As we reflect on the end of an academic year, The Miscellany News has gathered some of the most notable news stories from this year based on web and social media traffic—from campus construction developments to criminal justice advocacy, student protests to COVID-19 coverage. Here are some of our highest-traffic articles of 2019-2020.
Following a petition by student organization Vassar SEED, the College administration announced plans to make the new Inn and Institute (I&I) a carbon neutral development on Aug. 3.
The Chance Theater has long been host to some of Vassar’s most raucous parties, but the College’s relationship with the venue came into question when Chance owner Frank Pallett welcomed country band Confederate Railroad—whose logo features a steam engine flying the Confederate flag—to perform on Sept. 20. On Sept. 22, the VSA unanimously voted to no longer consider The Chance Theater as a possible venue for future events.
On Sept. 4, guest columnist Elias Contrubis attended Poughkeepsie’s Fall Greek Festival as part of Vassar’s Greek-Mediterranean Society. Pictured above, participants in the Fall Greek Fest, many of whom are members of Poughkeepsie’s 127 Greek families, help prepare authentic Greek cuisine for Poughkeepsie’s residents. The festival is entirely funded by donations and operated by volunteers, pictured above.
Vassar joined the global climate strike on Friday, Sept. 20. Activities included blocking Main Drive, rallying from the Chapel Lawn to the College Center, hearing from Poughkeepsie City Council Member Sarah Salem and enjoying a live music performance from the Mid-Hudson activist band Tin Horton Uprising.
Cushing 151A is a parlor on the east side of the dormitory. Or rather, it used to be one.
In its heyday, it was a communal space used and beloved by all of Cushing’s residents and visitors. However, when more admitted students enrolled in the Class of 2023 than expected, it ended up significantly larger than previous classes. As such, the College was forced to find more creative sources of accommodation, one of which was converting several universally loved parlors into freshman quads: two in Main, and one in Cushing.
McKinsey & Company, one of the most successful global consulting firms, made a transition to start recruiting students at liberal arts colleges this fall. The firm held an informational meeting at Vassar on Sept. 19.
Joash Ward became the youngest mayoral candidate in Poughkeepsie history this fall.
Republican Mayor Robert G. Rolison sought and ultimately won re-election. He has held the office since 2015 after previously serving 13 years as Poughkeepsie’s representative in the Dutchess County Legislature. The 61-year-old Republican has been relatively popular in an urban area home to four Democrats for every five residents.
According to the Dutchess County Board of Elections website, Rolison received 2,835 votes and Ward received 2,523.
The Spackenkill and Poughkeepsie school districts have a special relationship. What hangs in the air between them is a bitter battle for their separation fought and won 48 years ago, and a missed opportunity to share educational excellence and resources: a chance to become a unified school district.
According to reporting by News Editor Tiana Headley, advocates of Spackenkill’s independence got what they wanted—a superior high school and school district. They abandoned the Poughkeepsie City School District and took their tax base and resources with them.
[TW: This section contains descriptions of police brutality.]
On March 11, 2019, then 15-year-old Jamelia Barnett and 12-year-old Julissa Dawkins were outside of their school when a fight broke out among several students. Dawkins, who has asthma, went to the aid of one girl in need of an inhaler when Poughkeepsie police officers arrived to break up the then-defunct quarrel.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
An officer later identified as Kevin VanWagner proceeded to arrest Dawkins without reading aloud her charge or Miranda rights. When Dawkins resisted, VanWagner charged her with resisting arrest and threw her to the ground—a deposition filed by the family described how VanWagner pinned Dawkins with his body.
In a 17-second video clip that circulated on social media around the time of the incident, Barnett is shown running to her sister’s aid, only to be slammed to the ground by another officer and lose consciousness.
Their mother Melissa Johnson questioned the Poughkeepsie Police Department’s decision to forcefully arrest her daughters, one of whom had not been charged. She has filed a Civil Rights lawsuit on behalf of her daughters in the Southern District of New York. The Vassar Black Students Union (BSU) organized several events in support of the family, including the talk pictured above.
Dawkins, Barnett and Johnson appeared in Dutchess County family court on Nov. 13 as part of the criminal case against the girls. The judge delayed the motion to drop the charges against them.
This past summer, HBO filmed its six part miniseries “I Know This Much Is True” on Vassar’s campus. Based on the book by Wally Lamb, the miniseries—which is currently airing—revolves around twins played by Mark Ruffalo who go through the journeys of breaking one’s soul and rebuilding oneself while navigating relationships with others. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
On Nov. 14, Vassar student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chanted during a speech delivered by Zionist activist Hen Mazzig. Students from SJP chanted, distributed fliers and played music in front of the auditorium in Rockefeller Hall in protest of the event, hosted by Vassar Organizing Israel Conversations Effectively (VOICE). The fliers gave definitions of “pinkwashing” and displayed Mazzig’s past statements about pro-Palestine activists.
In total, students chanted for approximately six minutes. SJP members protested from the hallway outside of the auditorium and made no attempts to enter the venue. Mazzig paused as the chanting started to comment on the protesters, stating that the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” was tantamount to claiming that “[his] family should be killed,” in reference to Hamas’ past use of the phrase and its subsequent association with anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. He then continued to speak for the duration of the remaining lecture. Mazzig reflected on his status as a descendent of Tunisian and Iraqi Jewish refugees, as well as his experience being a queer man in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
At the beginning of fall semester finals, we caught up with several faculty members to get to know their canine companions. Josselyn House Fellows the Schreiber-O’Sullivans (top left) told us all about their pup, Pepper—who gets a tad rambunctious when meeting new friends. Assistant Professor of Psychological Science Lori Newman (bottom left) introduced us to Oscar—who may be small, but is absolutely filled with love. Research Librarian Gretchen Lieb (right), who was initially hesitant to adopt after the loss of a previous canine companion, showed off Alberta, her fluffy friend.
[TW: This section discusses imprisonment, domestic violence, sexual violence, murder and emotional abuse.]⠀
On Feb. 11, Dutchess County Judge Edward T. McLoughlin sentenced Nicole Addimando to 19 years to life in prison for criminal possession of a weapon and the murder of Christopher Grover, her live-in partner with whom she had two children. The decision came after a 12-person jury unanimously rejected her assertion of self-defense on April 12, 2019.
The Defense Committee plans to continue advocating for Addimando and assist in finding attorneys to appeal the decision. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be central to the appeal. The People vs. Nicole Addimando would establish its application in New York State case law.
On Feb. 12, Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley released an emailed statement to the faculty and student body detailing the discovery of Native American human remains and cultural artifacts in a campus building. She stated that the storage of the remains, which had been acquired in the 1980s and 1990s, was in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).⠀⠀⠀
After days of anxiety and uncertainty in the greater Vassar community, President Elizabeth Bradley and members of Vassar’s senior administrative team released a preliminary strategy on March 12 for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 19, Bradley announced to the student body via email that the College would not resume in-person instruction for any part of Spring 2020.
Governor Andrew Cuomo named Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley to an advisory board that will shape policy surrounding the reopening of the New York State economy on April 29.
The New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board is a working group with 116 members—Bradley is both a global health expert and one of 12 advisory board members who leads an institution of higher education.
According to a press release sent to The Miscellany News, Cuomo has signaled that plans to reopen the state economy must be based on “factual data points” rather than emotions. The board aims to create a template for reopening that can be applied in every region of New York State.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Bradley commented, “I am honored to be selected as a member of the advisory group and look forward to contributing in any way I can.”
After decades of student activism, Asian American Studies courses will now be offered in the Fall 2020 semester. Nicole Kormendi ’20 and Sylvia Peng ’20, members of the Vassar Asian American Studies Working Group, relay the history of the fight for Critical Ethnic Studies at Vassar and reflect on the importance of anti-institutional movements.