Filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli came to campus on Oct. 27 for a conversation following a screening of her 2014 film “La Cour de Babel” (translated as “The School of Babel”). Bertuccelli was visiting several institutions around the U.S. in October. She was elected President of the Société Civile des Auteurs Multimedia, a group that defends filmmakers’ copyrights, in 2013, and was notably the first woman to be elected to the position. The film, which takes place within the Ecole de la Grange aux Belles in Paris, follows the journey of a group of students who are recent immigrants to France. The students came to France from countries all over the world. They spend a year together in a class designed to help them learn French and adapt to their new home. In her introduction to Bertuccelli, Professor of French and Francophone Studies and event coordinator Patricia-Pia Celerier wrote, “Bertuccelli’s documentary could be understood as an aesthetic response to the intricacies of the French education system.” The film illuminates issues in contemporary education, as well as the difficulties and joys of experiencing new cultures.
On Oct. 25, as a response to the posters found on campus over October break, the Campus Life and Diversity Team in conjunction with the Office of the President hosted a “Let’s Talk” gathering. According to the posters advertising the event, “‘Let’s Talk’ is a Campus Life and Diversity program that is both a planned and responsive dialogue series in the wake of campus, national and global events.” The offensive posters found around campus were produced and distributed by affiliates of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a national organization known for targeting and confronting college communities on issues regarding the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The posters explicitly referred to specific members of the community with intimidating language. Interim President Jonathan Chenette wrote in a campus-wide response to the event, “This was not an exercise of free speech – this was bullying and intimidation in its truest form and it will not be tolerated.” He explained that the College was taking actions to follow up with the targeted victims, and asserted that he believed Vassar would rally around them, saying, “At this time of divisive discourse and personalized attacks in the public arena, I am confident that the Vassar community will remain true to its core values of compassion and respect, and our belief in the virtues of vigorous and productive debate about important ideas.” The on-campus conversation was an opportunity for students, staff and other Vassar community members to gather and discuss how they were affected by the incident, and to think collectively about how to move forward.
On Oct. 28, the Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns co-hosted a cleanup of the Malcolm X Park in downtown Poughkeepsie. The Co-Op has hosted several cleanups on campus and elsewhere this past year, and often partners with other organizations to improve the local environment. According to their statement, “The mission of the Environmental Cooperative is to expand and coordinate conservation throughout the Hudson Valley by supporting current efforts and developing new programs to inspire further engagement in conservation education, outreach, and research by the community and region.” The other host of the cleanup, Hudson River Housing’s Middle Main Initiative, is dedicated to community building and engagement in the center of the City of Poughkeepsie. Their mission includes sponsoring cultural demonstrations and workshops, advertising council meetings and political engagement opportunities and providing information about the neighborhood.