiring of Andrew Dice Clay, whose comedy relied on verbally assaulting women and minorities. The Poughkeepsie Journal
In discussing her decision with The Miscellany News before her show at Vassar, Dunn explained that “Dice Clay’s work is about blaming women in much the same fashion that the Germans blamed the Jews. It’s like, here’s everything that’s wrong with me, everything that men can’t be, everything that’s wrong with us – and here’s the reason.”
The Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at a forum in honor of the 10th anniversary of the African American Alumnae/i of Vassar College, “Empowerment: Organizing as a Force.” Sharpton urged African-American students to recall the struggles their ancestors had faced: “What is worst is the children who came out of bondage and have gotten amnesia and forgotten what brought them across,” he said. “Unless we return back to our ethics and spirits that brought us across, history will record us as the worst ‘stiff necks’ who ever lived.” The anniversary program also included a workshop on fundraising and a panel discussion on the future of black studies led by Professor Constance Berkley. The Poughkeepsie Journal
Dr. Jana Sawicki, professor of philosophy and women’s studies at Williams College, lectured on "Foucault: Feminism and Questions of Identity." Molly Salkeild ’94 found the “general question of the efficacy of post-modernism and Foucault in finding some sort of effective political action,” as discussed by Sawicki in her lecture, to be particularly memorable. “The whole concept of everything being determined by difference made it impossible for mass-based political action to happen,” Salkeild told the Miscellany News.
Professor Sawicki’s Disciplining Foucault: Feminism, Power and the Body was published by Routledge in 1991.
An article in the “In School” section of The New York Times by Michael Winerip profiled the efforts of members of the African American Alumnae of Vassar College to encourage able African-American and Hispanic students “from New York’s roughest neighborhoods” to visit Vassar and consider applying for admission. Winerip’s article followed the bus trip program, in its fifth year, from tentative talks onto the bus chartered for Poughkeepsie and through the often searching conversations on campus. The two alumnae in Winerip’s account, Paula Walker ’74, assistant news editor at Channel 4, and Audrey Lee Jacobs ’76, a lawyer and publicist, convinced 14 promising high school seniors to venture to the campus, and what followed was frank and engaging.
Attending the biggest dance of Vassar’s year, the Homo Hop, given by BiGala, the bisexual, gay and lesbian organization was an eye-opener for the homecoming king at Thomas Jefferson High School. “Everybody’s mixed together here,” he said, “It’s a very huggy place.” A senior at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx said, “Not my type of crowd, but I was glad I saw it. It’s like my religion teacher says, ‘Take off the blinder, Jeremy.’”
The alumnae were candid about their own concerns over 20 years earlier. Winerip wrote of Walker’s experience in 1970, “For Paula Walker it seemed an alien, white place. ‘My older brother said you better take a gun with you.’” Ms. Jacobs, responding to a question from a 15-year-old senior about the “trade offs” she made to be at Vassar, said, “Every problem you read in the newspaper you’ll find here at Vassar. I spent a lot of time fighting here. Maybe too much. I wasn’t always happy. But I wouldn’t be wasting my weekend here if Vassar hadn’t served me well.” The New York Times
President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) concluding negotiations begun by his predecessor, President George H. W. Bush to establish an integrated market among Canada, the United States and Mexico.
The Committee on College Life and the Residential Life office proposed a new plan for the residence halls, pairing them into two-house “units”—e.g. Cushing-Noyes, Jewett-Lathrop, etc.—with three faculty house fellows instead of the current four and a new position, “house advisor,” for each unit. Professor John McCleary, a house fellow in Davison House, explained that “with the new house advisor, mechanical details will be handled by someone whose full-time job is that, so it will make life easier for the house fellows.” The Miscellany News
The proposed advisors would be young professionals with masters’ degrees in a variety of fields pertinent to collegiate residential life who would assist the faculty house fellows with planning and programming in the houses.
Mathematician Colin Conrad Adams, a specialist in hyperbolic 3-manifolds and knot theory, lecturing as his character “Mel Slugbate” spoke on "Real Estate in Hyperbolic Space." A widely respected expositor of mathematics to general audiences, Dr. Adams appeared as the sleazy real estate agent Slugbate, who, while peddling his real estate—elucidated the nature of hyperbolic space, a type of non-Euclidean geometry.
Adams’s The Knot Book: An Elementary Introduction to the Mathematical Theory of Knots appeared in 1994, and in 1998 he was awarded the Haimo Distinguished Teaching Award from the Mathematical Association of America, awarded to mathematicians who are “extraordinarily successful in their teaching” and who “have had an influence beyond their own institutions.”
Biographer and jazz pianist Mark Tucker from Columbia University performed and spoke on "Duke Ellington: Piano in the Foreground" in a Dickinson Kayden event. The author of two standard volumes of Ellington scholarship, Duke Ellington: The Early Years (1991) and The Duke Ellington Reader (1993) Tucker performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution as well as with jazz repertory groups.
At the time of his death in 2000 Tucker was vice president of the Society for American Music. The society’s annual Mark Tucker Award recognizes “an outstanding student paper presented at the annual SAM Conference.”
Mildred Bernstein Kayden ’42 established the fund in 1966 in honor of the late Professor of Music George Sherman Dickinson.
Novelist John Irving, author of The World According to Garp (1978), The Cider House Rules (1985) and A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) gave the annual Alex Krieger Memorial lecture, readings from his unpublished novel A Son of the Circus (1994). Michael Bird ’96, who attended the lecture, told Miscellany News that “Irving’s writing is funny, intelligent, and honest. It’s as if there’s no pretense or literary overtures. It’s just stories and people and laughter, all very direct.” Irving explained to the audience that his humor is “not something I do consciously, I want to be frightened, amused, entertained.” The Miscellany News
The Alex Krieger Memorial Fund was started by his parents in memory of Alex Krieger ’95, who died in his freshman year in an automobile accident while driving to Pennsylvania for an ultimate Frisbee match. The annual lectures were intended to bring eminent American humorists and cultural critics to Vassar in recognition of Krieger’s keen appreciation of these genres.
Particle physicist Leon Lederman spoke on "The Innerspace/Outerspace Connection: History and Progress Report." The discoverer, in 1968, of the muon neutrino and of the bottom quark, in 1977, Lederman was co-recipient—with his colleagues Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger— of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978, “for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino.” John W. Wright, ed., The New York Times Almanac
The Environmental Studies correlate sequence was approved by the faculty, fostering multidisciplinary study in disciplines such as history, literature, geology, biology, chemistry and political science. “There has been a general response to student interest and the correlate is a crystallization of that response,” explained Biology professor and chair of the environmental science steering committee Robert Fritz, “when we were charged with coming up with an environmental sciences program, we started to ask what it takes to be an environmental scientist.”
The multidisciplinary degree program in environmental studies was approved by the faculty in 1999.
African-American historian Barry Gaspar from Duke University spoke on "Gender and Resistance: Women in Slave Society and the Caribbean." A specialist on comparative slave systems, Dr. Gaspar’s A Turbulent Time: The Greater Caribbean in the Age of the French and Haitian Revolutions appeared in 1997.
New York alternative rock bands Madder Rose and Belly performed in the All Campus Dining Center.
Elizabeth Daniels ‘41, professor emerita of English and college historian, lectured on "Henry Nobel MacCracken and the Modernization of Victorian Vassar (1915-1946)." Her study of Vassar’s 5th president, Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College was published in 1994.
Ethicist Tu Wei-Ming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy at Harvard University, spoke on "Beyond the Enlightenment Mentality: Exploring Confucian Ethics for the Global Community." A central figure in the exposition of the “New Confucianism” an a prolific author in both English and Chinese, he edited China in Transformation from Harvard University Press and The Living Tree: Changing Meaning of Being Chinese Today from Stanford University Press in 1994, and his inaugural Wu Teh Yao Memorial Lectures (1995) at The Centre for the Arts at the National University of Singapore appeared as A Confucian Perspective on Human Rights in 1996.
Deborah Dash Moore, professor of religion, appeared on “The Ruth Jacobs Show” on New York City radio station WEVD-AM to discuss her book, To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A. (1994).
Robert Farris Thompson, professor of African and Afro-American Art History at Yale, spoke on "Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of the Black Atlantic World” in Taylor Hall. The master of Timothy Dwight College at Yale, in 1974 Thompson organized the revolutionary African Art in Motion exhibition for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, that demonstrated the existence of an African esthetic vocabulary and its importance in the interpretation of African art. His subsequent exhibit, “The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two Worlds,” at which he was at work when speaking at Vassar, introduced in 1981 an large and almost unknown body of works from the former Kingdom of Kongo and demonstrated their influence on the visual culture of the United States.
In 1983, Thompson published Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy, which identified the sources of contemporary Black Atlantic aesthetics in the cultures of Africa, the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. His Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas was published in 1993.
In awarding Thompson its inaugural award of Distinguished Lifetime Achievement for Art Writing in 2003, the College Art Association acclaimed him as a ““towering figure in the history of art, whose voice for diversity and cultural openness has made him a public intellectual of resounding importance.” “Yale University to Honor Art Historian Robert F. Thompson,” Yale Bulletin (2009)
Thompson spoke at Vassar in March, 1980.
“At the moment there are two good reasons for anyone interested in art to visit Vassar College,” said New York Times art critic Roberta Smith in a review richly praising the second good reason, a traveling exhibit, The Golden Age of Florentine Drawing, from the National Institute for Graphic Art at the Villa Farnesina in Rome at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.
Her first reason was the center itself. “The show,” Smith wrote, “provides an especially apt occasion to get to know Mr. Pelli’s beautiful building. Nestled discretely next to the neo-Gothic Van Ingen-Taylor Hall, which previously housed both Vassar’s collection and its art history department, the Loeb Art Center’s materials echo the limestone-and-redstone exterior of its elder. But its restrained post-modernism moves past Gothic, to the Renaissance…. Inside the Loeb Art Center, the high ceilings of the central hallway and the main galleries have cathedral-like clerestories that bathe nearly 500 artworks, from Chinese ceramics and Egyptian sculptures to paintings by Joan Miró, Jackson Pollack, Arthur Dove and Mark Rothko, in soft natural light.”
“Vassar’s collection,” Smith added, “is especially strong in works on paper and there are three small wood-paneled galleries designed for their display…. The intimacy of these rooms makes the already compressed power of great drawings even more palpable.” The New York Times
Senior Judge Constance Baker Motley found Vassar guilty of discrimination against former biology professor Cynthia Fisher when it failed to promote her to associate professor in 1985. The college was ordered to reinstate Fisher and review her again after two years; the court also awarded Fisher $626,876.12 in damages. Vassar’s attorney, John Donohue said that the decision was “a shock to the college.”
Judge Motley’s decision was reversed in 1995 by the Second Circuit of the New York State Court of Appeals.
Dr. Bernadine Healy ’65, the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health, delivered the address at Vassar’s 128th Commencement. Noting the advances made by medical technology in the last 50 years, she said, “Today we are confronting the economic challenge—the dollar cost—of the extraordinary success of the wonders of biology and medicine. But tomorrow we will confront ethical, social and moral challenges that will make the problems of economics we are facing now seem very easy.” The New York Times
Ferry Cooperative House was closed by residential life after a health inspection that cited unhealthy living conditions and a general lack of respect for the house. Ferry remained closed for over a year while complete renovation and upgrading of every aspect of the 1951 building was completed, in consultation with architect Herbert Beckhardt, who as a young man had assisted the building’s architect, Marcel Breuer, in the original design and construction. Vintage photographs allowed for the replication of the original interior of the building.
With approval from the board of trustees and the faculty, the Dean of Student Life position became the Dean of the College, with responsibility for most offices working individually with students, both academically and co-curricularly. Former dean of studies and Acting Dean of Student Life Colton Johnson was apointed to the new post, which oversaw the activies of: the offices of the dean of studies and the dean of students; the newly created campus concerns office; the house fellows program; the Intercultural Center; religious activities and chaplaincy services; campus dining services; security; career development; and campus activities. Johnson explained in a statement to The Miscellany News that his new position combined areas he knew from his work as dean of studies with other areas affecting students' "academic and co-curricular lives.”
“Hey Kids, Let’s Put On a Show,” an article by Patricia Volk in The New York Times, told the story of the 10 years’ summer collaboration between the college and New York Stage and Film, a theatre group located in New York City. “The Vassar campus,” Volk observed, “looks as if someone waved a wand and said, ‘I’ll take one of everything.’ The architecture goes from Renwick to Gothic to Pelli. Still, by New York standards, it’s bucolic. A John Patrick Shanley play runs 10 minutes longer here because everyone is relaxed. Eventually, people adapt to birdies and falling asleep without car alarm blasts. Most live simply in the dorms. Sometimes they nest. Ron Rifkin put in a wine cellar. Mr. Shanley likes to decorate.”
Recounting Vassar history for Volk, Dixie Massad Sheridan ’65, vice-president for college relations, observed that the college and theater dated back to 1925 and that T. S. Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes had its premiere at Vassar in 1933. “The making of theater," Sheridan said, “is educational. It requires constant problem solving. It feeds the mind and soul. And it’s good publicity for Vassar, too.” Actor-director Mark Linn-Baker, just turned 40, was also in a reminiscent mood, telling Ms. Volk, “Ten years ago, we were the young voices and now we’re not. Now people come back with their children. We talk about calling it New York Stage and Film and Day Care.” The New York Times
The Coal Bin Theatre, a “black box” theater exclusively for student productions, opened behind and below the Powerhouse Theater. A part of the renovation of the old facilities buildings behind Main Building made possible by the opening of the new Buildings and Grounds Services Center at the south end of the campus, the space was designed by architect Jeh V. Johnson, senior lecturer in art, in consultation with several representatives of student dramatic groups.
The facility, where programming was primarily the responsibility of Philaletheis, was renamed a few years later as The Susan Stein Shiva Theater.
A new security system employing electronic card entrance was installed in all residence halls as a part of a general restructuring of Vassar's security plan. The new system replaced keyed locks and allowed for greater flexibility in granting and gaining access. Sasha Zabinski '97 reflected positively on the changes, “I definitely notice an increase in security since last year. It’s reassuring…Security’s especially more strict in buildings that see a lot of students and serve multiple functions, like the library, the music hall, and the Main Building.” The Miscellany News
Dr. Robert Gooding-Williams, professor of black studies and George Lyman Crosby 1896 Professor of Philosophy at Amherst College lectured on "Black Cupids, White Desires: Race and the Representation of Racial Difference in Casablanca and Ghost." The editor of Reading Rodney King: Reading Urban Uprising (1993), Professor Good-Williams published Look, A Negro!: Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture and Politics in 2006.
Robert Giroux lectured on "The Genius of Elizabeth Bishop." Bishop’s publisher at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Giroux edited The Collected Prose (1984) and a collection of her letters, One Art (1995). His lecture was a part of a weekend-long symposium featuring a series of presentations and reflections sponsored by the Elizabeth Bishop Society. “Whether their exposure to Bishop had been brief, or lifelong, or only through her work, each member of the symposium had been touched by her in some way and kept her with them,” remarked Stephanie Block ‘96. The Miscellany News
Peruvian folk artist Nicario Jiménez spoke on "Art and Popular Resistance in the Andes." A sculptor of retablos, portable boxes filled with brightly colored figurines arranged into narrative scenes, Jiménez translated the antique genre developed by Andean people from the portable religious shrines carried through the mountains by Catholic priests into contemporary narratives sometimes containing police cars and buses and having as many as a dozen individual scenes.
American novelist, historian and playwright Sarah Schulman, a founding member in 1992 of the New York City activist group, The Lesbian Avengers, lectured on "The Movement Under Reagan and Bush and the founding of the Lesbian Avengers." The foreword to Schulman’s book My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years (1994) was by Urvashi Vaid ’79.
The Scottish alternative rock band, The Jesus and Mary Chain, performed in Walker Field House as a stop on their tour with Mazzy Star and Velvet Crush. Ric Menck, drummer for retro-pop band Velvet Crush, spoke with Nevin Martell '97 about his band's relationship to the "nostalgia movement" before taking the stage for the night: “I think people think that we sit around all day and listen to old records and try to write songs like that, but it’s really not like that. We really just do what comes out of us. We write what’s in us.” The Miscellany News
One of the AIDS activists at the ceremony, Delna Fraser-Howze, executive director of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, said of the appointment, “It is significant that an African-American woman has been put in this job because African-American issues have been neglected in the past in this epidemic.”
Students in biology professor Mark Schlessman’s course in the botany of North American Indians, who in the spring had planted a demonstration garden of culinary plants, with emphasis on plants of the Eastern woodlands, harvested Iroquois white flour corn and Osage brown flour corn, among other crops.
Ferry Cooperative House, closed for over a year for complete restoration and renovation, reopened, with 27 residents. One reason for the closing, the deterioration of cooperative governance in the house, led to discussions about its becoming an academic building. A concerned group of students worked with Dean of Students DB Brown to develop new guidelines and policies, and the house remained residential.
Under an agreement arranged by the New-York Historical Society, the New York State Attorney General and the auction house Sotheby’s, by which New York State institutions could pre-empt a sale of any of 183 Old Master paintings being sold by the society, Vassar acquired “Crucifixion With the Donor, Brother Amelius de Emaei,” by an anonymous painter of the Brussels school for the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. As the highest bid for the work, estimated at between $80,000 and $120,000, exceeded the estimate at $184,000, the college was able not only to pre-empt the sale but to receive, under the agreement, a 3 percent discount. Vassar’s price was $179,050. The New York Times
“The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal,” an article by Ron Rosenbaum in The New York Times Magazine reviewed the practice at several men’s and women’s colleges in the 1940s and 50s and into the 60s of “posture pictures,” the taking of nude photographs of entering students in order that weaknesses of physique could be discovered, analyzed and addressed by prescribed physical exercises. The photography program was in many cases—certainly at Vassar—associated with the later discredited work of Columbia University anthropologist William H. Sheldon in somatotypology, the study of body typology as it was associated with temperament and intellectual development. Rosenbaum further disclosed that Sheldon’s copies of thousands of the photographs were in the archives of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, part of the Smithsonian Institution, and that pictures and negatives from the Vassar Classes of ’42 and ’52 were among them.
As the materials were being deaccessioned, they reverted to the individual colleges, and shortly after Rosenbaum brought their existence to light Elizabeth Daniels ’41 and Nancy MacKechnie, Vassar’s curator of rare books and manuscripts, traveled to the Smithsonian and put the Vassar materials through a macerator, collected the shredded material in clear plastic bags and on their return to campus presented the bags to President Fergusson.
Andrew Hacker, professor of political science at Queens College of the City University of New York, gave a lecture entitled “Bell Curves and Bigger Prisons: White America’s Agenda?” The author of Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal (1992), Hacker referred in his title to the controversial book by Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein and American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994), that posited a growing and dangerous separation in American life between a highly intelligent “cognitive elite” and those of average or below average intelligence. Herrnstein and Murray’s book also implied that genetic differences might well be stronger influences on personal traits like intelligence than such cultural agencies as parental income or education.
Dr. Billie Davis Gaines ’58 from Emory University spoke on “Higher Learning: Collaborative Research as the Essence of Higher Learning, Breaking Down Barriers of Rank, Age, and Gender.”
Journalist, author and political satirist P.J. O’Rourke gave “An evening with P.J. O’Rourke” as the 1995 Alex Kreiger Memorial Lecture in the Chapel. “Many activists and conservatives alike felt vindicated by O’Rourke’s speech" wrote Margo Hasselman '98, "his humor, contradictory though it was, brought out the flaws in both outlooks on politics.” A self-described libertarian, O’Rourke published Give War a Chance in 1992 and All the Trouble in the World in 1994. His Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut appeared in 1995. The Miscellany News
The Alex Krieger Memorial Fund was started by his parents in memory of Alex Krieger ’95 who died in his freshman year in an automobile accident while driving to Pennsylvania. The annual lectures brought eminent American humorists and cultural critics to Vassar in recognition of Krieger’s keen appreciation of the genres.
David Croteau of the departments of sociology and anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University lectured on “Politics and the Class Divide: Why Class Can’t Be Swept Under The Carpet.” Croteau collaborated with Vassar sociologist and media scholar William Hoynes on By Invitation Only: How the Media Limit Political Debate (1994), and his Politics and the Class Divide: Working People and the Middle Class Left appeared in 1995.
Professor John McCleary, of the mathematics department lectured on “Hilbert’s Third Problem and a Certain Infinite Series.” Professor McCleary’s subject derived from the 3rd of 23 mathematical problems posed by the German mathematician David Hilbert in 1900.
Margot Adler, Wicca priestess, scholar and National Public Radio reporter lectured on “Witches, Goddesses and the Revival of Earth-Centered Traditions.” Writing about Adler's upcoming visit for The Miscellany News, Sara Moore '95 quoted Adler's description of the pagan movement as "basically small groups of people meeting in living rooms and parks, not charging much money, bringing food. It’s a very decentralized, anarchistic, grass-roots movement.”
Adler's influential book, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in American Today was published in 1979, and Heretic’s Heart: A Journey Through Spirit and Revolution appeared in 1997.
National Archives archivist Nancy Sahli ’67 lectured on “The Price of the Past.” The program director for the National Archives’ National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), Sahli served from time to time as a consultant to the college on archival preservation.
The headline in The New York Times read “The Trouble with Angels is Averted at Vassar,’ summarizing the resolution of a difficult campus issue. Modern technology—from the installation of a campus telephone system providing phones in all residence hall rooms to controlled identification card entrance to the halls and a campus-wide network of emergency “blue phones”—had made much of the traditional work done by “white angels,” the halls’ desk messengers, obsolete.
A proposal to eliminate the positions aroused fierce student and alumnae/i opposition, which led to a compromise, where the “angels,” recast as “messengers” were present in the halls from 2 pm until 11 pm for what Dean of Students DB Brown called “more administrative work.” “I think it’s a good system,” medieval studies major Steven Miller ’97 told The Times, “the changes aren’t as drastically different as people conceived them to be.” Paulette Roberts ’86, however, said in an interview the change “literally made me mournful.”
African-American poet Margaret Walker, the recipient in 1992 of the Carter administration’s Living Legacy Award, lectured “The Art and Ethos of This Is My Century.” Walker’s This is My Century: New and Collected Poems was published in 1989.
Author and lesbian/feminist activist Susie Bright delivered “Susie Bright’s Sexual State of the Union Address.” “I feel so indignant and fierce…about sexual liberation,” Bright told the audience at the popular Saturday evening lecture. Erica Swift ’98 explained that Bright “uses sexual expression as a means of enlightenment, and her presentations are used as a way to introduce and confront people with different ideas about sexuality.” The Miscellany News
The “sexpert’s” 11th book, The Sexual State of the Union, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1998.
Karsten Harries, philosopher of art, architecture and phenomenology at Yale University, lectured on “The Limits of Autonomy.” His book The Ethical Function of Architecture, published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press in 1997, won the American Institute of Architects 8th Annual International Book Award for Criticism.
Professor Harries lectured at Vassar in 1971 and again in 1981.
German-born American historian Fritz Stern, a scholar of modern European history at Columbia University, lectured on “The German Idea of Genius.” Professor Stern, whose Dreams and Delusions: The Drama of German History was published by Knopf in 1987, received the prestigious German honor, Pour le mérite für Wissenschaft und Künste, in 1994.
He lectured on "The German Past and the American Present" at Vassar in 1971.
One hundred sixty-eight people, including 19 children, died when a bomb destroyed a federal office building in Oklahoma City, OK. The bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, sought to avenge the deaths of 80 members of the radical Branch Davidian religious sect at the hands of federal officers on this date in 1993 in Waco Texas.
British political theorist and author Alan Ryan from the department of politics at Princeton University lectured on “Pragmatism and Patriotism, from Randolph Bourne to Richard Rorty.” Professor Ryan’s Property and Political Theory was published by Blackwell in 1987, and his John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism appeared in 1995. A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books, Professor Ryan was warden of New College, Oxford, from 1996 until 2009.
Texas attorney Sarah Weddington, one of two women who represented “Jane Roe” before the United States Supreme Court in the 1973 Roe v. Wade litigation, lectured on “Women and Roe v. Wade.”
Among the alumnae returning for Reunion, Margaret Milner Richardson ‘65 gave a talk entitled “Many Happy Returns.” “My dream,” the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service said, “is to someday stand before an audience like this—maybe our 35th reunion—and say, ‘I’m from the I. R. S. and I’m here to help you’ without anyone laughing, at least not out loud.” The New York Times
The United States established full diplomatic relations with Vietnam.
An appeals panel of the United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit reversed the 1994 decision of Senior Judge Constance Baker Motley that Vassar had discriminated against former biology professor Cynthia Fisher in 1985 when she was not granted tenure. This finding was substantiated in an en banc review. Appealed, the case was declined by the Supreme Court in January, 1998.
Michael Meeropol, oldest son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, lectured on "The Significance of the Rosenberg Case Today." “The case of my parents was the epitome of Cold War America,” Meeropol told students, “because everyone expects me to believe my parents are innocent, I have to act as an impartial observer, I must acknowledge every piece of evidence, I must respond rationally.” The Miscellany News
Meeropol’s younger brother Robert spoke at Vassar in 1975 about the 1953 execution of his parents as Soviet spies.
Journalist Eric Freedman, who—with his Detroit News colleague Jim Mitzelfeld—shared the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for Beat Reporting, lectured on "How Many Activists Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?" In awarding the prize, the Pulitzer committee cited the team’s “dogged reporting that disclosed flagrant spending abuses at Michigan's House Fiscal Agency.”
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in the Outdoor Theater. Earlier in the day she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal at the Hyde Park estate of the former first lady, where she was cited for her humanitarian work. At Vassar, before a crowd of over 6,000—many of them parents of freshmen on campus for Freshmen Parents’ Weekend—Clinton spoke of the progress on humanitarian fronts of the current administration and attacked plans in the Republican Congress to cut student aid, Medicare and Medicaid. After her remarks, she lingered along a rope barrier, shaking hands and speaking with members of the audience.Clinton was the United States Senator for New York from 2001 until 2009, when she became Secretary of State in the administration of President Barack Obama.
Denis Hayes, the coordinator of the first of Earth Day (April 22, 1970), lectured on "Environmental Politics and Millennial Change" as a part of the dedication of the new Priscilla Collins Field Station. Hayes spoke of Collins as “the most genuinely modest person that I have ever known…[she] leaves in her wake a world that is vastly improved.” The Miscellany News
Founder in 1990 of the international Earth Day Network, Hayes was head of the Solar Energy Research Institute during the Carter administration. In 1992 he became president of the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation, founded in 1952 by Dorothy Bullitt, mother of Priscilla Bullitt Collins ’42, whose gifts to Vassar focused, as did her mother’s foundation, on environmental studies and preservation. The new field station, along with the renovation of Ely Hall and the founding in 1993 of the interdisciplinary program in environmental science linking biology, geology and chemistry, were made possible by a $42 million gift from Bullitt Collins.
Environmentalist Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature (1989), lectured on "Hope, Human and Wild." Serialized in The New Yorker before its publication, McKibben’s book was the first to address for a general audience the concept of climate change, and Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth (1997) offered examples of cultural “sustainability” from the author’s experiences in the Adirondacks, Brazil and India.
McKibben’s lecture was a part of the John Burroughs Slabsides Centennial.
Pioneer Latina attorney and activist Iris Morales, an active member of the New York Young Lords Puerto Rican organization from 1969 until 1975, lectured on "Latina Movements USA: From the 60s to the 90s." Her documentary, Palente, Siempre Palente! The Young Lords, aired on the Public Broadcasting System in 1996.
Musician and activist John Hall, founder and lead singer of Orleans, lectured and sang about "The Politics of Rock and Roll." The co-founder in 1979—with Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt—of the anti-nuclear group Musicians United for Safe Energy, Hall, a resident of Dover Plains, NY, served in the United States House of Representatives from New York’s 19th district between 2007 and 2011.
The house for the Vassar Jewish Union officially opened on Collegeview Avenue. The facility included meeting rooms, an office and a kosher kitchen. Vassar Jewish Union treasurer Ronit Eichen ’99 told The Miscellany News, “I think the ultimate goal of the house is to create an environment where everyone can feel as comfortable as possible with what they believe.”
Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu spoke on "Behind Prison Walls.” Released in 1979 after 19 years in 12 Chinese labor camps, Wu, a naturalized United States citizen, was arrested as a spy and jailed in July 1995, after he attempted to enter the People’s Republic. Convicted in late August on charges of espionage and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, Wu was immediately expelled from the country “as punishment.” The New York Times
Of the Chinese government, Wu told students, “they’re afraid of me, but I’m not afraid of them... I have the truth on my side.” His lecture was a part of Multicultural Awareness Week. The Miscellany News
Feminist geographer Joni Seager from Bentley College lectured on "The Environment: What's Gender Got To Do With It?" Her book Earth Follies: Coming to Feminist Terms with the Global Environmental Crisis was published by Routledge in 1993.
Luce Visiting Professor Dr. Heather Hendershot lectured on "Before Power Rangers: Children and Media Censorship." During her Vassar residency, she put the finishing touches on her book, Saturday Morning Censors: Television Regulation Before the V-Chip (1998).
Russell Simmon’s Def College Jam, an experimental tour celebrating the 10th year of the hip hop organization, Def Jam, presented “The Show Live” in Walker Field House, featuring Jayo Felony, Flatlinerz, Method Man and Redman. Though other stops on the tour had a variety of violent incidents, the show at Vassar went over fairly smoothly. “We covered our budget, we put on a good show, and no incidents were instigated,” ViCE co-CEO David Lee ’97 told The Miscellany News. “Everyone involved put in the cooperative effort to let this show go as smoothly as it did,” said Nobi Nakanishi ’97, his co-CEO.
Cultural critic and social historian Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies and history at New York University, lectured on "Black Musical Resistance and the Politics of Commodification." Rose’s Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America was published by Wesleyan University Press: University Press of New England in 1994.
Musician and social activist Pete Seeger lectured and performed in a program called "Music Can Save The World – Maybe." A Hudson Valley neighbor and a frequent visitor to Vassar, Seeger met with protests by the American Legion and other local organizations on his first appearance on campus in February of 1962.
A political standoff over the federal budget between President Clinton and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives resulted in a partial governmental shutdown.
Sports educator Mariah Burton Nelson, author of The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sport (1994) lectured in the Villard Room before a banquet for the Seven Sisters Swimming and Diving Championship. Burton Nelson, who played basketball professionally across the United States and Europe, spoke about the ongoing challenges facing women athletes. “I thought that she made a lot of really good points,” said Sarah Kramer ’98, “including…that women don’t need to get power over men. They just need to get power over themselves.” The Miscellany News
African-American professor of Judaic and Near Eastern studies and author Dr. Julius Lester from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst spoke on "Blacks and Jews: Where are We and Where are We Going?" in the Villard Room. “I agreed with him about the similarities between Jews and Blacks,” commented Makeda Tiye Smith ’98, “I disagreed, however, with his views about Black anti-semitism. …It is also in Black people’s self-interst to oppose any kind of racism, rather than justifying their resentment of what they feel as Jewish people trying to identify with them. I feel [Lester] overly compensated for Black anti-semitism.” The Miscellany News
A folk singer and active member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Lester, whose maternal great-grandfather was a German Jew, converted to Judaism in 1982. He served as lay leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, VT, from 1992 and 2006.
Writer-in-residence, novelist Madison Smartt Bell, 1995 National Book Award finalist for his novel All Souls’ Rising, gave a reading in Sanders Auditorium. Heather Appel ‘99, writing about the lecture for The Miscellany News, reported that “Cindy Sherman ’99 enjoyed his straightforward style. ‘By not being flowery, he was able to convey more,’ she said.”
Bell read from his previous work at Vassar in 1987, when his wife, poet Elizabeth Spires ’74, was writer-in-residence.
Controversial poet, music critic and dramatist Amiri Baraka—also known as LeRoi Jones—offered "Reflections on the Struggle: Poetry, Politics, Words, and Wisdom" in the Villard Room. Advising revolution-minded students, he told the audience that “you can’t change anything by being angry. If you political types want to pull together an organization you should [center it around] study and activism.” The Miscellany News
Baraka also spoke at Vassar in 1983. His Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones and a long poem, Wise, Why’s Y’s appeared in 1995
Elizabeth Spires '74, author of Worldlings (1992) and wife of Vassar writer-in-residence Madison Smartt Bell, read her poetry in Josselyn parlor.
Gender sociologist Dr. Michael Kimmel '72, professor of sociology at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, lectured on "Clarence, William, Iron Mike, and Us: Issues for Women and Men in the 90s" in the Villard Room. Kimmel’s work focused on concepts of maleness and the meaning of manliness. He edited The Politics of Manhood: Profeminist Men Respond to the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement (and Mythopoetic Leaders Answer) (1995), and his Manhood in America: A Cultural History appeared in 1996.One of the first men to graduate from Vassar, Kimmel noted in a later memoir, “I hold the distinction of having been the first man to ride the bus from Vassar to Yale University for the weekend, a high school friend being in their first coed class.” The Miscellany News
In an article in New York magazine, Professor of English Donald Foster revealed that a computerized textual analysis showed that the anonymous author of the sensational roman à clef centering on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign was Newsweek columnist Joe Klein. Denying authorship, Klein said the professor should get a new computer, and Foster responded, “Joe Klein wrote this book, or else it’s an almost impossibly clever hoax by someone who wanted his work to be taken for Joe Klein’s.” The Albany Times Union
On July 17, 1996, after repeatedly denying authorship and dismissing Foster’s scholarship, Klein admitted the novel was his work.
Lynn Povich ‘65, Vassar executive-in-residence and editor-in-chief of Working Woman Magazine, lectured on "Beyond Work: The Four Forces That Will Shape Your Life No Matter what Career You Choose."
Povich spoke to the strength of the education she had received at Vassar, admitting that “I didn’t appreciate [Vassar’s feminist roots] until I was in the working world and [experienced] some subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination.” She also outlined coming changes in the working world, including the “need to be techno-literate in order to compete and succeed.” However, some students felt that her messages could be more inclusive. Emily Porter ’99 remarked that “if she intends to advance the feminist movement, she must take into account the position of all women, rather than only those who are in her high socio-economic group.” The Miscellany News
University of Pennsylvania history professor Michael Katz lectured on "Redefining the Welfare State: 1980 – 1997" in the Villard Room. Katz addressed the audience about the ongoing political debate over “viewing welfare from a market perspective.” The recent increase in support that this view has had across both sides of the aisle, and along with reduced state power, Katz said, has been and will continue to alter the welfare system. The Miscellany NewsHis Improving Poor People: the Welfare State, the "Underclass," and Urban Schools as History was published in 1995 and an expanded edition of his 1986 work In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America was released in 1996. Katz also co-edited The Mixed Economy of Social Welfare: England, Germany, and the United States from the 1870s to the 1930s (1996) with Christoph Sachsse.
The annual Martin H. Crego lecture was given by Jonathan Gruber, Castle Krob Associate Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on "Health Care for the Poor in the US: The Story of Medicaid in the Last Fifteen Years." A Faculty Research Fellow with the National Bureau of Economic Research since 1992, Gruber assumed directorship of the bureau’s Program on Children in 1996. His lecture discussed the successes and shortcomings of the Medicaid program from an economic perspective. Jennifer D’Angelo ’99 reflected afterwards that “the economically efficient program for low-income health care in the U.S has been under harsh scrutiny and the research and findings of Gruber are very important for future decision making and in the improvement of the health of Americans.” The Miscellany News
The Crego lecture, part of the Crego Endowment established in 1956 by Jean Crego ’32 in honor of her father, was an annual lecture in the general field of economics under the auspices of the economics department.
Asian-American political activist John Tateishi lectured on "The Asian American Political Agenda: An Awakening Dragon in the 21st Century?" Appointed chair of the National Redress Committee of the Japanese American Citizen’s League in 1978, Tateishi, who had been interned at the age of three with his parents during World War II, succeeded in 1988 in gaining a public apology from Congress and President Reagan and the eventual disbursement of $1.6 billion in reparations. Reflecting on his experience, he told the audience that “while standing at the barbed-wire fences, I can remember so clearly thinking America was out there.” Katherine Youn ’96, President of the Asian Students’ Alliance, described Tateishi “a living testimony…a role model for what we can believe in and what we can fight for.” The Miscellany News
Tateishi returned to speak again at Vassar on October 8, 1996.
Urvashi Vaid '79, former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian task Force, lectured on "Virtual Equality: Mainstreaming the Gay and Lesbian Movement" in the Villard Room. Her book of the same name appeared in 1995.
The Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture was given in Sanders Lecture Hall by American historian Edward Ayers from the University of Virginia, who spoke on "The American Civil War as a Moral Problem.” Professor Ayers published The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction (1992) and he edited, with Bradley Mittendorf, The Oxford Book of the American South: Testimony, Memory and Fiction (1997), both from Oxford University Press. With William G. Thomas III, he was responsible for the groundbreaking digital study of the Civil War, The Valley of the Shadow.
The Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture honored the former dean of the faculty and professor of history Charles Caroll Griffin, a distinguished Latin Americanist, who taught at Vassar from 1934 until his retirement in 1967. Professor Griffin died in 1976.
The traditional chain of daisies and laurel accompanied the 563 members of the Class of 1996 into the Outdoor Theater for Vassar’s 130th Commencement. In his commencement address, Maurice Sendak,” the writer of such children’s classic as Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970), issued a charge to the class: “So be our brave new world! Denounce the money-changers and defy the hype, the sleaze, the deadly cynicism that chokes the hope out of all our lives. I invite you to take the plunge. And when the hard work is done, have safe sex and let the wild rumpus begin!”
The senior class gift, $4,618.06, was intended to refurbish the garden fountain at Pratt House and aid the college with scholarships, career development and athletics. In his remarks, the class president, Michael Keenan ‘96, recalled his first sight of Vassar: “It’s so beautiful here that I thought I hope I don’t break anything. You have to understand, I come from Queens.” The New York Times
The Preservation League of New York State held its annual conference at Vassar. Featured presentations focused on downtown development, heritage tourism, laws affecting preservation and fund-raising. Tours of historic sites in the Hudson Valley were also offered.
A truck bomb allegedly set off by the Islamic militant organization Hezbollah killed 19 Americans at the Khobar Towers military complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
The Campaign for Vassar College, launched on July 1, 1989, concluded, exceeding its $200 million goal with a total of $206,280,277, the largest amount raised to date by a liberal arts college in a capital campaign.
The Annual John Christie Lecture was given by Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University, who spoke on "The End of Liberalism? Tools for a Usable Past" in Sanders Auditorium. Katznelson centered his remarks on Theodor Lowi’s theories on the New Deal. “If we are to construct a usable past, “ Katznelson said, “we need to attend to key silences of Lowi,” specifically regarding the government’s active and planned role on a micro-economic scale and the role of race and marginalization during the New Deal period. The Miscellany News
John Aldrich Christie taught in the department of English for many years. A Thoreau scholar, he was largely responsible for the development of the interdisciplinary program in American Culture, originally called in 1973 The Changing American Culture.
Robert McNamara, former secretary of defense, spoke on U.S. military policy to a small group of students and President Ferguson. In his remarks, he stressed the need for more education about the beliefs and practices, as well as policies of other nations. He admitted that the lack of American understanding, and lack of desire for understanding, of Vietnam was a major failure by the United States government, and described the Vietnam War as “a war of nationalism, not aggression.” The Miscellany News
Between November 1995 and February 1998, Vassar history professor Robert Brigham joined Secretary McNamara and other American diplomats, military men and scholars in a series of meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam, with Vietnamese scholars and former civilian and military officials. The wide-ranging discussions led to Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (1999) written by McNamara, Brigham and Brown University historian James G. Blight.
A book-signing party for college historian Elizabeth A. Daniels ‘41’s Main to Mudd and More was held in the College Center Gallery.
President Bill Clinton defeated his Republican challenger, Kansas Senator Bob Dole, winning 49.2 percent of the popular vote to Dole’s 40.7 percent and outpolling him in electoral votes 379 to 159.
Santiago Portilla, speechwriter for Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, and Cecilia Rodriguez, American representative to the Zapatistas, participated in the Symposium on the Modern Revolutionary State of Mexico. Hosted by the Student Activist Union as a part of Multicultural Awareness Week, the lectures and panel discussions focused on changes in Mexico’s recent history, human rights violations, shifting economic strategies, and the relationship between Mexico and the United States. Spence Holman ’99, co-coordinator of SAU, was pleased with the outcome of the event, telling The Miscellany News that “in general it went well, and although the situation was tense, it was non-combative.”
In a survey of the use and growth of electronic mail on college campuses in The New York Times, Trip Gabriel quoted Abigail Butler ’96 on the new phenomenon, called “Blitzmail” at Dartmouth and “Broadcast” at Vassar. “People probably spend easily three hours a day,” Butler reported, “sending and receiving messages. It’s the No.1 way that romances go on at colleges. It’s like the dating game online…. One woman, an English major, met a physics major who quoted Shakespeare to her, and it was love at first Broadcast. I’ve also known people who sat home on Friday and Saturday nights, Broadcasting back and forth to people they know only by nicknames, while the rest of the world goes by.
“After a while, it starts to be really unfulfilling,” Butler—known online as Snow White—continued, “Every Broadcast conversation with someone new is the same for the first 20 messages, finding out who they are. It’s easier just to meet someone.”
Gabriel’s article provoked a letter to The Times from writer on etiquette Letitia Baldrige ’46. “The success of Blitzmail,” Jacqueline Kennedy’s former White House social secretary and chief of staff wrote, “is hardly a sign of improved quality of self-expression. Sentences aren’t made on E-mail. Punctuation isn’t punctuated; spelling is obliterated. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the quick thought that counts. It was only a few years ago that the term ‘couch potato’ was coined to celebrate our obsession with television watching. Here’s a new idea: ‘chair zuchinni,’ to describe the person stuck to a chair in front of a computer, slouched low and transfixed by a monitor…. Romance, where hast thou gone? Hast thou gone the way of all manners?” The New York Times
Deputy Chief of Security Donald Marsala was named new Chief of Security, succeeding George Lochner, a former Poughkeepsie police chief. “[Marsala] has a good working relationship with [the guards],” said VSA President Jen Kohnen ‘97, “and there’s a good balance between an authority figure and someone that they can talk to about their concerns. He also has a good rapport with students.” Before coming to Vassar, Marsala, a graduate of the FBI Academy, served on the police force in Tarrytown, NY. The Miscellany News
Native American writer, poet and filmmaker Sherman Alexie, author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1994), Reservation Blues (1995), and Indian Killer (1996), read from his works in Josselyn parlor.
Alexie went on to write the acclaimed The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (2007), winner of the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.
In a letter to the college community, President Fergusson announced that Professor of Political Science Glen Johnson, a member of the Vassar faculty since 1964, woud serve as acting president in the fall term of 1997. A member of the board of the Ford Foundation, Fergusson planned to spend most of her sabbatical representing the foundation in Africa and Asia. "The pleasure and intellectual engagement of traveling on behalf of Ford," she said, "is that one has a chance to meet both with Presidents and senior Ministers of countries and with people very much at the grass roots level, including those who live at the very bottom of the economic ladder.... The travel is often not comfortable by Western standards, but very memorable.... There is no doubt," she added, "that Professor Johnson will do a superb job as Acting President in my absence." The Miscellany News
President Bill Clinton was inaugurated for his second term.
The Vassar Night Owls were among the “stationary acts” in the “Pre-Parade” at President Clinton’s second inauguration. Other acts included Liquid Soul from Chicago, the Danvers, MA, high school band, Darla’s Dancers from McConnelsville, OH, the Mello-Hawks Steel Orchestra from the Virgin Islands and the San Bernardino Westside Steppers from California.
The ensemble was among nine musical groups selected to perform on “The Voice of America,” the final float in Clinton’s first inaugural parade in 1993. Unfortunately, the float’s brakes locked up as it entered the parade, forcing it to remain on the sidelines.
The Andrew Mellon Foundation awarded a three-year $200,000 grant to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. The grant supported work to develop stronger relationships between the center's collection and the curriculum, focusing on the Magoon Collection, over 3,000 works acquired by Matthew Vassar from founding trustee Rev. Elias Magoon prior to the opening of the college in 1865.
Among the projects developed under the Mellon grant were the online presentation of the collection, The Magoon Collection of 19th Century British & American Art (1998) and two exhibitions, Landscapes of Retrospection: The Magoon Collection of British Drawings and Prints 1739-1860 (1999) and Humanizing Landscapes: Geography, Culture and the Magoon Collection 1739-1860 (2000).
Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Networks, lectured in Sanders Auditorium on "Teaching Respect for All: Why Schools Must Address Issues of Sexual Orientation." The founder, while a student at Concord Academy, of the first gay-straight alliance, Jennings co-founded the Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teacher Network (GLISTeN) in Boston in 1990 and was the principle author of “Making Schools Safe for Gay & Lesbian Youth,” a report from the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth which was the basis, in 1993, for the Massachusetts law that was the first in the United States prohibiting public school discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Jenning’s book, Becoming Visible: A Reader in Gay and Lesbian History for High School and College Students was published in 1993, and in 2009, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appointed Jennings as Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
C. Gordon Post, professor emeritus of political science, died in Poughkeepsie at the age of 93. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Professor Post joined the Vassar faculty in 1933, after receiving his doctorate from his alma mater. He was the author of The Supreme Court and Political Questions (1936), Significant Cases in British Constitutional Law (1957) and An Introduction to the Law (1963). He collaborated with President Henry Noble MacCracken on Fair Play: An Introduction to Race and Group Relations, which appeared in 1942. Retiring from Vassar in 1969, he served as the Robert D. Campbell Visiting Professor at Wells College between 1969 and 1985.
Post appeared frequently in dramatic productions during the heyday of The Vassar Experimental Theatre, appearing as Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest in 1944 and Becket in T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral (1935) in 1941. His first appearance was in 1934 as the Soviet politician Tsexovoi opposite MacCracken's Ivan Borodin—a role modeled on physiologist Ivan Pavlov—in the American première of Fear (1931) by the Russian socialist realist playwright Aleksandr Afinogenov. In a letter, a student observed: "The play was swell with Prexy and a new college heart-throb, Political Science Prof. Mr. Post, featured."
Stacey M. Floyd, '91, a doctoral candidate at Temple University, lectured in the Intercultural Center on "Racial Bodies/Forsaken Souls: A Womanist/Ethical Investigation on Black Women at Seven Sisters Colleges."
Students from Vassar, Bard, and Dutchess Community College presented a "Report on Local Transportation in Poughkeepsie" to City Mayor Colette Lafuente '63 and the Common Council. When she accepted the document, Lafuente stated that the city "will generally look at the report as a planning document.” Peter Leonard, Vassar professor for the course, described the class' process and product as “not just a great Poughkeepsie project, but a great American project...showing a commitment to the city and to this brand of education.” The Miscellany News
A spring Nor'easter brought April Fools' chaos to the campus, disrupting classes and damaging trees and buildings. Administrative offices were closed and classes were cancelled at the discretion of individual professors. College horticultualist and grounds manager Jeff Horst reported "fallen trees and many broken limbs all through campus. The trees were damaged by the sheer weight of snow and the wind. All the rain we had the day before softened the soil. That's why we've seen whole root systems torn out." "I never went through such a night," Horst said. "Trees and branches were falling everywhere to the point where I was counseling people not to walk anywhere." Trees fell on the northeast corner of Cushing House and on the College Center.
Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Anthony Stellato estimated that the storm damage would cost the college "tens of thousands of dollars—perhaps in excess fo $100,000...particularly after taking into account the cost to replace trees, repair damage, pay personnel to address the emergency and lost productivity." "On the other hand," he said, "it is impossible to measure the non-financial 'costs' of losing beautifully mature trees. This...goes well beyond any dollars which we will have to expend."
Up to three feet of snow and gale-force winds left thousands in the region without power and hit the Boston area with the third worst storm in the city's history. The Miscellany News, The New York Times
The Miscellany News reported an 18 percent increase in applications for the Class of 2001. Applications for the incoming class totaled 4,761 compared to 4,037 applications for the Class of 2000. "We've received far more applications from qualified applicants than we have spaces to offer," Dean of Admission and Financial Aid David Borus explained. "Eighty percent or more of the applicants have the academic ability to come here." Admission offers were given to 1,987 of the applicants, for an acceptance percentage of 41.7.
Six hundred fifty students, about one third of those accepted and 20 more than expected, enrolled in the Class of 2001.
Meryl Streep '71 spoke about fame in the Chapel as the President’s Distinguished Visitor. “The reason I’m interested in the F word,” she said, “is that I’ve read surveys that have shown young people don’t care how or why, but they aspire to be famous. I wonder to what extent that’s true, and I would like to weigh in with my considerable expertise in this area.”
Noting that she had appeared in 24 movies since winning an Emmy in 1978 for her portrayal of Inga Helms-Weiss in the television miniseries Holocaust, Streep said, “The process of becoming 24 different women and crawling inside their lives and making them seem real is the biggest reward of my career, and the money is good. But the accompanying demon, fame, is the beast that moves in on your honeymoon…listens on the phone, walks ahead of you into restaurants, hospitals, schools, pushes children aside, my own included, to get ‘one more photo, please.’ It makes every trip to the mall a self-conscious nightmare…and making new friends very, very tricky…. I guess what I’m saying is, the real measure of your life is taken in an interior vessel—your heart.
“Grabbing a cold gold at the Oscars was great,” Streep concluded, “but it didn’t come close to being handed my first born, or my fourth-born, for that matter. Having my picture on the cover of TIME and Newsweek was a kick, but it didn’t touch seeing my mother’s face at her 80th birthday surprise. One category of experience just feels authentic and real, and the other is virtual.” The Vassar Quarterly
In a steady, light rain President Fergusson awarded the bachelor’s degree to 577 members of the Class of 1997 at Vassar’s 131st Commencement. In his commencement address Alan J. Pakula—the producer of To Kill a Mockingbird (1963), the director of All the President’s Men (1976) and the writer, producer and director of Sophie’s Choice (1982)—recalled his father’s warning that filmmakers always had to “start over every time.” “I told him,” Pakula said, “that was the very thing that made me feel alive…. Each film is a new life, a new beginning…. With each film I enter a new world.” Graduating senior Joshua Weinstein appreciated the speaker’s message: “It was about following your passion, and about the fact that what’s important in art is the process, not just the product.” The New York Times
Author Thomas Beller ’87 reflected in an essay in The New York Times on the approach of his 10th reunion and on the “ridiculous ‘R’ sentence” in the invitation: “I know you ‘R’ looking forward to this…opportunity to Recapture memories, Renew friendships, Reacquaint yourself with Vassar, Rekindle school pride and Re-establish ties.” About the sentence, Beller rationalized, “I’m sure my alma mater is not alone in this sort of thing; there is something about alumni correspondence that inspires this sort of inanity.”
About returning, he wrote, “these emotions are draining, and inevitably allow the persistent tug of nostalgia and curiosity to work its special magic. Like tax payments, I bet most of the checks for reunion weekend arrive on the last possible day.” Admitting the fear that, despite the years and accomplishments, “one will instantly revert to one’s freshman year condition when put back in the same surroundings,” Beller added, “there is something annoying in the sheer statistical adamance of the number 10. I have no trouble getting older, I just want to take my time about it.”“Of course,” Beller concluded, “almost everyone I know is capitulating. The essential logic seems to be: I don’t want to go (or admit to wanting to go), but I don’t want to miss it. Curiosity and nostalgia seize the day…. The checks ‘R’ in the mail. Mine is among them.” The New York Times
As the academic year began, major construction projects, some made possible by the successful completion in June of 1996 of The Campaign for Vassar College, were underway across the campus. Two large projects, the Martha Rivers and E. Bronson Ingram Library addition and a new athletics building were supplemented by other projects, including improvements to the College Center and at Ferry House. In addition to the 33,000 sqare foot Ingram addition, the Library project, expected to last at least two years, involved renovation and updating of all existing components of the Library. To accommodate the work, which, according to Director of Libraries Sabrina Pape, would "bring the Library into the 21st century, some library functions such as the Reserve Room were moved within the Library, while others—cataloguing, acquisitions and interlibrary loan—were moved, along with about one third of the Library's holdings, to a 130,000 square foot Library Annex, a former IBM building on nearby Boardman Road. A shuttle service promised a 24-hour delivery of any material requested from the annex. "Vassar has really taken [efforts to retain access to books] a step further than many other schools," said Jordan Klein '99, a member of the Library Committee. "It's still going to be inconvenient," he conceded, "but we're really working to minimize it."
The new athletic building, just north of Walker Fieldhouse and connected to in by a 100-foot glassed-in walkway, contained a new 1,200-seat wood-floor gymnasium with an elevated running track, a 5,000 square foot exercise room, a four-team locker room, along with laundry,office and trainers spaces. A spacious atrium in the new building feature a new dining site, the "Atrium" juice bar. "This is a huge step," said Athletic Director Andy Jennings, "moving us to the point where we want to be...the college realized the importance of providing [an athletics program] not only commensurate with our quality in academics, but also competitive with our peer institutions." A subsequent phase of development for the athletics program included "the addition of three fields, a track and a baseball," said Jennings, along with improved crew facilities on the Hudson River. Jennings called this development "a really positive step—we can now launch and store eights, and have a safer environment in which to row."
Projects at the College Center and Ferry House included the further development of College Center Circle—originally a parking area—into an outdoor gathering place for students and the replacment of asphalt paving from the area surrounding Ferry with the bluestone flag walks desgined in 1951 by the building's architect, Marcel Breuer, but never executed. The Miscellany News
Author Karin Cook '90 read from her novel, What Girls Learn (1997), in Sanders Auditorium.
Eminent art historian Professor Svetlana Alpers from the University of California at Berkeley lectured on "Realities of the Studio or the Vexations of Art" in Taylor Hall. Praised for her persistent study of the language of description and the co-founder of the interdisciplinary journal Representations (1983), Alpers published The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century in 1983 and—with Michael Baxandall—Tiepolo and the Pictorial Intelligence in 1994. Her The Vexations of Art: Velázquez and Others appeared from Yale University Press in 2005.
As part of the annual Multicultural Awareness Week (MAW), November 8-16, Tanya Odom '92, a graduate student at Harvard and a diversity consultant, spoke about her work. "One of the things," she said, "that Vassar didn't teach me was to value conflict. How can you live in a world where everybody is yessing everybody to death? You need to hear what other people are thinking. The Miscellany News.
Lebanese literary scholar Mona Takieddine Amyuni from the American University in Beirut lectured on "Exile and the Contemporary Arab Poet: Adonis, Nizar Kabbani, and Mahmoud Darwish" as a part of the "Issues of the 90s" lecture series.
Rachel J. Simmons ’96, a Women's Studies major, was among the 32 United States students awarded Rhodes Scholarships for study at the University of Oxford in England. While at Vassar, she played soccer and served as Student Assistant to the President, Miscellany News writer and editor, and as an organizer for student activism, especially concerning welfare. Simmons has since written the New York Times bestseller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.
The Miscellany News
A campus-wide card access system, similar to that installed in the residence halls prior to the 1994-95 academic year, allowed electronic security and monitoring of all campus buildings.
President Frances Fergusson returned from her semester sabbatical traveling in Africa and Asia on behalf of the Ford Foundation. During her travels, Fergusson prepared reports for the president of the foundation on Ford programs and projects she had visited.
Professor of Political Science M. Glen Johnson acted as interim-President in Fergusson’s absence. Fergusson applauded Johnson’s work as interim-President: “I thought Glen Johnson did an excellent job. He was not only able to keep momentum going behind important projects, but he was also able to really stay in touch with students, faculty, administrators and the Vassar community at large, which for an interim president is especially hard to do.” The Miscellany News
Five members of the Vassar debate team competed in the Worlds’ Universities Debating Championships in Athens, Greece. Vassar’s A Team, Katie Kimpel ’00, president of the debating society, and Amar Reganti ’99, was one of four American teams to compete in the top 32.
A collectivist discussion group, the student publication Womanspeak and a new chapter of the national organization Feminist Majority Alliance merged under the umbrella of the existing Feminist Alliance. Each group maintained its specific focus and approach to feminist issues but merged the budgets allocated to them by the Vassar Students Association. “We want to give people as many choices as possible,” said Feminist Alliance co-chair Rimma Razhba ’99. The Miscellany News
The United States Supreme Court declined to review the Second Circuit of Court of Appeals ruling that the college had not discriminated against Assistant Professor of Biology Cynthia Fisher in its denial of tenure in 1985. Dr. Fisher had returned to Vassar briefly after a U.S. District Court ruled in her favor. That decision, however, was overturned by the Second Circuit decision.
“We at Vassar College feel completely vindicated by this decision,” said President Fergusson. The Miscellany News, The New York Times
The Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, John Perry, spoke in Taylor Hall on "Language and the Flow of Information," as part of the annual Philosopher's Holiday lecture series. A scholar of the philosophy of language, logic, information and metaphysics, Perry frequently drew attention to the strengths and limitations of language to inform. Among his numerous works were his 1978 dialog between a mortally wounded university professor and her two friends, A Dialog on Personal Identity and Immortality (1978), his humorous online essay Structured Procrastination (1995) and the collection of essays The Problem of the Essential Indexical (1993), the title essay of which begins with Perry’s discovery in a supermarket that the trail of spilled sugar he has been following is coming from his own cart.
“I believed at the outset that the shopper with a torn sack was making a mess. And I was right. But I did not believe that I was making a mess. That seems to be something I came to believe. And when I came to believe that, I stopped following a trail around the counter and rearranged the torn sack in my cart. My change in beliefs seems to explain my change in behavior….
“At first, characterizing the change seems easy. My beliefs changed, didn’t they, in that I cam to have a new one, namely, that I am making a mess. But things are not so simple.
“The reason they are not is the importance of the word ‘I’ in my expression of what I came to believe. When we replace it with other designations of me, we no longer have an explanation of my behavior and so, it seems, no longer an attribution of the same belief. It seems to be an essential indexical.” John Perry, The Problem of the Essential Indexical
John Perry and his Stanford colleague, Professor of Philosophy Ken Taylor, founded the hour-long weekly radio program, “Philosophy Talk”—“The program that questions everything…except your intelligence.”—in the fall of 2003.
Security discovered two persons stuck knee-deep in mud in the middle of Sunset Lake, which had been drained for the winter. The Arlington Fire Department helped rescue the non-students from the mud.
The student-run Listening Center (TLC) broadened its services, creating a 24-hour helpline. “We felt that office hours were no longer sufficient to meet students needs and that people should have someone to talk to, no matter what time of day or night,” explained TLC counselor Michelle Moor ’99. Students calling the Campus Response Center (CRC) were transferred upon request to the Helpline, where they could anonymously speak with a peer counselor. The Miscellany News
Dean of Students D.B. Brown, the Health and Counseling Committee and the Committee on College Life, clarified the protocols on student emergency leaves of absence. “The formal process for emergency leaves of absence wasn’t very well known among students and faculty,” explained Chair of the Health and Counseling Committee and Professor of Psychology Randy Cornelius. “The procedures are clearly articulated now, and will be printed in various places.” The Miscellany News
Flyers posted around campus advertising a lecture by former Clinton presidential intern Monica Lewinsky sponsored by the Feminist Majority Alliance were determined to be a hoax.
Despite receiving death threats the evening before his appearance, Bill Baird, reproductive rights activist and founder of the Pro-Choice League, gave a lecture in the Villard Room sponsored by The Feminist Majority Alliance. “You have every right to be free," he told the audience, "you have every right to make your own decisions. I am a fighter.” The Miscellany News
Three non-students protested Baird’s lecture, picketing in front of Main Gate and carrying signs, one showing a 21-week old aborted fetus and another declaring “Abortion is today’s Holocaust.” One of the protestors, Joe Marinaccio, declared "[Baird] believes in killing babies; he believes women have free choice," and the protest’s organizer, Poughkeepsie resident Helen Westover, the director of Mid-Hudson Stop Planned Parenthood, called Baird an “opportunist,” claiming that he “made millions [by] hurting women.” Baird responded that his only income was a $13,200 Social Security check.
Security officer Kane Zavatsky reported that "extra personnel" and been stationed "in and around Main Building" while Baird spoke and while he met with members of the Feminist Majority Leadship Alliance. Concurrently, members of the student group Respect Life held a meeting in the Gold Parlor of Main Building with Ms. Westover. The Miscellany News
Baird spoke at Vassar again in 2000.
The Miscellany News reported contentious student reactions to an art exhibit in The College Center Gallery called “Art, History or Stereotype: A Controversial Look at Black Memorabilia,” which showed racist commercial images from the 19th and 20th centuries. “It’s a tough collection,” said Dutchess County Legislator Mario Johnson, who owned the collection. “These images are not nice. You have to put it in the context of the time. It’s stuff that actually happened. It’s real history.”
The exhibit coincided with President Bill Clinton’s national Initiative on Race as well as a series of discussions led by the Student Coalition and various concerned students about issues of race at Vassar. “It’s disturbing, but I thought it would be a good opportunity for students to begin a dialogue about race,” explained Terry Quinn, the director of the College Center.
The AIDS Education Committee sponsored two lectures to mark National Condom Week. Rosalyne Blumenstein, director of the Gender Identity Project at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City, spoke at Alumnae House on "A Transgender Experience.” Later that day, the author and host of the nationally broadcast radio talk show “Love Phone,” Dr. Judy [Kuriansky], spoke in the Chapel.Dr. Judy is an “expert in relations, trends, creativity and sexuality,” said the chair of the AIDS Education Committee, Wendy Fabricant ’98. “Her focus is on making intelligent sexual choices, which translates into decreasing relationship violence and encouraging safer sex. Anyone who has ever been in love, has had sex, or hopes to, should definitely come hear Dr. Judy.” The Miscellany News
The college announced that at the end of the semesters students would be able to access their grades online using their Vassar ID numbers and passwords. Registrar Dan Giannini noted that, despite online accessibility, grades would still be sent to students’ homes.
The Lesbian and Gay Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College held its annual meeting at the college. A highlight was a workshop, “The Gender Spectrum,” led by Jason Fleetwood Bolt ’01 and the director of the Gender Identity Project at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City, Rosalyne Blumenstein, who spoke on campus for National Condom Week the day before.
Delivering the Alex Krieger ’95 Memorial Lecture in Skinner Hall, New Yorker writer and social critic Calvin Trillin admitted “I’m actually glad to be at any college where I’m not paying tuition.” “Trillin’s hour-and-15-minute-long talk,” said Sally-Anne Moringello '99 in The Miscellany News, “was captivating from beginning to end—and not because he gave some lofty talk with a long, fancy title…. The ‘social commentator’ did just that—he commentated on random aspects of society and of his own life.”
Three of Trillin’s books on regional American food—American Fried: Adventures of a Happy Eater (1974), Alice, Let’s Eat: Further Adventures of a Happy Eater (1978) and Third Helpings (1983)—appeared in 1994 as The Tummy Triology, as did Deadline Poet: My Life as a Doggerelist, a collection of comic verse with commentary. Family Man, reflections on his daughters, and Travels with Alice, essays on family travel, appeared in1999.
The Alex Krieger Memorial Fund was started by his parents in memory of Alex Krieger ’95 who died in his freshman year in an automobile accident while driving to Pennsylvania for an ultimate Frisbee match. The annual lectures brought eminent American humorists and cultural critics to Vassar in recognition of Krieger’s keen appreciation of the genres.
Sociologist Dr. James V. Fenellon from John Carroll University spoke on “Chief Wahoo and the Cleveland Indians: Global Icons and Symbolic Racism” for Equal Rights Awareness Day sponsored by the student organization, Promoting Equality And Community Everywhere (P.E.A.C.E.). Descended from the Lakota/Dakota Sioux, Professor Fenelon examined the evolution and perceived significance of the team logo of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, “Chief Wahoo”—adopted by the team in 1915 and developed into its current form in 1952. Protests against the design as “racist” began with the opening of the team’s stadium, Jacobs Field, in 1994, and they intensified, spreading to college campuses, during the Indians’ unsuccessful 1995 World Series contest against another “Indian” team, the Atlanta Braves.
Some of Dr. Fenelon’s remarks were drawn from a paper he presented to the American Sociological Association at its August 1997 meeting in Toronto. “Wahoo: Window into the World of Racism” reported on an extensive multi-generational and on a multi-ethnic survey, a study of media coverage of the protests against “the Wahoo” and on interviews. One of the study’s conclusions was that “institutionalized ‘white racism’ is clearly evidenced in [the] display, distribution and defense of the racial icon Chief Wahoo.”
For its event, P.E.A.C.E. invited 100 local high school students to campus to participate in workshops and discussions around issues of symbolism and race.
The college announced that Cesar Pelli, architect of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, was commissioned to design a new center for drama and film, to be constructed on the site of Avery Hall, originally the Calisthenium and Riding Academy. The combination of drama and film in one building was intended to encourage collaboration between disciplines, an idea that would be reflected in Pelli’s design.
Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University, gave the Frederic C. Wood, Jr. Memorial Lecture, speaking on "Jesus in the Gnostic Gospels: Alternative Views" in the Villard Room. A former MacArthur Fellow (1980-85), Professor Pagels worked at Harvard as a graduate student in the translation of the Nag Hammadi library, 52 papyrus texts discovered in 1945 in Egypt and dating from the first century of Christianity, which became known as the Gnostic Gospels—an alternative/supplement to the New Testament gospels. Her exposition of the alternative view of early Christianity in the writings, The Gnostic Gospels (1979), won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1979 and the National Book Award in 1980. Her The Origin of Satan (1995) argued that these early texts suggested that Christians throughout history “taught—and acted upon—the belief that their enemies are evil and beyond redemption.”Frederic C. Wood, Jr., was chaplain and associate professor of religion at Vassar. Pastoral Psychology magazine’s “The Man of the Month” in October of 1969, Wood was described as “in a Gilbert and Sullivan phrase, the ‘very model’ for a modern university minister.” He had, the journal added, “set the standard for campus clergy.” His Sex and the New Morality appeared in 1968 and Living in the Now: Spirit-Centered Faith for 20th Century Man was published in 1970, the year of his death at the age of 38.
The Jewish Studies program cancelled the spring break study group to Jerusalem for its course “Jerusalem Above, Jerusalem Below.” Dean of the Faculty Norman Fainstein and the senior officers cited concerns for students’ safety in light of violence in the region and President Bill Clinton’s recent accusation that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was hiding chemical and biological weapons, thereby breaking with United Nations resolutions.
Lesbian-feminist activist and performance artist Holly Hughes performed in Avery Hall. Hughes was one of the NEA Four, four performance artists whose peer-reviewed grants from the National Endowment for the Arts were vetoed in 1990 by the endowment’s chairman on the basis of “obscene” content. The artists sued, and despite reinstated grants to two of the Four—Ms. Hughes and Tim Miller—the following year, the suit continued. In 1994, the endowment settled the suit for $252,000, of which Ms. Hughes received $9,375.
In June 1998 the Supreme Court, in an eight to one decision, upheld a Congressional “decency test” initiated by the case of Hughes and her colleagues that obliged the endowment to consider “decency” and “respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public” in considering grants.In Leaving Town Alive (1993), a reflection on his two-and-a-half years as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Oregon attorney John Frohnmayer wrote, “I couldn’t have handled it worse with a rehearsed script…. Congress was in a depression of courage, and I didn’t want to be the one to take the endowment down in flames.”
The Vassar Students Association authorized Students for a Free Tibet as a student organization, one of many chapters on college campuses around the country. “They have obviously been very active and vocal and they were well represented at the meeting,” said VSA Secretary Makeda Smith ’98. Earlier in the year the group raised over $1,000 from a benefit concert.
The AIDS Education Committee gathered over 400 signatures supporting free and confidential AIDS testing services at Baldwin Health Center. “The matter now is not ‘should we [test] on campus,’ but how quickly can we do it,” said Dean of Students D. B. Brown. The Miscellany NewsThe health service discussed offering free, confidential AIDS testing at Baldwin in 1991
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lucinda Franks ’68, writer in residence on William Gifford Fund for Visiting Writers, spoke in Sanders Auditorium on “The War for Baby Clausen." Professor Emeritus of English Gifford was happy with Franks’ talk, telling The Miscellany News, “she’s a wonderful writer, she studied here, she taught here, she understands reporting, she understands what students need to know, and to me, she makes what she writes about—the problems and possibilities—exciting.”A staff writer for The New York Times, Franks shared the 1971 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for “Diana: the Making of a Terrorist,” an account the life and death of Weatherwoman Diana Oughton. She taught Vassar’s Contemporary Press class in 1981.
Eighty-six-year-old Himalayan sage and yogi Shri Swami Divyananda Saraswati Maharaj spoke for over two hours in Sanders Auditorium on “Health, Happiness and Long Life.” “Most people are so focused on making a living that they have no time to live,” the master, who had spent 40 years in a Himalayan hut at 12,000 feet. He urged his listeners to put “more life into their years, rather than more years into their lives,” encouraging students to seek both spiritual and academic knowledge with “a heart of love, the mind of a thinker, the eyes of a seeker, the voice of a singer and the hands of a worker.” The Miscellany News
A recurring dispute over the difference between club (non-varsity) sports and varsity teams was addressed when club sport athletes were invited to the annual athletics banquet for the first time. “It was important that all athletes were recognized on this campus for the work they do,” said Peter Krasny ’99, the VSA representative to the Student Athletes Advisory Committee. But, as VSA President Jason Baumgarten ’98 pointed out, “It is hard to figure out exactly what the club sports athletes are supposed to get from the banquet” since they received no awards and were not included in the annual video montage. The Miscellany New
The film and drama departments held a reunion weekend, welcoming 156 alumni and all current film and drama majors. The reunion marked the dedication of the former Coal Bin Theatre, renovated in memory of Susan Stein Shiva ’57. The black box theater exclusively for student productions in the former vehicles building—earlier the “coal pocket” for the college boilers—was part of the adaptive reuse of the former site behind Main Building of the branches of the buildings and grounds department. Designed by Vassar’s architecture professor, Jeh V. Johnson, in consultation with Philaletheis and its aggregate dramatic organizations, the facility was under the direction of Philaletheis. It later became the Susan Stein Shiva Theater, in honor of Ms. Shiva, who was active in New York dramatic circles and an original trustee of the New York Shakespeare Festival.
Students and alumni attended a panel on “Television in the Third Millenium” featuring the president of New Line Television, Robert Friedman ’78, the president of Disney/ABC Cable Television, Geraldine Laybourne ’69 and Milbrey Rennie Taylor ’68, an executive producer at CBS News. “The event gave us a perspective on what is happening in theatre, film and television today,” said drama major Jennifer Holmes ’00. “It also provided the groundwork for a connection between the academic and professional worlds.” The Miscellany News
Alice Kaplan ex-‘75, author of French Lessons: A Memoir (1993) and Lehrman Professor of Romance Studies and Literature at Duke University, gave the Dr. Maurice Sitomer Lecture, "France on Trial," in the Villard Room. Dr. Kaplan’s The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach (2000), a study of the pro-Vichy and anti-semitic French intellectual executed in 1945 for “intellectual crimes” by the Gaullist government, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Award in History.
Four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke in the Chapel on "Government, Corporations, and the Environment in the 21st Century,” as part of the Vassar Greens’ Earth Day observation. Nader is one of the most influential organizers of our time,” said Greens Co-Chair Pamela Garfield ’98, “and he addresses the interests of everyone and anyone who is a consumer in this society.... He talks about solutions and real ways students can organize for change and make a difference.” The Miscellany News
Lesléa Newman, author of Heather Has Two Mommies (1989), gave a lecture of the same name as part the “GAYpril” events of the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC). Newman’s book about a lesbian couple raising a daughter raised protests in 1992 when it was included in the New York City school system’s multicultural “Rainbow Curriculum.” “This lecture will be important because it forces people to rethink the necessity and the benefits of the traditional, nuclear family and our fears and biases surrounding this particular subject,” said QCVC co-chair Jessica Jenkins ’00. “It will also be very informative about homophobia in New York outside the walls of Vassar, and especially in the public school system.” The Miscellany News
Vassar hosted a New York State Democratic primary election debate, which included candidate for Attorney General Catherine Abate ’69. The College Democrats and the Dutchess County Democrats organized the event, and students Evan Greenstein ’99 and Stephanie Litos ’99 sat on the questioning panel.Ms. Abate lost the Democratic primary to attorney and former organized crime prosecutor Eliot Spitzer, who defeated the Republican incumbent, Dennis Vacco, in the general election.
Speaking at Vassar’s 132nd Commencement, Tony Award-winning actress Jane Alexander advised the 500 graduates in the Class of 1998 to “follow your gut and don’t take any guff from anyone.” The former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts in the Clinton administration admitted, “Many of us older people are stuck in the status quo since we are all invested in keeping things pretty much the same as they are, in order to hold on to what we’ve got.” “There is,” she told the class, “always a better mousetrap to be built, and it is your generation that is going to build it.” The New York Times
Alexander’s memoir, Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics (2000) recounted Alexander’s struggle to defend the National Endowment against attempts to abolish it by conservative congressmen and the Christian right. At the time of her resignation in December 1997 Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, quoted in Dance magazine, praised her “skillfully running the gauntlet of hostile ideological attacks from Congress and brilliantly defending a strong federal role in the arts for communities across the country.”
The Cooperative Bookshop merged with the College Bookstore. The Co-op, an independent operation for 65 years selling texts for the Departments of Drama, English, Women’s Studies, Art and History, had faced financial difficulties in recent years, making “the merger more of a necessity than a choice,” according to Co-op Board Secretary Milton Welch ’99. “The principle of the merger is a concern,” said Welch, “…However, the state of the situation has made it a question between maintaining what the Co-op stands for and [going out of business].”
Nominated by Lia McCabe, a disabled resident of Dutchess County, Vassar received an Access Dutchess County Award as one of the “businesses and other public accommodations that have made exceptional efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” For some 14 years, the student/faculty Committee on Disability Issues (CODI) had advised the college, which had most recently improved accessibility through a renovation of Blodgett Hall, the installation of wheelchair lifts in Thompson Library and the completion of a ramp providing disability access to the front of Main building
Truck bombs exploded almost simultaneously outside United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Members of the Islamic militant group al-Qaeda were held responsible for the explosions, which killed 224 people and injured some 4,500 others. Osama bin Laden was among the 22 men indicted by a federal grand jury for the attacks.
TIME magazine and The Princeton Review’s Best College For you named Vassar “College of the Year,” focusing largely on the Exploring Transfer program, a collaborative effort between Vassar and several community colleges that provided promising community college students a credit-bearing, summer residential college experience. Started in 1984 under the direction of Dean of Studies Colton Johnson in collaboration with Dr. Janet Lieberman from LaGuardia Community College in Queens, the program was the focus of the National Conference on Community College Transfer held at Vassar in 1988, and in the program was replicated at fie sites across the country in summer of 1990 under the sponsorship of the Ford Foundation, AT&T Foundation and Chase Manhattan Bank.
Johnson and Lieberman received a Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Higher Education in 1989.
Police arrested a resident of 99 Fulton Avenue, just a few blocks away from the College, after discovering the bodies of eight women who had been reported missing from the Poughkeepsie area over the previous 22 months. The 27-year-old man lived in the house with his parents and a teenage sister.
The lieutenant governor of New York, Betsy McCaughey Ross ’70, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, and Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, spoke in the Jade Parlor on women and politics.
Artist Joe Amrhein, co-founder of the Pierogi Gallery and curator of the Pierogi 2000 exhibit in the College Center Gallery, lectured in Taylor Hall on the curatorial process and on the primary inspiration for the exhibit—new artists’ struggle to show work in Manhattan. Pierogi 2000 displayed work by over 200 artists, both well- and lesser- known and including Vassar’s own Professor of Art Harry Roseman, in portfolios held in two large open cabinets. The exhibit’s name was a nod to the traditionally Polish population of the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, where the project started.
Blythe Dillon ‘99, who covered the lecture for The Miscellany News, reported that Amrhein “spoke of his personal frustration with the situation of galleries within Manhattan and how it has become increasingly difficult for unknown artists to show their work. He therefore converted his own studio, “Four Walls,” into a gallery.”
Edward Pittman ‘82 assumed the newly created position of associate dean of the college for campus community. Formerly the assistant dean of the college and director of the Intercultural Center, Pittman expressed hoped that this change would “make for an integration of different services across campus.” The Miscellany News
After a successful three-year pilot program initiated by Jewett House President Julia-Sara Mobley ’98 in 1996 which placed printers in Jewett and Cushing Houses, each residence hall computer cluster was supplied with a printer. Students needed only supply their own paper.
Speaking at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, President Frances D. Fergusson received the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal for her humanitarian efforts. Professor of Political Science and former Acting President M. Glen Johnson noted Fergusson’s accomplishment as the first woman to be elected Chair of the Board at the Mayo Foundation, and her active role as a trustee of the Ford Foundation. Other honorees were actor Earl Jones, United States Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Anne Dyson, M.D.
Rev. Richard C. Witt, Director of the Rural Migrant Ministry, lectures on "The Plight of Migrant Workers in the Hudson Valley" as a part of the Spirituality, Culture, and Justice Series in the Faculty Parlor. Executive director since 1981 of the organization, whose mission was to “overcome the prejudices and poverty that degrade and debilitate all members of our society,” Witt also provided chaplaincy counsel to the Vassar community.
Singer and jazz pianist Bobby Short performed in Skinner Hall. “Short’s bubbling personality and expressive gestures colored the entire performance,” wrote The Miscellany News. “The bright, upbeat tunes seemed to flow from his fingers as he played, and his constantly tapping foot soon became contagious.”
The South Asian Students’ Alliance sponsored Indiafest, an all-afternoon event on the residential quad to “promote peace between South Asian countries and to mark the 50th anniversary of Gandhi’s death.” Events included cultural dancing and a fashion show put on by members of SASA and the Poughkeepsie community.
Self-proclaimed “radical historian” Ellen Carol Dubois, professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, lectured on "Harriot Stanton Blatch at Vassar: Women's Rights Goes to College" in the Villard Room. Dubois’s study of early feminist Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78, Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage appeared from Yale University Press in 1997.The daughter of pioneer feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Blatch assisted her mother, Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gag on the second volume of History of Woman Suffrage (1881) before her marriage to William Blatch in 1882.
The Miscellany News praised the atmosphere of the new Cubby Hole Coffeehouse on Raymond Avenue, citing the comfortable couches, the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and “…a cozy, yet exotic and colorful décor with creatively-themed seating areas and dramatic purple walls featuring the art and photography of local and Vassar artists.” “I’m here for the Vassar students…I feel like this is my living room, and I’m inviting all my friends over for coffee,” owner Reisa Conde said.A small stage at the front of the coffeehouse encourged student and local live-music performances.
Mayan Indian playwrights and actresses Isabel Juarez Espinos and Petrona de la Cruz gave a lecture-demonstration in Sanders Auditorium on “Empowerment of Mayan Women.” Founders in 1993 of La FOMMA, a theater troupe and community center in the Chiapas region of southern Mexico, the two women toured internationally, speaking about their work, which focused on the struggle of indigenous women in rural Mexico. The troupe’s name was an acronym for la Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya (the strength of the Mayan woman).
Speaking to playwright Robert Myers in The New York Times in 1997, former Vassar professor of drama Denny Partridge, who worked with the project, praised La FOMMA’s unique “women-centered perspective.” “It’s not anti-male,” Partridge continued, ''but these women urgently need to communicate the stories of their lives, and this is a safe haven.'' New York Times
The Queer Coalition held a vigil in front of the library for Matthew Shepard, the 21-year old gay college student killed recently in Laramie, Wyoming. Over 170 students joined in services. “I was surprised at the turnout…from what I saw, it was a big cross-section of the Vassar community,” said Queer Coalition contact and vigil organizer T.C. Morrow ’99. The Miscellany News
At their fall meeting the board of trustees pledged that the college would “never knowingly purchase apparel from vendors or manufacturers that use sweatshop labor,” adopting the code of conduct presented by the Vassar Students Association earlier that year.
Dr. Vladimir Strelnitski, the director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket lectured on "MWC349: The Unique Star-Laser" in Sanders Physics. While associated with the Astrophysics Laboratory at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, in 1995, Dr. Strelnitsky was the principle investigator in the team that detected Radio Star MWC 349, the first “natural” laser to be found in space.The Maria Mitchell Observatory was a key part of the program of the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association. Founded in 1902 by former students, family members and admirers of Vassar’s first professor of astronomy, Maria Mitchell, the association’s goals were preservation of Mitchell’s legacy at the native site of her work.
Dr. James G. Blight, professor of international relations at Brown University, delivered the Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture in Sanders Auditorium, speaking on "The Door We Never Opened: How the Vietnam War Could Have Been Avoided, 1962-1963." Along with Vassar Professor of History Robert K. Brigham, Professor Blight participated with former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Vietnamese scholars and former military and civilian officials in six extended discussions between November 1995 and February 1998 of the Vietnamese War. Brigham, Blight and McNamara published Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy in 1999.
The Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture honored the former dean of the faculty and professor of history Charles Caroll Griffin, a distinguished Latin Americanist, who taught at Vassar from 1934 until his retirement in 1967. Professor Griffin died in 1976.Professor Blight spoke again at Vassar on this topic in March 1999.
The Intercultural Center changed its name to the ALANA Center (Asian, Latino, African American/Black and Native American Center). “The name change will not alter anything in the Center’s purpose, attention or mission to students of color, the only difference will be adjusting to the name change,” ALANA Manager Marivel Oropeza ’99 told The Miscellany News.
President Frances Fergusson was recognized in Vanity Fair’s article “America’s Most Influential Women: 200 Legends, Leaders and Trailblazers.” Also recognized in the article were Katherine Graham ex-’38, former publisher of The Washington Post and chairman of the The Washington Post Company board; Susan Peterson ’66, chairman and publisher of Viking Penguin and publisher of Riverhead Books and Geraldine Laybourne ’69, former president of Nickelodeon and president of Disney-ABC Cable Network.
The director of Vassar’s study abroad program in Morocco, Dr. Mohamed Ezroura, vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Mohammed al Khamis University in Rabat, lectured on "Readjusting Cultural Differences and Visions" in Sanders Auditorium.
The president of the Ford Foundation, Susan V. Berresford ex-’65, Vassar’s executive in residence, spoke in the Villard Room on "Foundations and Social Change." During her recent sabbatical semester President Fergusson, a member of the Ford board, traveled throughout Africa and Asia evaluating Ford programs.
The Executive in Residence program was established in 1983 by President Virginia Smith.
The College received a $3.6 million gift from the Marian and Speros Martel Foundation, enabling the addition of a baroque organ and air conditioning system to the Belle Skinner Hall of Music and the construction of a new theater in Avery. “It is most appropriate that a new theater behind that historic façade will bear Mrs. Martel’s name. We are delighted the foundation has made this generous contribution in her memory,” President Ferguson told The Miscellany News.
David Kelley, founder and executive director of the Institute for Objectivist Studies, an organization devoted to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, lectured in Sanders Hall on "Economic Rights: Welfare Rights."
Dr. Kelley taught in the philosophy department and the cognitive science program at Vassar between 1977 and 1984.
The Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach President Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the inquiry into his alleged sexual relationship with a White House intern.
On February 12, 1999, the Senate, the majority of which were Democrats, acquitted him of the charges.
The January issue of Black Enterprise magazine listed Vassar as the third-best national liberal arts college in the country for African-American students, behind Oberlin and Swarthmore.
New York State Senator Olga Mendez lectured on "Legislative Realities for Farmworkers in New York State" in the Villard Room as a part of the Spirituality, Culture, and Justice Series. Senator Mendez was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to a state legislature in the continental United States.
The Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) (formerly Vassar Socialists) organized a rally in the College Center to protest the shooting by New York City policemen of Amadou Diallo, a 22 year-old, unarmed Guinean immigrant, in the Bronx on February 4. RSM member Terry Park '01 told The Miscellany News that the intent of the rally was to "explore the larger issues at hand" and to "show that students have a very important role to play in the building of a revolution in the U.S. and the world." The group protested the killing at the Dutchess County Jail on February 13.
Forty-one shots were fired, of which 19 struck Diallo, who was mistaken for a possible rape suspect. The incident was widely denounced as gross police brutality, and, indicted by a grand jury, the police officers were acquitted on February 25, 2000. Kadiatou Daillo, the victim's mother, spoke at Vassar on April 8, 2000.
Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States from 1997 until 2000, read in the Villard Room. “Pinsky’s face and gestures expressed sincere gratitude for being here,” wrote Kevin Aldridge ’99 for The Miscellany News. “He had something to say and made you want to listen. He paid attention to his audience as much as it did to him…it felt as if he met each gaze, spoke to each individual. His presentation had the engagement and tantalization of a storyteller’s, for he told great stories with his lively and expressive demeanor.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein delivered the Alex Krieger '95 Memorial Lecture in Skinner Hall. “In her lecture, as in her writing, Wasserstein demonstrated her ability to speak to many people and touch them with her understanding of the human condition.” The Miscellany News
In addition to the 1989 Pulitzer, Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles (1988) won the Tony Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
The Alex Krieger Memorial Fund was started by his parents in memory of Alex Krieger ’95 who died in his freshman year in an automobile accident while driving to Pennsylvania for an ultimate Frisbee match. The annual lectures brought eminent American humorists and cultural critics to Vassar in recognition of Krieger’s keen appreciation of the genres.
Dr. James G. Blight, professor of international relations at Brown, presented "The Door We Never Opened: How the Vietnam War Could Have Been Avoided, 1962-1963" in Sanders Auditorium. Along with Vassar Professor of History Robert K. Brigham, former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Vietnamese scholars and former military and civilian officials, Professor Blight participated in six extended discussions between November 1995 and February 1998 on the Vietnam War. Brigham, Blight and McNamara published Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy in 1999.Professor Blight spoke at Vassar on this topic in 1998, when he gave the Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture.
Erik Parens, adjunct assistant professor in Vassar’s multidisciplinary Science, Technology and Society program, spoke in Sanders Auditorium on "Testifying before the National Bioethics Commission on the Creation of Hybrid Embryos and Research on Embryonic Stem Cells." An associate for philosophical studies at the Hastings Center, a pioneer bioethics research institute in Hastings-on-Hudson, Dr. Parens was commissioned in January 1999 by President Clinton’s National Bioethics Commission to research the implications of the recently-isolated embryonic stem-cells. “I am interested,” he told The New York Times, "in promoting a clearer conversation for people from high school students to reporters to Congress to the National Institutes of Health and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission.”
Alternative rock band They Might Be Giants performed in the Students’ Building.
Pop-folk singer and songwriter Dar Williams performed in the Chapel as a part of the Vassar Greens’ Earth Day celebration. The concert was one in a series given to benefit Clearwater, a prominent environmental group focused on cleaning the Hudson River. “The Dar Williams concert is a great opportunity to educate ourselves about the Hudson River while also giving money to other organizations to protect it,” explained Greens chair Michelle Sargent ‘01. The concert was part of a series Williams was giviing in the Hudson River area in conjunction with folk legend Pete Seeger. The Miscellany News
British historian James Walvin from the University of York delivered the Matthew Vassar Lecture, "Equiano or Gustavus Vassa? Who was the real Equiano?" in Sanders Auditorium. A student of modern British social history and the history of black slavery, Professor Walvin won the 1975 Martin Luther King Prize for his Black and White: The Negro and English Society (1973), and he published the definitive study of the 18th century slave and autobiographer Olaudah Equiano, An African’s Life: The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano in 1998. Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, Written by Himself (1789) was a milestone in anti-slavery literature.
In her introduction, Gretchen Gerzina, professor of English and Africana Studies and herself a scholar in the field, hailed Professor Walvin as the "premier authority in the field of Black British Studies, having written dozens of books on British slavery." In his remarks, Walvin asserted that Equiano's account—the first of its kind—exemplified the magnitude of the British slave trade in the 18th century. "In fact," Dara Kammerman '03 wrote in The Miscellany News, "at this time England conducted the greatest slave trade in the world.... For example, of the roughly 37,000 slave trips made, 12,000 of those were British.... Walvin pointed out that 80 percent of the women who crossed the Atlantic were African, as were 90 percent of the children. After offering these statistics, Walvin dramatically posed...the question, "Who is the pioneer of the Americas?'" The Miscellany News
President Fergusson conferred bachelor’s degrees to 600 members of the Class of 1999 in the Outdoor Theater. In his commencement address, veteran actor and Hudson Valley neighbor James Earl Jones urged the graduates to recognize their responsibilities, not only to themselves and those around them, but to “we the people” as well. In conclusion, Jones—the voice Darth Vader in the three original “Star Wars” movies (1977, 1980, 1983)—told the class, “I don’t care if you are sick of hearing it. I offer you one piece of advice on this most auspicious and joyful occasion: may the force be with you.” The New York Times
Latin American historian Gilbert M. Joseph from Yale University delivered the Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture, speaking in Sanders Auditorium on "Rethinking Mexican Revolutionary Mobilization: Banditry and Peasant Political Consciousness in Yucatan. 1909-1915.”
The Charles Griffin Memorial Lecture honored the former dean of the faculty and professor of history Charles Caroll Griffin, a distinguished Latin Americanist, who taught at Vassar from 1934 until his retirement in 1967. Professor Griffin died in 1976.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara lectured in the Chapel. Vassar Professor of History Robert K. Brigham, historian James G. Blight of Brown University, Vietnamese scholars and former military and civilian officials participated in six extended discussions on the Vietnam War with McNamara between November 1995 and February 1998. Brigham, Blight and McNamara published Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy in 1999. In an interview with The Miscellany News, Jim Bright explained, “All of us feel a sense really as we’re passing into the next century that it won’t be long before the people in your generation come to power and have positions of responsibility, but have no first-hand sense of how close one can really come to a nuclear war, how you can stumble into things, putting one foot after the other to come out with three or four million people dead and countries destroyed.”
Sierra Leonean journalist Ritchie Olu Awoonor-Gordon, editor of the For Di People newspaper, lectured in New England Building on "Ending Coups and Wars in Africa: A Journalist's Experience and Reflections of the Sierra Leone Civil War."
Yona Zeldis McDonough '79 held a signing of her book, The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns 40 in the College Store. In a 1998 essay in The New York Times Magazine, “What Barbie Really Taught Me: Lessons from the Playroom, Both Naughty and Nice,” Zeldis recalled the plastic bombshell’s influence on her as a child and the doll’s coincident power over her with that of her mother. “My mother,” she wrote, “not an 11½ -inch doll, was the most powerful female role model in my life. What she thought of Barbie I really don’t know, but she had the good sense to back off and let me use the doll my own way.” Reflecting on Barbie’s current “‘serious’ incarnations: teacher, Olympic athlete, dentist” and “later this year…a doll whose breasts and hips will be smaller and whose waist will be thicker, thus reflecting a more real…female body,” McDonough concluded, “Girls will still know the reason they love her, a reason that has nothing to do with new professions or a subtly amended figure.”
Readers’ and friends’ response to the essay prompted McDonough’s book, a collection of essays and poems about the toy from nearly two dozen authors—men and women. Historian and activist Stephanie Coontz contributed “Golden Oldie,” a comprehensive history of Barbie. In “Barbie at 35,” novelist and essayist Anna Quindlen conceded that although she refused to let her daughter have the doll, “Barbie—the issue, not the doll—simply will not be put to rest.” “My theory,” Quindlen declared, “is that to get rid of Barbie you’d have to drive a silver stake though her plastic heart. Or a silver lamé stake, the sort of thing that might accompany Barbie’s Dream Tent.”
Williams College art historian Carol Ockman contributed “Barbie Meets Bouguereau,” social commentator and chronicler of the “culture wars” Steven C. Dubin inquired “Who’s That Girl,” novelist Jane Smiley ’71 wrote “You Can Never Have Too Many” and McDonough examined “Sex and the Single Doll.”
Biographer and novelist Francine du Plessix Gray, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Distinguished Visiting Scholar, lectured in Sanders Auditorium on "What Shall We Do with the Marquis de Sade?" In her biography of de Sade, At Home With the Marquis de Sade: A Life (1998), Gray advanced, through a close study of the man and the two women who were closest to him—his wife and mother—a thesis that de Sade’s “crude insistence on expressing humankind's most bestial urges, on speaking out what most of us barely dare to admit--on mirroring the primal impulse we've all had, at some point, to claw at the taboos of our own caged lives—…makes him an occasionally fascinating and very modern writer."
The United States signed an historic trade agreement with the Peoples Republic of China. President Clinton called the deal "a profoundly important step in the relationship between the United States and China” and asserted that "the agreement will create unprecedented opportunities for American farmers, workers and companies to compete successfully in China's market, while bringing increased prosperity to the people of China."
Schubert scholar Brian Newbould from the University of Hull, England, lectured on "Schubert and the Dance" in Skinner Hall. The chairman of The Schubert Institute (UK), Professor Newbould was a pioneer in the reconstruction of the full scores of Franz Schubert’s unfinished symphonies, symphonic fragments and other works. His Schubert and the Symphony: A New Perspective was published in 1992, and Schubert, the Music and the Man appeared in 1997.
African-American historian Waldo E. Martin from the University of California at Berkeley gave an “Issues of the 90s” lecture on "I, Too, Sing America: The Black Freedom Struggle and the Transformation of American Culture, 1945-1975" in Sanders Auditorium. Professor Martin’s acclaimed intellectual biography, The Mind of Frederick Douglass was published in 1992, and his Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents appeared in 1998.
Saskia Webber, member of the 1999 Women's World Cup soccer team, lectured on "Ode to Title IX: A Lesson from a World Champion" in the Villard Room. Webber was the back-up goalkeeper for the United States women’s team that defeated China in the June 10, 1999 World Cup final held in Pasadena, California before a crowd of over 90,000 people.
In light of unease world-wide about computer systems' transition into the 21st century and despite extensive preparations at Vassar for "Y2K," students were not permitted to reside on campus between December 22 and January 4. The main concern was the possibility that one or more "Y2K bugs"—unknown errors or omissions in computer coding—would render systems incapable of recognizing times and dates beyond 12PM on December 31, 1999. "The range of possibilities," explained Diane Balestri, the director of computing and information systems (CIS), "[is from] essentially nothing to catastrophic.... We have to decide if we should have a New Year's party on campus or close everything down and have a SWAT team investigate."
In the end, Balestri and her colleagues were quite certain that the college's computer systems could manage the date change, but she was not as confident in the power company or other off-campus resources on which the campus system depended. Thus, CIS requested that the campus close and that everyone unplug everything before leaving. "But the college sailed into the new century without a hitch. Was it because of all the preparations? According to Maureen Romey, associate director for administrative systems, 'Definitely.'" The Miscellany News, Vassar:The Alumnae/i Quarterly.
The Miscellany News reported that former Vassar professor and coach Betty Richey had been named to Lacrosse Magazine’s All-Century team. A member of the Vassar faculty from 1937 until her retirement in 1978, Richey held the record of 21 consecutive years as an All-American lacrosse player and was once cited as the country’s greatest lacrosse player. She was a member of the U. S. Field Hockey Association Reserve and All-America teams for 20 years, and she was a co-founder in 1965 of the Intercollegiate Women’s Squash Championship.
In 1995, when Katherine Allabough ’69 was among the first woman players named to the College Squash Association’s Hall of Fame, Richey, who died in 1988, was among the first woman coaches to be so honored.
The college established the annual Betty Richey Field Hockey Tournament at the time of her retirement.
Dutch-born architect, urbanist and architectural theorist Rem Koolhaas delivered an illustrated lecture, “Another Profession,” before a standing-room only audience in Taylor Hall. The first lecturer in the Agnes Rindge Claflin Lecture Series, Koolhaas was founder of the architectural firm Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and the author of two influential studies of contemporary urban design, Delirious New York: A Retrospective Manifesto of Manhattan (1978) and S.M.L.XL (1998). Wrting in The Miscellany News, Lauren Arana praised the architect's "liberal use of visual schemes, which were essentially high-tech teaching aids. The combined photography, text, charts, symbols and distorted images to explain in literal terms the point he was making.... The slides became works of art themselves, combining top quality photographs and technology with ingenious symbols and captions. Koolhaas presented his work and his diagrams with an enthusiasm that was both confident and modest.... It required a suspension of disbelief on more than one occasion when he described his sometimes far-fetched urban proposals, but there was that was ultimately convincing and trustworthy about his personality that made the audience obliged to do so."
The distinguished art historian and director of the Vassar Art Gallery Agnes Rindge Claflin first taught at Vassar 1921. Returning after masters and doctoral studies at Radcliffe, she taught at Vassar from 1923 until her retirement in 1965. Her extensive and influential association with modernist artists and collectors and with the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) was reflected in both the teaching and curriculum of the art department and the gallery’s acquisitions and programming during her time at the college.
Peter Kwong, professor of Asian American studies and urban affairs and planning at Hunter College, spoke in Sanders Auditorium on illegal Chinese immigrants in the United States. Professor Kwong’s research in Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor (1999)—interviews with immigrant workers, their families in China, activists, Chinese-American bosses and human smugglers—was regarded as a most reliable guide to a startling instance of “modern slavery” in America.
Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity at the University of Chicago, lectured in Sanders Auditorium on "Apocalypticism and Mysticism." A preeminent scholar of mysticism in Western Christian thought, Professor McGinn published Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages in 1979, and he was co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (1999). His The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism, 1200-1350, the third of a projected five-volume study of Christian mysticism in the West, appeared in 1990.
Promoting Equality and Community Everywhere (P.E.A.C.E) sponsored its annual Equal Rights Awareness Week, offering workshops and events, including an exhibition of children’s art in the College Center—pictures from elementary school student participants in the P.E.A.C.E. mentoring program. The young artists were entertained at a cookies and juice reception by the Barefoot Monkeys, Vassar’s interactive juggling, fire-dancing, free-from acrobatic troupe. Some 175 local high school students also joined in workshops led by such groups as Boston’s United for a Fair Economy, Poughkeepsie’s Children’s Media Project and Battered Women’s Services during the week.
The event’s keynote, on February 24, was an address by social activist and revisionist American historian Howard Zinn, who spoke on "Bringing Democracy Alive" in the Chapel. The concluding event, a dinner in the Aula sponsored by the Black Students Union, the African Students Union and the Caribbean Students Alliance honored Black History Month.
Professor of history James Merrell was one of three American historians to receive the prestigious Bancroft Prize, an annual award established at Columbia University in 1948 by historian Frederic Bancroft. Professor Merrell was awarded the prize for Into the Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (1999), a groundbreaking study of 17th century negotiators in Pennsylvania—diverse colonists and Native Americans—of “the Long Peace” among the several antagonists. The Bancroft Prize for 1990 was awarded to his earlier book, The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal (1989) along with both the annual Frederick Jackson Turner Award and the annual Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians.
One of only five historians to win two Bancroft Prizes, Professor Merrell told The Miscellany News, “Many better historians than I have not won this prize,” adding, “It was humbling to win the first time. [Winning it] twice makes me even more humble.” Of her colleague’s achievement, Professor of History Miriam Cohen noted, “He teaches American [history], and it is his deep-seated commitment that Native American history be intertwined with the history of colonial America.”
Drag historian Joe E. Jeffries lectured in Taylor Hall on "High Octane: The Life and Times of Drag Theater Queen Ethyl Eichelberger." An American drag performer, actor and playwright, Eichelberger—born James Roy Eichelberger—performed in the 1970s and 1980s in New York with Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company and in original “mini epics” in which he played famous and courageous women in history. He committed suicide in 1990.
The theme of the second Vassar College Asian American Conference (VAACON), sponsored by the Asian Students Alliance (ASA) was “Movement Without Direction: The Refocusing of the Asian American Vision.” The conference speakers included Gary Okihiro, director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University; Shirley Hune, associate dean and professor of urban planning at the School of Public Policy and Social Research at the University of California at Los Angeles and urban sociologist Karin Aguilar San Juan, editor of the anthology The State of Asian America; Activism and Resistance in the 1990s (1994). Workshops were led by New York City civil rights activist Rocky Chin; Elena Tajima Creef, professor of women’s studies at Wellesley College and Joy Lei, minority scholar in residence at Vassar. The group of Asian American turntablists who performed at the first VAACON in April 1998, 5th Platoon, entertained at a party to conclude the conference.
“The conference took an in depth look at where Asian America has been, as well as where it is going,” said Delia Chung Hom ’00, who co-chaired the conference with Ken Wong ’00. Vassar: The Alumnae/i Quarterly
Radio recordist and producer Jim Metzner spoke in Sanders Auditorium on "The Magic of Sound —a Journey to the Mind's Ear.” The founder, narrator and producer of the popular “Pulse of the Planet” radio series on National Public Radio, Metzner taught for several years in Vassar’s American Culture program. He was also associated with the college’s “Hudson Valley Radio” project, a weekly radio series produced under a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and directed by Professor of Psychology Randy Cornelius. The 16 half-hour program in the series, broadcast between May and September 2003, celebrated “the nature and culture of the Hudson River from it source in the Adirondacks to its mouth in New York City.”
Several thousand protestors gathered in Washington, DC, under an umbrella organization known as Mobilization for Global Justice in an attempt to disrupt the annual spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Six Vassar students were among the 600 activists arrested by police in a preemptive move on April 15. Detained for varying periods in several sites, many of the protestors were released after paying $50 fines for parading without a permit. One of the Vassar protestors, a junior, told The Miscellany News, “All my pins were taken off and put in a bag. I guess they thought I could use them as weapons. They put plastic handcuffs on us and loaded us onto buses.” He paid the fine, he said, because he didn’t want to go to court. Another of the Vassar protestors, a senior, said she was not fined and was released for no clear reason. “It was random as far as I know,” she said. “They told me that they didn’t have any papers on me and let me go. The people who waited in jail longer were more likely to have their charges dropped.”
Three of the students, held overnight at a police training academy, had the restraints behind their backs removed and instead spent the night with their arms and legs cuffed together. “It was kind of dehumanizing,” said one of the students, “but it was actually more comfortable because we got to change the positions that we’d been in for the previous several hours.” “ I do feel,” she added, “that being in handcuffs all night was a minor form of torture…. The arrests were a way to infringe on our constitutional right to protest.” The students planned to join a class-action lawsuit being brought, charging infringement of their rights of freedom of assembly. The Miscellany News
In recognition of Earth Day and sponsored by the Vassar Greens, environmental activist and lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lectured in the Chapel on "Our Environmental Destiny.” The chief prosecuting attorney since 1984 for Riverkeeper—formerly the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA)—Kennedy co-authored The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right (1999) with John Cronin, a former commercial fisherman and since 1983 the HRFA’s first official Riverkeeper. In 1999, Kennedy became head of The National Alliance of River, Sound and Baykeepers, subsequently the Waterkeepers Alliance. He also served as clinical professor and supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at the Pace University School of Law.
“I love my job,” Kennedy told his large audience of students, visitors and (as the event was part of Parents Weekend) Vassar parents. “I love going out on the river with the fishermen, fighting the bad guys, working with the students.” Praising recent protests at the meeting in Seattle of the World Trade Organization, Kennedy rejected the alleged conflict between environmental and commercial concerns. “If you ask people on Capitol Hill why are you doing this,” he said, “they say the time has come to choose between economic prosperity and environmental protection. That is a false choice.”
"Kennedy talked about the role of nature in American idealism, literature, art and religion," Kate Eickmeyer ‘03 reported in The Miscellany News. "He emphasized the importance of protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.” Greens member Kate Bedient ’01 appreciated the range of Kennedy’s remarks. “What impressed me most about RFK, Jr.,” she said, “was that during his talk he managed to mention a handful of the world’s most famous authors, list off prestigious poets, describe the works of numerous painters and recall the history of the world’s largest religions, while never losing his place or even glancing at a notecard.” The Miscellany News
Judith K. Major, professor of architectural and landscape history from the University of Kansas, lectured in Taylor Hall on "To Live in the New World: A.J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening." Professor Major’s book To Live in the New World: A. J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening (1997) traced the evolution of the work and thought of the first American landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, emphasizing his contribution to the definition of a distinctly American cultural landscape.
A native of Newburgh, NY, Downing published A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America in 1841, and the following year he collaborated with Alexander Jackson Davis, the pioneer of American Gothic Revival and Hudson River Bracketed architecture, on Cottage Residences. In 1850, Downing accepted a commission from Matthew Vassar to design the buildings and the setting for his country home “Springside,” the design and construction of which were underway when Downing and his family died in the fire and explosion of the steamer Henry Clay on the Hudson River on July 28, 1852.
John B. Taylor, the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University, gave the annual Martin H. Crego lecture, “What Should We Do With the Big Budget Surplus?” in Sanders Hall. In anticipation of the Clinton administration’s announcement of a budget surplus and asking his audience to choose among four uses for the money—debt reduction, increased government spending, tax reduction and “all of the above”— Professor Taylor told them that the last option was the correct answer. Proposing that the first three options be exercised in a 2-1-1 ratio and forecasting that surpluses would continue into the future “as far as the eye can see,” he allowed that “discretionary spending depends on what Congress does and on who the next president is.” He said however that “based on pretty sound assumptions” the federal surplus over the next ten years would aggregate to $4 trillion.
The Crego lecture, part of the Crego Endowment established in 1956 by Jean Crego ’32 in honor of her father, was an annual lecture in the general field of economics under the auspices of the economics department.
Phil Brown, professor of sociology and environmental studies at Brown University, spoke in Sanders Auditorium on "A Summer Eden: The Jewish Experience in the Catskills." Professor Brown’s Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area was published by Temple University Press in 1998, and he edited In the Catskills: A Century of Jewish Experience in “The Mountains,” an anthology of fiction and non-fiction in 2002.
President Fergusson conferred the bachelor’s degree on 528 members of the Class of 2000 at Vassar’s 134th Commencement. The day’s main speaker, Geraldine Laybourne ’69, former president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks and, in 1998, founder of Oxygen Media, presented the graduates with three principles for success: belief that good ideas compensated for lack of experience; recognition that passion for one’s work sustained long effort; conviction that “no” was never an acceptable answer. Matthew Vassar, she said, exemplified this last verity in his determination against all odds to found a genuine college for women. As to the first principle, Laybourne asked, “Do you know who has the best ideas?” Her answer: “Twenty-year-olds.” The New York Times
The college received the first installment of a five-year $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The grant, intended to enrich the work of the biology department and to extend the department’s influence into the Poughkeepsie community. Specifically, it funded: student research and fellowships, both in Vassar’s Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) and through travelling grants; four high-quality fluorescent microscopes with computer imaging and faculty training in fluorescent microscopy, computer imaging and laser optics; three community outreach programs—teaching internships for Vassar students in local high schools and summer science programs on campus for both high school science teachers and local community college science students—and a new tenure track in biology to accommodate curricular development in both the biology department and the interdisciplinary program in science, technology and society of bioinformatics—a developing field combining biology, chemistry, computer science and mathematics. Associate Professor Bill Strauss, the principal writer of the grant explained that the new field was “developing computing resources to deal with the massive amount of information that is generated by genomic projects and proteomics, which is the study of protein structure and function and their relation to genetics.”
“We’re all quite excited about the influence that this grant can have on our academic lives and the curriculum,” Professor of Biology Robert Suter said, adding, “I am particularly delighted that the grant will support another of Vassar’s efforts to interact fruitfully with people in our surrounding community.” The Miscellany News
Chartered in 1953, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was the realization of the aircraft pioneer’s longstanding interest in philanthropy serving society through biomedical research and science education.
Students in geology and archeology returned to the campus to discover a unique opportunity awaiting them: helping unearth the 14,000-year-old skeleton of a mastodon discovered in nearby Hyde Park. First mistaken for a log when a pond behind the Hyde Park home of Larry Lozier was dredged in 1999, the mastodon humerus was identified by scientists from the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca, NY. Despite disappointing results from excavations in the drained pond in June 2000, a second PRI expedition located the skeleton on August 21, and calls went out for volunteers. Working for six weeks, students and experts from Vassar, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Mount Holyoke College, the State University of New York at New Paltz and the Boston Museum of Science recovered 95 percent of the prehistoric animals bones, teeth and tusks, making the Hyde Park Mastodon one of the three most valuable specimens of Mammut americanum in the world. In addition, it was hoped that paleocologists, researching the site’s microscopic traces of plant material, pollens, wood and snails would find a record of the vegetation at the site during its re-colonization by vegetation.
One of the student volunteers, Jonas Dibiec ’02, told The Miscellany News that students were told by the anthropology department to “develop their own independent study or field study” in conjunction with their site work. “In order to dig,” he added, “you have to go into the pit barefoot, and you can only dig with your hands so that the bones don’t get damaged.” “This is an opportunity,” said Associate Professor of Geology Jill Schneiderman, “for students to do original research on the glacial age history of the Hudson River Valley.”
After some construction delays, the new Health and Fitness Center and the reconfigured and renovated Walker Field House opened. “Hold on to your stationary bike seats,” announced Leticia Ivins ’03 in The Miscellany News, “because the much-anticipated, not to mention hyped-to-the-max, Fitness Center is fully erected and in effect.” Noting “the gym and the unbelievable suspended track (when I first laid eyes on it, I was like ‘Time Out: am I going to a Division I college?’ because the facility knocks my little Champion socks off!).... The weight/workout room is functional. The gym-aholics, hardcore weight pumpers and vintage AYSO [American Youth Soccer Organization] T-shirt wearing Vassarites alike have made a dash to this majestic fortress on the mount.” The Miscellany News
Harvard University Professor of Astronomy Robert Kirschner, head of the Optical and Infrared Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, delivered the keynote address, “Taking the Measure of the Universe: How Big? How Old? How Do We Know?” at the annual Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) Symposium in the Villard Room. Student researchers spoke about their work, and poster sessions on the summer research were presented in the second floor gallery of the College Center.
Professor of medicine, bioethics and the history of medicine and clinical professor of surgery at Yale University School of Medicine Sherwin B. Nuland, MD, lectured in Taylor Hall on "The Mystical Origin of Medicine." A prolific writer whose work appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and TIME, Nuland published The Mysteries Within: A Surgeon Explores Myth, Medicine and the Human Body in 2000.
Vassar’s newest multidisciplinary program, Environmental Studies, presented its first speaker as David Kline spoke about "An Amish Farmer's Essays." The author of Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal (1990) and Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm (1997), Kline crafted “his discussion from moment to moment,” wrote Michael Centore ’02 in The Miscellany News, “allowing his visionary impulse to eclipse all else, letting the instant dictate his subject and cadence. A thought extolling the virtues of butter would be buttressed against homage to family life and the duties of parenthood, without any feeling of disjunction. The unity was in the calm transition from topic to topic.” Centore concluded, "[Kline's] interactions with questioners was like the course of his life itself: marked out with a special care, candor and piety that few of us have mastered. The college is fortunate he chose to share."
Five years in development, the environmental studies program was first proposed by a small faculty group in the 1994-95 academic year. With aid from conservationist and philanthropist Priscilla Bullitt Collins ’42, the multidisciplinary curriculum developed and was approved by the college in December 1999. Professor of English Daniel Peck, the new program’s first director called it “the most fully interdisciplinary environmental studies program in the U.S.” Peck’s colleague Associate Professor of Chemistry Stuart Belli agreed, “What we’re doing with environmental studies,” he said, “is bridging the gap between the social sciences, the natural sciences and the humanities.” Meleah Houseknecht ’01, the first Vassar graduate in environmental studies, said the program reflected “the fact that environmental studies, by nature, includes every discipline.” The Miscellany News
The residential life office released the results of an anonymous survey of 800 residents of the nine residence houses taken at the end of the 1999-2000 academic year. Less than 300 of the students surveyed responded, and “although over 40 percent of the respondents said that they keep their doors unlocked when they are out of their rooms or sleeping and 51 percent stated that they let strangers into their houses, 90 percent claimed that they feel safe in their residence halls.” Director of Residential Life Faith Nichols suggested that this result reflected a false sense of security, and Dean of the College Colton Johnson commented, “personal responsibility is the final piece of any security system.” He suggested that “secure” in this case “means ‘no bodily harm or great loss of property.’ Low level breaches of security occur when people decide that is it not important to take the final step of locking their doors.” The Miscellany News
Sponsored by the Vassar Democrats and the Dutchess County Democratic party, former Texas governor Ann Richards led a political rally in the Chapel supporting the senatorial candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Reminding her audience that she was “an unrepentant civil rights, feminist, labor union, working people Democrat,” Richards reassured the enthusiastic audience that “Hillary feels very strongly about involving college campuses all over the state of New York and making sure they participate on Election Day.” Speaking of Clinton’s Republican opponent, she said, “I know that Rick Lazio [‘80] is a graduate of Vassar, and I’m happy for him. A good education is a real asset when you’re looking for work in the private sector.” The Miscellany News
On November 7 Clinton won the senate seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan with 55.27 percent of the vote to Lazio’s 43.01 percent.
Sponsored by the Feminist Alliance and the Women’s Center, veteran pro-choice activist Bill Baird urged students to consider the likely consequences of a victory by former Texas Governor George W. Bush in the upcoming presidential election. A pioneer, in 1964, of the pro-choice movement and often called its “father,” Baird, a key participant in the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, called the election, “possibly the most important you will face in the next decades.” “Common sense has to tell you,” he added, “if Bush gets in, he will end the concept of freedom as we know it today. What he is doing now is, I think, unconscionable.”
Baird warned against the danger that consumer advocate Ralph Nader, also on the presidential ballot, might deprive Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore of victory. “If this vote gets as close as it’s expected to,” he said, “and Nader gets 5 percent of the vote, it could very well sweep the vote to Bush.” "What [Baird] says is really powerful and affects everybody—young, old male, female," said Lindsay Andrews '04. The Miscellany News
In spite of a death threat and met by local protestors, Baird spoke at Vassar in February 1998.
In the presidential election on November 7, Al Gore won 48.4 percent of the popular vote, George W. Bush gathered 47.9 percent and Ralph Nader drew 2.74 percent. In the Electoral College tally—ended by a controversial decision in The Supreme Court—Bush won 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266.
On November 10, The Miscellany News reported that a pre-election poll of 264 Vassar students—slightly more than 10 percent—showed that 57.6 percent chose Gore, 15.5 percent supported Nader and 3.4 percent favored Bush. The article also stated that 82 percent of the student body voted in this election by absentee ballots, locally in Arlington or by travelling to their home towns.
At Waryas Park on the Hudson River waterfront in Poughkeepsie, the Vassar Greens hosted one of 41 simultaneous vigils urging the removal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) from the river. Banned in the United States in 1977, the carcinogenic chemical had been allowed to enter the Hudson since 1947 by General Electric (GE) plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, NY, and in 1983 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared some 200 miles of the river between Hudson Falls and New York City eligible for “Superfund” remediation under the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
The vigils were prompted by the imminent release of an EPA report determining the degree of PCB contamination in the site and recommending a remediation process. Vassar Greens co-founder and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater environmental intern Michelle Sargent ’01 told The Miscellany News, “A vigil is a place to contemplate or mourn something, and the fact that we have waited 20 years for the EPA to come out with a report including recommendation for action to clean up the river is a tragedy.”
The EPA report, released on December 7, ordered GE to develop and undertake a cleanup plan for the site. The resulting project—of which Phase One was completed in October 2009—was expected to cost the company nearly $500 million.
Sponsored by the Student Activist Union (SAU) 28 Vassar students joined some 10,000 protestors at Fort Benning in Georgia to protest the School of the Americas (SOA), a training program for soldiers from the armies of several Latin America countries. Founded in 1990 after a Congressional inquiry determined that the massacre in El Salvador in 1989 of six Jesuit priests along with a co-worker and her teenage daughter had been carried out by troops trained at the SOA, an organization called SOA Watch staged annual protests, drawing participants from across the country. “These priests,” protestor Peter Owens ’03 told The Miscellany News, “stood up against military tyranny, as we do, and their martyrdom is what the protest is shaped around.”
“For me,” Owens said, “the most amazing thing about the SOA protest is the diversity and sheer numbers of people who attend.... I felt like is was most important to be there, make my voice heard, and add one more person to the already massive resistance.” “I think everyone who went,” added Evan White ’03, one of the trip’s organizers, “felt that is was a very valuable experience. Although this happens every year it is a really powerful experience…. There were old nuns and younger protesters that came together to say that the SOA can’t be allowed in their names, fund by their tax dollars.” The Miscellany News
British-American realist painter Rackstraw Downes gave a two-part lecture, “Turning the Head in the Empirical Space,” in Taylor Hall. His first presentation, examining the history of visual theories of perspective and perspectival painting, starting with Dutch 16th-century painters, led to his second, an interactive history and demonstration of his unique perspectival technique. Noting that Downes had turned from abstract art to embrace representational en pleine aire work in the 1970s, Lauren Arana ’01 wrote in The Miscellany News, “Downes describe this realization with giddy enthusiasm, abandoning the podium to demonstrate with his pointer the perspectival ellipsis that he achieved by turning his head from right to left as he painted the landscape before him. This method creates a stretched panorama that includes pictorial space beyond the limits of the canvas or page. Downes showed several drawings and paintings to which he had to attach extra pages or canvases to accommodate the breath of the landscape as he viewed it.” “The distorted effect,” she observed, “of Downes’s 100 to 180 degree elliptical perspective reduced to a two-dimensional canvas affords the viewer a more sweeping expanse than the average landscape painting, giving his work a more [dramatic] effect.”
“Later,” Arana concluded, “when explaining his exaggerated perspective, he stretched his neck and explained that you would have to be in a yoga pose! in order to fully capture his view. His lecture easily could have been translated into a fascinating…NPR or BBC program that I would be happy to stumble upon…any day.”
In response to increasing internet use by both students and faculty, the Computing and Information Services department (CIS) upgraded the campus network connection, increasing the available bandwidth while instituting a monitoring and allocation function—"bandwith shaping"—to the campus system. “We feel that bandwidth shaping is important to ensure access for crucial academic and administrative applications,” said associate director for network services Frank Archambeault.
In anticipation of the construction of a long-planned center for drama and film, the film and drama departments moved from Avery Hall to the former Poughkeepsie Day School building on New Hackensack Road. “It will be a wonderful facility for the departments of drama and film, bringing them together in one building with state-of-the-art facilities for the first time,” said President Fergusson. During the transition period, the drama department planned to use the Powerhouse Theatre for most performances.
Security offices were also permanently moved from Avery to New Hackensack. The Miscellany News
The college launched a new website through which students could access reading lists and order books for upcoming classes. Separately, the Student Activist Union (SAU) created a separate website containing students’ reading lists. The websites were in response to many students’ interest in supporting local bookstores as well as student concerns that there were not enough price options at the college bookstore. “For me, it’s worth the effort to get books somewhere else, because I know I will be supporting more independent sellers,” said SAU action coordinator Pulin Modi ’02. The Miscellany News
Nearly 100 Vassar students protested George W. Bush’s inauguration in Washington D.C. Many students traveled with a group organized by the Student Activist’s Union. “I’m here primarily so my voice is heard about how upset I am about the Bush presidency,” said David Rossini ’04. “I came to document history in the making,” said Jacob Blumenfeld ’04, who carried a video camera at the protest.
On campus, students, members of the faculty and community members attended a teach-in to discuss electoral reform and to question the legitimacy of the stopping of the recount of presidential election votes in Florida. “The key questions are, why did this happen, where did it leave us, [and] could this happen again?” declared Nancy Kassop, professor of political science at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz.
“This is such an important day. The events in Florida may have been very disturbing for many of us, but it was very important that they happened, because it brought to light faults in the voting process that have been going on for years in this country,” said Dr. Kristen Jemiolo of the League of Women Voters and Dutchess Unite. The teach-in was co-sponsored by the department of political science, the office of religious and spiritual life, the office of field work, Bard College, the Marist College Praxis Program and the Poughkeepsie Institute. The Miscellany News
Cushing House and Noyes House encouraged their guests to wear 1950s-style clothing to a Bi-Dormal Formal celebrating “The Fabulous 50’s.”
Victorian men and women crowded the halls and buses carrying bowler-hatted and fancily-coiffed passengers drove from Kenyon Hall to Rockefeller Hall and the New England Building as three scenes from a new production by Dreamworks and Warner Brothers of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) were filmed at the college. The scenes involved the search by the dean of Columbia University, played by Jeremy Irons, for Professor Alexander Hartdigan, played by Guy Pearce, and the buildings—completed in 1901 and 1898—were chosen for their late Victorian style.
Several students and a few faculty members were chosen to act as extras. “I’m totally thrilled to have been a part of it, completely thrilled,” said James Schenk ’01 who served as an extra and a stand-in for Guy Pearce. “It was a good experience to see how things are done. You don’t realize the amount of work that goes into it” he added. Film major Pat Johnson ’01, another extra, said “It’s going to be fun…. We’re wearing the costumes from Titanic, we can see how a movie set works and it’ll be a really great experience.” Johnson praised the college’s willingness to allow the production to film on campus. “It’s no big deal for the studio,” he said, “they could pay anyone to be in it, but it’s a great opportunity for the students.”
Professor of Economics David Kennett played the non-speaking part of Dr. Thomas Post, “a rather irritable professor who is trying to get away from a pesky demanding student.” He said of the role, “It’s a real stretch for me.” Also appearing in the scenes at Vassar was Will Carlough ’99, a former film major currently pursuing a career in film in New York City, who had a speaking part as “student number two.”
The production limited access to certain paths throughout campus and occasionally interfered with the work of students and professors in New England Building and Rockefeller Hall. The Miscellany News
Developmental geneticist and theoretical biologist Stuart A. Kauffman MD lectured in the Villard Room on "Investigations: The Physical Nature of Autonomous Agents May Answer the Question 'What is the Meaning of Life?'" A former professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania and a MacArthur Fellow from 1987 until 1993, Dr. Kauffman gained prominence for his work in evolutionary biology on the origins of life. He was the author of Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (1993) and At Home in the Universe: The Search for Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity (1995). His Investigations appeared from Oxford University Press in 2000.
Dr. Vladimir Papov from the international pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim lectured on "Proteomics—The Flip-Side of Genomics” in Mudd Chemistry. Dr. Papov’s research in proteomics—the study of the structure and function of proteins—involved the use of mass spectrometry to sequence particular organisms’ entire repertoire of proteins in order to further understand their structure.
Working with Assitant to the Dean of the College Andrew Meade and Christine White, the director of the card office, seven local businesses agreed to accept charges to the Vassar ID Card, or V-Card, as payment for their goods and services. "Topics we, along with Christine and folks who work with her, will be tackling," said Meade, "are how to make this program user friendly and as attractive to students and possible as well as how to best get word of this program out to parents."
Business owners and the college hoped the new system would make their restaurants and stores more accessible to students. The Miscellany News
Celebrating Black History Month, the Africana Studies Program, the American Culture Program, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the history department, the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Council of Black Seniors (CBS) presented a month-long series of events. A film series included Armistad (1997), Carmen Jones (1954) and Rosewood (1997), a gospel concert was held in the Chapel and “Midnight Love,” a formal dance open to the entire campus community, featured classic soul and R&B music.
Highlights of the month included a campus residency on February 7th and 8th by journalist Wallace Terry, a former war correspondent for TIME magazine, reporter for The Washington Post and the author of Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War (1984) and—in conjunction with the Dutchess County Arts Council—two performances by Raymond Jackson, a concert pianist and professor of music at Howard University. Terry spoke on “Battle Hearts: How the Dream of Martin Luther King Came True on the Battlefields” and opened an exhibition in the James W. Palmer II ’90 Gallery entitled “The Way We War.” Professor Jackson gave two performances on March 1, a morning program for young people and “Piano Music of Black Composers,” a lecture-performance, in the evening. The Miscellany News
Sponsored by the Vassar Student Association (VSA) and Davison House, Robert L.E. Egger lectured on “Hunger Isn't About Food: Using Food as a Tool to Support Those Moving From Welfare to Work.” Egger was the founder and president of the DC Central Kitchen, where unemployed men and women learned marketable culinary skills, and the founding chairperson of the Washington, DC, Mayor’s Commission on Nutrition.
Along with four students from Barnard College and New York University, the co-chair of Vassar Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) was arrested in New York City at a pro-Tibet protest after, dressed in corporate attire, infiltrating the British Petroleum Amoco offices in New York City. The action was part of an "International Day of Action Against BP Amoco" that involved similar protests in Denver, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Beijing. The protesters’ complaints against BP Amoco centered on the company’s investments in a Chinese oil company that planned to build an oil pipeline through Tibet, against the wishes of the Tibetan people.
Reaching a vice president's office, said Ashley Spicer '01, "We took off our suits, revealing our Students for a Free Tibet t-shirts and told the secretary we wanted to speak to the vice president about BP Amoco's investments in China.... We declared we would not leave willingly until they left Tibet." After blocking a doorway and chanting for two hours, the women were arrested. "Honestly," said Spicer, "I've never heard five girls chant so loudly."
Writing about the experience in The Miscellany News, she said that, being alone in a cell "encouaged deeper relflection about what had happened and why I had done what I had done.... Overall, because of our race, our age, our crime and the prestige of the colleges we attended, we were given a relatively cushy experience in jail compared to the majority of people who go to jail in our country, let alone those who are thrown in jail in Tibet and other countries under oppresive régimes.... As we were leaving, a sargeant ask us, 'so was it worth it, girls?' We looked him square in the eye and answered resolutely and honestly: 'yes.'" The Miscellany News
As part of Equal Rights Awareness Week the Feminist Alliance, the Women’s Center, the Student Activist Union (SAU) and the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC) sponsored CUNTFEST. The event was based on the book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence (1998) by Inga Musico and included self-defense workshops, a reading by Musico from her book and performance art by lesbian-feminist Jess Dobkin. The Miscellany News
The college held its first All-College Day, a day of community-related events and discussion for faculty, staff, students, and administrators.
A pioneer in environmental studies, Dr. Wes Jackson, president of The Land Institute, lectured on “Natural Systems Agriculture: A Necessarily Radical Paradigm.” Much of Jackson’s work with the institute focused on sustainable agriculture, particularly the use of perennial plants in agriculture, to maintain soil integrity and prevent erosion. Jackson referred to this type of agriculture as using “nature as model.”
The Vassar College Unitarian Universalists held an intercollegiate conference, “Rhythms: Harmonizing the Unique and the Universal,"at the Chapel. The first Unitarian conference hosted by the college, the event was attended by students from Wesleyan, Columbia, Cornell, Bryn Mawr, Penn State and Middlebury.
Jane Marcus, professor of English at the City University of New York, lectured in the Villard Room on "A Very Fine Negress: Race in a Room of One's Own." Professor Marcus’s work focused on feminist critiques of modernist literature, particularly that of Virginia Wolff. She helped found women’s studies departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Texas. The author of Virginia Woolf and the Languages of Patriarchy (1987), Professor Marcus published Hearts of Darkness: White Women Write Race in 2004.
The Vassar men’s volleyball team finished fourth in the nation in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III, becoming the college’s first varsity team to reach the NCAA National Championship Tournament.
Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, author of Prozac Backlash: Overcoming the Dangers of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Other Antidepressents with Safe, Effective Alternates (2000), lectured in Rockefeller Hall on alternatives to anti-depressants. Dr. Glenmullen, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School was a noted voice in the growing discussion of the side-effects of anti-depressants.
Choreographer Deborah Jowitt, dance critic since 1967 for The Village Voice, lectured in the Kenyon Dance Studio on "Screaming Fits, Walking on Walls and Men in Tutus: Postmodern Dance 1960-2000." A member of the dance department faculty at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts since 1975, Jowitt was honored in 2001 by the Congress on Research in Dance for her “Outstanding Contribution to Dance Research.”
Sociologist of religion and morality Robert Bellah from the University of California at Berkeley spoke in the Villard Room on "Habits of the Heart Revisited." The author of Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (1985), Professor Bellah reexamined the original tracing of these two elements in American democracy from their discovery by Alexis de Tocqueville in revisions of his work in 1996—when he drew attention to decline of “social capital” and the persistence and growth of “neocapitalism”—and again in 2008—expressing grave concern about the mounting economic and social inequalities in American society.
Under the sponsorship of the Women’s Center, some 65 registered participants joined a conference on practical feminist politics addressing the assertion, “Feminism is Stupid.” Organized by three seniors and sophomore, the conference included workshops, discussions and a keynote address by African-American feminist writer Barbara Smith, author of Writings on Race, Gender and Freedom: The Truth Never Hurts (1998) and editor of Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (1983).
A panel discussion included Professor of Political Science Mary L. Shanley, Professor of Art Lisa Collins, Professor of Sociology Diane Harriford, Rachel Simmons ’96 and the founder of Brooklyn’s Black Girl Revolution, Brigette M. Moore. Tracing the history of feminism and observing “in 1971, it seemed like things would change quickly, and they didn’t so much,” Professor Shanley underscored a major theme of the conference: the importance of “intersectionality” in addressing discrimination. Professor Harriford agreed, observing that “people talk about feminism as if it is joining a sorority” and that students still asked her “what does racism have to do with feminism?” She asserted that the mainstreaming of feminism weakened the recognition of social inequality as a function of structures of oppression in favor of personalizing feminism as many middle-class feminists had done.
Proceeds from the conference went to the Manuela Ramos Movement, a Peruvian organization funding counseling centers battered women shelters and family planning centers throughout Peru. The group’s funding was recently cut off by President Bush’s reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy,” a strategy formulated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, effectively banning all international aid to groups providing advice, counsel or information regarding abortion. The Miscellany News
The Vassar Volunteers, HungerAction and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life sponsored “Faces of Homelessness,” a panel of three members of the Poughkeepsie community and two members of the college community who shared their stories about homelessness and poverty. Organized by Sari Toplin ’03 with the help of Sam Speers, director of religious and spiritual life, the event was intended to be, as Speers put it, “a reminder that people who have spent time on the streets are people and that their situations are not necessarily all that different [from ours] as we imagine they might be.” Toplin agreed, adding that she hoped such panels would continue into the future. “This event,” she said, “is about connecting people to people as human beings and not constantly throwing around this concept of the ‘other’ who live on the street and is dirty and stupid…. My hope it that through sharing stories…it will trigger something in their hearts, and they’ll think about the issues.” The Miscellany News
Kadiatou Diallo lectured on "The Legacy of Amadou Diallo" in the Chapel. Her unarmed son Amadou, a 23-year old Guinean immigrant, was shot and killed on February 4, 1999, by four New York City plain-clothes officers who thought him a possible rape suspect. Forty-one shots were fired, of which 19 struck Diallo. The incident was widely denounced as gross police brutality, and, indicted by a grand jury, the police officers were acquitted on February 25, 2000.
Ms. Dialo’s lecture focused on her son’s life, the injustice of his death and her work to bring about racial harmony in New York City through the Amadou Diallo Foundation. The Miscellany News
A $61 million lawsuit brought by the Diallo family for wrongful death, filed on April 18, 2000, was settled in March 2004 for $3 million. Diallo's family established the Amadou Diallo Foundation in 2001.
New Zealand-born South African Anglican priest and social justice activist Michael Lapsley lectured in the New England Building on "Memory, Healing and Justice: Creating a New South Africa.” Expelled from South Africa in the 1970’s by the apartheid regime for his activist work, Father Lapsley was later seriously injured in a letter bomb explosion, sent by the apartheid government.
In conjunction with Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley and LGBT and Friends from Newburgh, the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC) sponsored a high school prom, “Over the Rainbow.” Held in the Aula, the event welcomed over 60 area students to the dance and after-party. “One of the things that’s really important to understand about LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered) youth,” said Matt Kavanagh ’01, one of the event’s organizers, “is that they don’t really have a safe space in the Hudson Valley. They often are in the closet in high school, their schools and communities are often places where they face harassment and abuse…. We wanted to have one night where these kids could be themselves, enjoy each others’ company, have same sex dates, dress in drag is they want to, be whoever they are without being threatened.”
Additional support for the prom came from the Vassar Student Association (VSA), the Gill Foundation in Colorado and several community members. Its organizers hoped that the prom would become an annual event. The Miscellany News
“It is a good thing and will be accepted,” an anonymous participant in the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia wrote on Vassar’s copy of the final draft of the United States Constitution. The document—one of two in existence—was among 70 rare historical documents on display in the Library’s exhibition, “Treasures of Americana, 1760-1830.” Other documents on display included “a letter from a Revolutionary War soldier to his wife, a 54-page diatribe by Alexander Hamilton against President John Adams’s ‘unfortunate character’ and an 1818 petition to President James Monroe from several Indian chiefs.” The New York Times
Harvard University Professor of Psychology Howard Gardner, the American developmental psychologist whose Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) introduced the theory of multiple intelligences, spoke about how recognition of different kinds of intelligence could lead to new methods of teaching and of evaluating learning. Specifically, his remarks explored eight distinct kinds of intellectual ability or forms of intelligence: spatial; mathematical; linguistic; naturalist; kinesthetic; musical; interpersonal and intrapersonal.
During his visit to the college, Gardner, who spoke at a Vassar symposium on cognitive language comprehension in 1980, also conducted several experiments with students and faculty on the Library lawn, illustrating different forms of intelligence. His visit was supported by the new Carolyn Grant ’36 Endowment, which, reflecting Carolyn Grant Fay’s accomplishments in expressive arts therapies, engaged students and faculty members in exploring “pedagogical methodologies that engage the imagination in a hands-on way.” The Miscellany News
Novelist Stephen King delivered the commencement address to the graduating Class of 2001. Focusing his speech on the fleeting nature of life and the 624 graduates' mortality, Mr. King acknowledged that he was “casting gloom, even the pall of death, on what should be a joyous and wonderful day.”
“A couple of years ago,” he said, “I found out what ‘you can’t take it with you’ means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like the branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in the ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.”
Then King, whose sons Joe and Owen were Vassar graduates, evoked—according to The New York Times—“a characteristically creepy picture of a happy family eating fried chicken and cake in their backyard as hungry men, women and children watch silently from behind a fence. The backyard, Mr. King said, was America, and the starving people were the rest of the world.” King announced that he was donating $20,000 in the class’s name to a local charity serving the homeless, the hungry and those with H.I.V. “He asked the graduates and their families to remember this vision as they sat down to celebratory luncheons, and to contribute to the same local charity that he was giving to.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, “$20 bills and personal checks for Dutchess Outreach were piling up in a cardboard box.” The New York Times
In an interview with Vassar: The Alumnae/i Quarterly, President Frances Fergusson reflected on her first 15 years at the college. “When I arrived,” she said, “there were three major issues that needed to be addressed. As an architectural historian, I believe that spaces have a very large effect on behavior. The campus felt rather alienating and unfriendly because it was congested and unkempt. The morale of the faculty was quite low. Salaries had slipped, teaching conditions were not as good as they had been; there was a perception that we were in danger of losing the quality of students that they had been used to teaching. We also needed to work on the issue of community. People felt themselves to be individuals with no larger concept or commitment to community. It’s not something that you ever fully achieve, but the conversation’s always there.
“And certainly we’ve been able to improve everything from faculty salaries to the teaching and research facilities, which are now quite phenomenal and getting even better. We are without a doubt a very desirable school right now.”
“I’m proud,” Fergusson continued, “of the fact that if you were to come to Vassar during the course of the year, you wouldn’t feel that any of the old traditions or commitments to liberal education have been lost…. This year we probably had a total of seven different Shakespeare plays performed on campus. We had our annual Beowulf marathon in old English, we had the opera workshop, we had the marathon reading of the Iliad and the Odyssey—one or the other each year—and so on. So you see that our students aren’t just present-minded by any means, but at the same time they’re thinking in very advanced intellectual terms. There’s a wonderful balance between the traditional and the new.” Vassar: The Alumnae/i Quarterly
As part of the its efforts to revitalize the Arlington area, the college purchased the building at the corner of Raymond and College Avenues housing the Juliet Café for $925,000. Opened as a cinema in 1935, the Juliet, later converted to a multiplex format, closed in September 1990. The building subsequently housed a patisserie and billiards parlor, which closed in 2010.
Commandeered by Islamic terrorists, three American airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, DC. A fourth plane, presumably targeting either the Capitol or The White House, crashed into a hillside in Pennsylvania. In all, 2,996 people—including the 19 terrorists—died in the attacks.
Within hours of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a large-screen television was set up in the Villard Room, along with a bank of long distance phones for students to contact their loved ones. Counseling services provided counseling staff until midnight, and the Chapel remained open all night. On September 12 President Fergusson led the college in a service of grief and remembrance under the great tree on the Library lawn, where members of the college community placed flowers and messages.
In the following days and weeks, the College responded with relief efforts and support services. In a letter to President Bush, students, faculty members, administrators and staff urged him “to use the channels of diplomacy and law to bring the terrorist criminals to justice, and counsel all possible restraint in the use of force.” “The war on terrorism,” the letter said, “must be a war on poverty and ignorance at home and abroad as well as a war on those who perpetrated the crimes of September 11. It must not be a war on foreign cultures or foreign populations.” Vassar Student Association President Adrienn Lanczos ’02 said, “Not all students were united in their broader political stance, but it seems as if most Vassar students have expressed a sense of frustration with those who would allow misinformed prejudices and impulsive reactionary politics to guide the domestic response of our wounded nation.”
Two members of the immediate Vassar family, Ruth Ketler ’80 and John Schwartz ’75, died in the destruction of the trade center. The Miscellany News, Vassar; The Alumnae/i Quarterly
After protracted negotiations, the college discontinued its longstanding support of the annual fundraising campaign of United Way of Dutchess County, citing United Way's continued support of the Boy Scouts of America despite that organization’s discrimination against gays. In 2000, United Way president and CEO James Williamson offered to allow a special opt-out for Vassar participants which would disallow their contributions from supporting the Boy Scouts. “We didn’t want anything,” he said, “to get in the way of people’s honest desire to help people.”
Mixed campus response to this compromise and the philanthropy’s continued support of the Boy Scouts led to the college’s decision. President Fran Fergusson—a past chair of the annual campaign—stated that, “Just as I would not expect us to want to give to any agency that would discriminate on the basis of race or religion, we should not want to give to agencies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That is a firm principle in my mind, and a simple matter of human dignity.”
Under President Fergusson’s leadership, for 2001 the college established its own philanthropic campaign, Community Works, raising $70,000 from the campus constituencies, 100 percent of which went to support local organizations and agencies chosen by a campus committee of students, administrators, faculty and staff. In 2004, the total raised for Community Works was $88,500. The Miscellany News
Novelist Jane Smiley ‘71, the winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her best-selling novel, A Thousand Acres (1991), spoke about her work in the Villard Room. Smiley was elected in 2001 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The college approved plans for a memorial garden—to be completed in April or May—for the victims of the September 11th attacks on New York City and Washington. A triangular area between the Aula and Noyes Circle, formerly the site of a Japanese garden, was chosen for the Peace Garden, which featured a stone fountain. The Miscellany News
The American Culture and International Studies programs announced, in light of the September 11th attacks, a new multidisciplinary class in Middle East foreign policy and terrorism. “We thought a course would be another mode of helping to come to grips with the events of September 11 and their larger context,” said Peter Stillman, professor of political science. The Miscellany News
Plans were announced for a new student entertainment space on the second floor of the Students’ Building. Originally the upper level of the main auditorium of the building—given anonymously to the Students Association in 1913 by a former Students' Association president—the space had housed a bakery, a dishwashing room, changing rooms and offices when the building was modified in 1972 to accommodate central dining.
Funding for the new facility, intended to return the building to some of its original purposes, had been sought for several years. An alumna trustee, moved by the events of September 11, offered $5 million to realize it. “Students can use it for large events, but also informal gatherings,” said dean of the college Colton Johnson. The project, he said, was to be completed in the fall of 2002. The Miscellany News
John Richetti, A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English at Columbia University, spoke in the Library’s new Class of ’51 Reading Room on "The Sex/Gender System and the Woman's Novel in the English 18th Century." The editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel (1996), Professor Richetti published The English Novel in History, 1700-1789 in 1999.
Felipe Agüero, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, spoke about his torture by the Chilean government under General Augusto Pinochet and his recent identification of his torturer. Shortly after the Pinochet coup in 1973, Agüero, a 21 year-old Chilean student, was arrested, detained and tortured. At an academic conference in 1988, he recognized his torturer—by then a professor at the Catholic University in Santiago— but remained silent, out of shame and lingering fear, until he named the man in February 2001.
Professor Agüero stressed the importance of open discussion of experiences with torture in the larger discussion of military repression. “People’s narratives need to be heard badly, more than anything else,” said Agüero, stressing that people have a “responsibility” to tell their stories. The Miscellany New
Director, screenwriter and actor Spike Lee and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Budd Schulberg spoke in the Chapel on their respective careers and their collaboration on a film about American boxer Joe Louis and his two championship bouts with German boxer Max Schmeling in 1936 and 1938. Widely credited for creating the modern prototype of the young schemer who schemes, lies and cheats his way to success in the character of Sammy Glick in What Makes Sammy Run (1941), Schulberg won Academy Awards for best story and best screenplay for On the Waterfront (1954). Over 40 years younger than his collaborator, Lee was first acclaimed for his film She’s Gotta Have It (1986) and was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar for Do the Right Thing (1989). His film 4 Little Girls was nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 1997.
“Spike is a fanatic for accuracy,” Schulberg told his Vassar audience. “He’s not the easiest director I’ve ever worked with, but he really respects the writer in a way I didn’t always find in Hollywood…. I can’t just sit down and write entertainment. That’s one thing that drew Spike and me together.” “To me,” Lee said, “it’s been an honor, and more than an honor, a great learning experience, learning from one of the great screenwriters of all time.”
“The young director and the elderly screenwriter,” wrote Claudia Rowe in The New York Times, “made a tender pair onstage. Mr. Lee took notes as Mr. Schulberg spoke. He fussed with the older man’s microphone, refilled the writer’s water glass before his own, and gently helped him from the stage when their talk was over.”
The project—tentatively called “The War to Come” and later named “Save Us Joe Louis”—was suspended at the time of Schulberg’s death, at the age of 95, on August 5, 2009.
President Fergusson led a service of recollection in the Chapel for victims of the September 11 attacks.