Scattered across the grass on the Chapel Lawn, Vassar students gathered for exchanges in cross-legged semicircles, listening to live performances at the makeshift stage nearby and painting signs bearing slogans from “Tell the Truth—Earth is Dying” to “Unite for Justice” to “Eating CEOs is Vegan.” As a backdrop to the tranquil scene, two doors were raised as art exhibits, inviting participants to first think of a place meaningful to them, and to then walk through the doors— imagining the impact the climate crisis will have on that place.
With an announcement over the bullhorn, students and local community members alike raised their handmade signs and convened again in front of Main Building. Marching up Main Campus Drive and to the front of the school gates, the participants chanted and demanded sustainably minded policy, as gas-guzzling cars passing by honked in solidarity.
The full day of activities last Friday—organized by Vassar SEED and Vassar Greens—comprised the first-ever campus Climate Strike, a protest officially sanctioned by the College. The protest represents the goals of the greater Sunrise Movement, a 501(c)(4) wherein young people vanguard accountability for sustainable environmental policy.
Following the march was perhaps the most unique portion of the day: a die-in on Main Circle.
Utilized as a visual representation of the inevitability of mass death, unless politicians act toward a sustainable shift, the die-in portion commenced when SEED member Melissa Hoffman ’21 instructed protestors to lay down. After a few minutes, the die-in ended with a performance of “Which Side Are You On.” While the song was originally conceived in response to strife in America’s coal camps, it is also known for its use in the Civil Rights Movement (Encyclopedia, “Which Side Are You On?” 09.06.2019).
According to organizers, the future for Vassar student-run climate protests promises to be bolder and sunnier. Hoffman encouraged participants in Friday’s strike to join again in October, when climate groups are planning to host another strike in Poughkeepsie. Joe Wiswell ’2o put it simply: “This is the first of many. We’ll be back again.”
All photos courtesy of Grace Rousell.