This week we are catching up with Brian Farkas ’10, former Editor-in-Chief of The Miscellany News and VP of VSA, now an attorney at Goetz Fitzpatrick LLP.
Q: Why did you decide to write Covering the Campus and how was that experience?
A: Vassar’s paper has an unusually long and accomplished history. It began as a literary magazine in 1866, then became a weekly newspaper, making it one of the oldest student publications in the United States. The paper has published interviews with some of the leading political, cultural and artistic figures in American history. When I was Editor-in-Chief, I wrote Covering the Campus to tell that story. I interviewed dozens of former editors, reporters, faculty members and administrators to weave together the 150-year narrative. The book’s broader goal was to help raise money for, and awareness of, the Library’s work in digitizing the paper’s archives, now available at newspaperarchives.vassar.edu. Those online archives are a treasure trove for researchers who want to study the history of higher education. Today, the Miscellany is one of the finest papers of any college in the country. Better writing, better design, better reporting. There are very few papers that play at our level. Piecing together the paper’s history was one of the highlights of my time at Vassar.
Q: Could you describe a typical weekday in your job? What are some of your routines?
A: I’m a lawyer. I live in New York City, though I spend time in Washington, D.C., too. Mostly, I litigate business disputes. Often, these involve intellectual property (copyright, trademark, trade secret, etc.). One of the exciting parts of being a lawyer is that there aren’t many “typical days” or “routines.” One day, you might spend 14 hours of uninterrupted writing. Another day, you might be traveling to a new city, or negotiating a deal on behalf of your client, or arguing in court. Serving on the Miscellany News and the VSA prepared me for the single most important skill in law: responding promptly to e-mails!
Q: What do you love most about your current job, and how does it connect to your Vassar experience?
A: Beyond my day job, I do pro bono mediation for the court system. This means that I serve as a third-party neutral, helping people to negotiate settlements and resolve their disputes. The best training for these mediations wasn’t law school; it was weekly Miscellany News Editorial Board meetings. Twelve super smart editors would argue for their vision of the staff editorial. Conversations sometimes got heated. My job was to moderate that conversation and forge a compromise–an editorial the whole group felt comfortable signing. I learned a great deal about listening and negotiating in those Editorial Board meetings.
Q: Do you have a favorite spot on campus?
A: I know everyone is supposed to say the Library. But my favorite spots on campus are College Center 303 and 207: The Miscellany News office and the VSA Office. Pathetic, I know. I spent ungodly amounts of time in those rooms. Both places are filled with memories of ridiculous stress and endless debate– usually over some absurd revision to the Bylaws. But they were also places where I made lifelong friendships.
Q: Favorite Vassar course/professor?
A: Take every class James Merrell offers. Even if American history isn’t your thing. Your essays will bleed with his merciless red pen. It won’t be pretty. But he’ll make you a better writer. He once wrote “Good” next to one of my paragraphs, a compliment I still treasure.
Q: Could you share your favorite memory at the Misc?
A: Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2008. It was the night of President Obama’s election, and it also happened to be our Miscellany production night. The whole Editorial Board was huddled around the laptop of Eric Estes ’11, our Design & Production Editor, glued to CNN. I don’t think we moved an inch while the final results were tallied. We all watched his Chicago victory speech together, and then wrote the cover story about his election around 3 a.m. that night, before sending it to press. It’s rare to live through a moment that you know you’ll remember forever.