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.  

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 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.  

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

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. 

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.

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. 

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

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

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.

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. 

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.