Founder’s Day themes problematic and also very bad

An ornately costumed Vassar student (in wildlife garb) prepares for Founder’s Day by dropping acid and molly and embarking on a naked spirit journey by Sunset Lake. / Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures

The Miscellany News regrets publishing this piece without deeper consideration for the original arguments against the Founder’s Day theme. Although the opinions expressed by writers in the Humor & Satire section do not represent the opinions of the Editorial Board, we at The Miscellany News recognize the ways in which publishing this piece in the Humor section contributes to perpetuating/upholding narratives of violence. We apologize for any harm this piece may have caused.

–This statement represents the opinion of at least 2/3 of The Miscellany News Editorial Board.

In typical fashion, Vassar College solved a problem only to erect an even more terrible one in its place. The original theme chosen for this year’s Founder’s Day was “Myths and Fairytales.” Fortunately, after receiving feedback, the Traditions Committee was quick to disavow this deeply troubling proposal for our annual day of unofficially sanctioned debauchery. A “Myths and Fairytales” Founder’s Day, as the committee wrote in its statement, would have created an unsafe space on campus by “perpetuating narratives of violence… amongst other problematic themes.”

I for one salute the swift and decisive response to the potential scourge that “Myths and Fairytales” posed. The student body of an average college would have played on a mythological theme by dressing up as harmless fairies, unicorns, elves, dragons, toga wearing Greek deities, gainful employment after graduation, etc. But not the Students of Vassar College. We are famed for our perversion and depravity, having been dubbed an “Ivy League Whorehouse” by the Westboro Baptist Church. Surely, instead of dressing up in innocuous fantasy garb, Vassar students would have recreated the Trojan War by sieging and subsequently burning Main House to the ground (except for the retreat, of course), or perhaps a rag tag band of bro-dudes (genus bro, species dude) would have promoted the sexist trope of female fragility by sneaking peas under the mattress of every female-identified student.

However, the students that voted for the new theme,“Wildlife”, and the student government that permitted it as a choice, failed our school’s reputation as a progressive bastion yet again. How will we ever compete with Wesleyan now? As should be apparent to every socially-conscious individual on campus, “Wildlife” is arguably a more problematic theme than “Myths and Fairy Tales.”

Dressing in imitation of wildlife will lead many Vassar students to commit the unpardonable sin, and I shudder to type this, of wearing fur. Over 50 million animals are killed annually for their fur. If we keep this theme, our beloved celebration will become a grotesque parade of mass slaughter. Now, some might retort that faux fur is an option as well, but this too is inexcusable. Faux fur, unlike that bewitching reefer, marijuana, is a true gateway drug. You begin by gleefully admiring yourself in that faux mink coat until the day you realize how its softness and luster is nothing compared to the real thing. By that time, it’s too late, and you head straight to the Fendi store to overdraw your credit cards.

Furthermore, “Wildlife” is an incredibly speciesist term. The word wild carries negative connotations of violence and barbarity, and is used to buttress the claim that the lives of animals have less value than those of humans. The perceived wildness of a leopard makes it OK for the elder Trump sons to shoot one on safari (this actually happened) and, I assume, give its pelt to Steve Bannon as an offering.

Are we humans not the real wild, violent, and barbaric ones? Non-human animals do not pollute the seas and skies and endanger the future of all life on Earth by refusing to curtail their environmental impact; neither do they do have atomic bombs and kill millions in wars of imperialism and conquest. No, we are the “Wildlife” of which we speak. If we are to be true to the Founder’s Day theme, we should show up dressed in regular attire, self-conscious of the true nature of our species.

There is no point to reliving this farce by putting the remaining theme options up for another vote. All three choices: “Fruits and Veggies”, “Camp” and “Shapes” are irredeemably problematic as I will explain to those Misc. readers unversed in the ways of wokeness.

To start, if “Fruits and Veggies” were our theme many students would dress as out of season produce. To dress up as a pumpkin during the summer would promote an unnatural relationship to the rhythms of our beloved planet, and insult the hard work of our local farmers to keep the tradition of small scale agriculture alive. Fruits and Veggies are commonly picked by underpaid and marginalized migrant laborers. Furthermore, Monsanto provides much of the seed for such produce and regularly disenfranchises farmers or keeps them locked in a cycle of perpetual debt. Dressing up as a grape, as you all now understand, undoubtedly constitutes a wrathful endorsement of brutal neoliberal practices.

“Camp” is an outrageously classist theme. Usually, only the socioeconomically privileged can afford to go to summer camps. Voluntarily spending nights outdoors in 2017 is abnormal. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors decided that settling down and sleeping under roofs was a better way of life, and I wholeheartedly agree. In addition, for those students with roots in the former USSR, the word camp will bring up uncomfortable generational trauma. I can not believe that nobody immediately thought about the Gulag the moment this theme came up. Let’s not normalize Stalinism, people.

Last but not least, “Shapes.” Personally, this theme evokes deep pain and discomfort on my part because I was often called a “square” in my youth. And don’t get me started on the inherent violence of corners.

My sincere suggestion to the Vassar Community is that we cancel themed celebrations altogether instead of continually jumping from one unacceptable theme to another. Clearly, the idea of an unproblematic Founder’s Day theme is a myth or fairytale.

2 Comments

  1. This is something I wrote last year that rings true today:

    Today is Founder’s Day at Vassar College. I’ve been told by at least a dozen students that it’s essentially a marathon of drugs and drinking. What else is new on a college campus right? Well today is a bit different. Drug dealers know about Founder’s Day and travel here specifically to sell to Vassar students and meet the abnormally high demand (I’ve literally witnessed deals on Collegeview Av. right in front of where my two-year-old son plays in my front lawn).

    In addition to the everyday smoking of weed, there are many students using hard drugs. I had several students who were walking off campus step out into the road right in front of my jeep (not in the crosswalk). They were half-naked and holding their arms above their hands, spinning about, laughing and shouting. I had to slam on my breaks to avoid turning them into red puddles on the road.

    As for the drugs that were bought and are being consumed, I’ve heard cocaine specifically mentioned several times. Some of them joked with me about me supplying cocaine, being that my wife is Colombian, they laugh it off and continue bragging about the buffet of narcotics they plan on consuming.

    It’s of no surprise that purchasing most drugs, especially cocaine, directly returns revenue to drug cartels. This income helps them buy weapons and ammunition. They kill innocent people with those weapons, some of which are children. They infiltrate indigenous and rural villages and kidnap children forcing them to join as soldiers, workers and/or sex slaves. We’ve discussed this in several of my classes (it comes up often in Latin/o/a/x American/Hispanic Studies courses). Mostly, I’ve done my own reading of Latin American news as I continue trying to learn about an area of the world I want to work and live in post-college.

    All of the Vassar students obviously condemn the actions of these cartels and gangs in class. They sigh, shake their heads, and close their eyes in agony at hearing about the innocent murdered by cartels and gangs. Some have even asked if we can stop talking about these topics because they are triggering and/or too traumatic a topic for their fragile psyches to handle. (Yes, this has actually happened on more than one occasion and from different students in different classes).

    Many of these same students incessantly talk about how “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” or are quick to criticize another student for purchasing an Israeli brand of hummus. I’ve even heard people criticize adidas brand sneakers due to child labor in underdeveloped countries. Recently, some Vassar students were outraged that the on-campus cafe employees wore sombrero’s for Cinco de Mayo. On and on about cultural appropriation and whatnot.

    Yet, I haven’t heard a single criticism for the purchase of cocaine or any of the other plethora of drugs that many Vassar students are consuming as we speak. I’ve heard them argue for mass legalization (yes, I am aware of the pros and cons of this and have read about it extensively). Sure, that’s an easier alternative to not buying cocaine for the selfish students who have no problem being culpable to drug wars and murders. Apparently, not being consumers and direct supporters of cartels isn’t high on their seemingly never-ending list of activist priorities.

    Many Americans use cocaine, that’s no surprise. Why am I picking on Vassar kids? Because it’s certainly not just college kids that are guilty of this. However, I can’t help but notice the blatant hypocrisy here when these very same sensitive and self-proclaimed activist students have no qualms about their culpability in the gross violence of drug cartels.

    Please do yourselves a favor Vassar students and don’t google image “drug war victims” especially not “children”. That trauma may make you feel guilty if you’ve participated in some of the aforementioned traditions of Founder’s Day. Heaven forbid that guilt be placed on you when it could so easily be put on the government, the drug dealers you and your friends buy from, or on the cartels themselves.

    New thought: The recent refugee crisis is one which has impacted the Vassar/Poughkeepsie community in big ways. I’ve taken part in refugee resettlement meetings and marches, as have many Vassar students. There’s a well-deserved outrage that we share with Trump’s executive order against immigration/refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Vassar students, myself included, are up in arms about it.

    Here’s a consideration: there have been more internally displaced refugees in Colombia (6.9 million) over the last several decades, due to fierce fighting between the FARC-EP and the Colombian military and paramilitary. Cocaine is perhaps the largest revenue provider for the guerillas fighting this civil war. Therefore, a Vassar student purchasing cocaine can directly send $ to aid in the bloodletting there resulting in the furthering of violence and the increased number of refugees (which by the way are primarily extremely impoverished afrocolombianos).

    I’ve seen some weak arguments defending college kids’ exploration of drugs and it being a U.S. college “rite of passage” specifically used against my post last year. Sure, trying out hard drugs, cocaine especially, is just a young adult’s right at freedom of expression and exploration, right? Even if the consequences are as far-reaching as directly funding civil wars in underdeveloped countries?

    Perhaps a better consideration than the gross waste of activism efforts at determining non-problematic Founders Day themes, would be taking real-life implications of our actions into consideration? There is real violence going on out there in the world. Women and children are being coerced into servitude and slavery as sex workers and soldiers. Innocent people are being killed everyday. But no, Founders Day and its potentially problematic themes are the real issue, at least the one some Vassar students have decided to pour themselves into recently.

    Sylvan hit the nail on the head with his satirical post. Misc’s editorial board caving to pressure and fear of reprisal from shallow social justice seekers is laughable and shameful.

    So much privilege flying around here at VC as of late. Check yourselves people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *