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

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

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.

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

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.