Student life a campus complexity

On March 28, The Miscellany News celebrated its centennial as a weekly newspaper by hosting a party in the Alumnae House for our current and former staff, as well as the newspaper’s alums. We exchanged funny stories, commiserated about production nights of the past and updated our predecessors on what has changed on Vassar’s campus since they graduated. Nostalgia was as free-flowing as the wine. However, for some, returning to Vassar wasn’t the trip down memory lane they were expecting.

After spending a weekend at Vassar, Rebecca Schuman ’98 wrote an article for Slate, entitled “The Sad Demise of Collegiate Fun,” the crux of which was that larger institutional and systematic shifts in youth culture have resulted in “pre-professional anxiety, coupled with the nihilistic, homogeneous partying that exists as its natural counterbalance” (04.15.2014). Schuman cites Vassar’s keg ban of 2011 and the fizzling out of the Mug as prime examples of Vassar’s Administration spoiling all the fun. But she doesn’t just point to the higher-ups for instituting these changes; the students themselves just don’t know how to get into trouble anymore, unwilling to stray off the beaten path.

Vassar, she said, simply isn’t weird anymore.

Vassar has certainly changed since the ’90s, and it’s continuing to change. But surely there are many alums who came before Schuman who would have thought little of her generation’s supposed rebels without cause. The suffragists of the early 1900s, the activists of the civil rights movement—they would probably be disappointed by the drop in student activism and radicalness of Schuman’s class, just as she seems to be with ours.

Yes, there are many arguments you could make about Vassar becoming increasingly less progressive, but none of those have to do with keg bans or the fact that they no longer serve Pabst Blue Ribbon at the Mug, at least in my estimation. So, for a moment, I would like to defend Vassar’s weirdness, because I believe Schuman has done her alma mater a disservice with her piece.

One point with which I take issue is Schuman’s claim that the campus was “dead all weekend.” She writes, “the closest I saw to free play time was, I kid you not, a Quidditch game.” The lack of nightlife on campus, she says, is because Vassar students no longer have a place to go without the happening-ness of the Mug or the impromptu dorm parties she remembers fondly. Safety and Security is Vassar’s Big Brother, and throwing caution to the wind is a thing of the past, Schuman seems to be suggesting—such is not the case.

Though I’ve spent many nights at the Mug, and there are still some worthwhile events that happen there, I in no way see it as indicative of social life at Vassar. Perhaps the reason why campus appeared so deserted on a Friday night was because parties and small concerts are now thriving at off-campus houses instead—locations decidedly outside of Vassar’s jurisdiction, with the exception of the Town Houses and Terrace Apartments. How’s that for “minimally supervised goof off–ery,” Schuman?

Many other students could also tell you stories of climbing to the roofs of various campus buildings, attending secret a capella concerts, Founder’s Day shenanigans and all the moments in between, which cannot be captured in one article or witnessed in one weekend.

And, to be frank, when I come back to Vassar in a decade or two, I won’t expect to be invited to all the off-campus hang outs I once was or be keen to attend all of the Town House parties teetering dangerously on the edge of getting broken up by Security. Things will have changed, I’ll have grown older and college fun might have become nearly unrecognizable to me.

I assure you, there still exists the same kind of youthful whim you remember, Rebecca Schuman, it just might look a little different now. Like any college, Vassar can neither remain static nor can it ever be one singular thing; it lives and breathes, ebbs and flows along with its students. In any case, Vassar students still have the spirit and spunk of those who came before, and that’s not about to change any time soon.

—Marie Solis ’15 is an English major.

One Comment

  1. The 90’s were weird?

    Should have been there in the 70’s. “Weird” doesn’t begin to apply!

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