Guaranteed four-year housing…or maybe five? According to Vassar’s website, recently graduated students can apply for a position as a post-baccalaureate (post-bac) in order to augment their academic record. The post-baccalaureate program, whose members just recently relocated to the Town House (TH) known as Meat Haus, plays an important part in Vassar’s culture, even if most students are unaware of its role.
The post-bac program gives these graduates an opportunity to work on campus by letting them take on different positions designed to improve life at Vassar. These jobs range anywhere from working with campus activities to organizing outreach programs. According to post-bac Joseph Szymanski ’17, some of the post-bacs started as first-generation low-income students who went through Transitions. Now he organizes the Senior Gift Campaign, a scholarship fund that seniors can give to; this year, all the funds will be given to a member of the Class of 2022 who has significant financial need.
Szymanski stated in an email, “It’s a gift from students, for students and will have a real impact on a student’s life next year.” The campaign helps make Vassar more accessible, and any senior can pitch in by emailing joszymanski[a]vassar.edu.
Before this semester, the Vassar post-bacs lived dispersed throughout the dorms. Post-bac and Vassar After School Tutoring Coordinator Max Cordeiro ’16, who has been a post-bac for three years, explained, “The idea was that the post-bacs would somehow help with house team and provide insight as a recently graduated professional, but realistically there wasn’t too much for us to do with house team.”
While it can be helpful to have someone who has experienced all four years of Vassar and can knowledgeably weigh in to improve house team, Cordeiro and other post-bacs found that house teams were generally self-sufficient. Therefore it was not necessary for them to live in the dormitories with the other students, although it was convenient for them to live close to their jobs.
Former Assistant Dean of Students Luis Inoa decided that the post-bacs should still live on campus, but that they should live together. He originally considered placing them in the Raymond annex but chose to house all 10 post-bacs in Meat Haus. Most students usually view Meat Haus as a co-op that flaunts its non-vegetarianism, but this semester it will be rebranded by the move to the THs. In addition to the extra room this provides, the post-bacs can live together in a residential community and get to know each other instead of remaining relatively isolated and living in separate dormitories.
Szymanski stated, “I imagine that must have felt pretty isolating at times: most of our friends graduated with us and are no longer on campus, so it’s been nice to have friends close by who are also trying to figure out how ‘adulting’ works.”
According to Cordeiro, the cost of housing for an adult living on campus is about $200 a month, but the post-bacs can pay this off by working; they can live on campus essentially for free while obtaining valuable work experience at the same time. For example, Richard Le ’17 wanted to work with communications; now Le makes movies for the Office of Communications and helps with Transitions, the program created for first generation, low-income or undocumented students.
With the housing, meal plan and work experience included, the post-baccalaureate program is the total package. Colin Peros ’17 vouched for the convenience and low cost, stating via email, “I was not going to live in a single, and this is by far the cheapest living option.”
As they all live in one place now, this TH is meant to be a professional space where the recently graduated post-bacs can organize their programming in one area instead of spread out around campus. Cordeiro affirmed that Inoa intended for Vassar students to use it as an accessible resource, although more planning may be required before the Town House can serve this purpose.
Living in the same space where they work can feel stressful. Szymanski reflected, “It can sometimes feel like I never leave my job for the night, but it’s a small price to pay for a really great housing situation.” The fact that they have a space where they can relax that’s not a bedroom, namely the living room, is a positive aspect for most of the post-bacs.
While this co-op is sizeable, its use as a professional space may be controversial. Because the THs consistently throw parties—and the post-bacs are supposed to be separate from that part of student life—it might be difficult to maintain that boundary between professionalism and the THs as party central.
Le agreed, stating in an email, “The worst is the bros running around screaming, chanting and tipping garbage cans on weekend nights. Please stop.”
Other post-bacs might have issues with individual houses themselves, such as the post-bac for Inclusion and Equity with the Engaged Pluralism Initiative (EPI) Sheharyar Imran ’17. Imran works with ALANA Center-affiliated identity organizations and is on the EPI group for Inclusion, Belonging and Community Building through the Arts. Imran stated via email, “[The biggest negative aspect of living in Meat Haus is] having to walk past a Thirteen Colonies U.S. flag on my way home.”
As Imran expanded, “I imagine it’s rooted in a heightened sense of nationalism or perhaps a desperately misguided nostalgia for the past. Either way, it makes me uncomfortable to see settler colonialism and its continued iterations being celebrated as such.”
However, despite some of the confusion and conflict that has arisen from this move, the postbacs largely seem to enjoy their new living arrangements. Cordeiro, who was apprehensive about living with nine others, appreciates the spaciousness of the TH, and added that the differing schedules of the post-bacs make it less cramped. His only qualm is the name associated with this TH.
known for its mostly vegetarian or vegan inhabitants. As the post-bacs want to rebrand Meat Haus, they have some ideas about its possible new name.
Cordeiro expanded on some of his personal favorites, which include names such as “Full House” or “Normal House.” Imran wanted “The Flat Earthers’ Forum for Epistemological Inquiry,” while Le pulled for “DeepHouse.m4a,” and Szymanski liked the irony of “Adult House.” On the other hand, Peros wanted a complete change of pace and voted to change “Meat Haus” to “Meat House.”
When the new name is finally chosen, students will find out how the post-bac house functions as a professional space in the midst of the other Town Houses, and they will find out just how creative these post-bacs are in the process.