Dear Dr. G,
I’m a first-year and I keep hearing things about “The Mug”. I went to Middle School Mug Night this weekend but I don’t understand why it was called a “Mug Night.” Care to explain?
The Mug is a well known Vassar performance space, sex club, dance party, liminal space and creepy basement. Located in the basement of the Main Building, it actually used to be a full-service bar on campus back when that was legal and fine for whatever reason, but since then has been transformed into a space of incredible sexual tension, sweat, flashing lights and funny paper wristbands. I’m glad you asked about the Mug because I’ve been worried that the institutional memory of the Mug is slowly fading, but this weekend has shown me that being messy at a school-sponsored event is an innate aspect of the Vassar experience.
During a normal year, there are a series of Mug Nights, sometimes as many as three a month, usually on Friday or Saturday nights. There are a number of Mug Nights which are essential to attend in your time at Vassar, and likewise almost always result in about 400 sweaty people all in one small room with a brick floor and not a single window. For example, “First Mug Night” usually precedes the first day of classes, in which just about everyone has spent a summer not at Vassar and forgot that it’s fun to dance with your weird drama major friends. This Mug Night has especially high attendance from first-years who are trying to figure out what a Mug Night is, and by House Team members who have not yet realized that you’re not supposed to make out with three strangers in front of your fellowees, and that this commitment may be a challenging one. Another staple is “Middle School Mug Night,” which many of you just attended. This Mug Night is always well-attended, always plays “Toxic” by Britney Spears, and attendees always end up making messy choices they regret in the week to follow (if this sounds like you, good job and I wish you luck). The third absolutely essential Mug Night is affectionately called “Last Chance Mug Night,” hosted just at the end of finals the Spring semester of each year, and this is always where you can “accidentally run into” that hot senior in Fly People or in your seminar that you’ve always wanted to get with but worried it would be awkward. Generally, other Mug Nights have spotty attendance; sometimes you go to one that has a random theme and is absolutely packed, and sometimes you head to the Mug at a peak time to find it totally empty.
On the subject of time, the Mug has a carefully crafted routine which is an unspoken rule at Vassar. The pregame always starts far too late, by 9 p.m. at the latest. Personally, this has always irked me, but this is part of the Vassar temporal/social calendar; if you get to the Mug before 11 p.m. it will most definitely be empty. Pregames are a good way to get your fill of the typical American college experience of drinking a lot and deciding to make bad decisions for the night, and your pregame group will depend heavily on your social circles. Perhaps your pregame will be in your friend’s weirdly large double in Lathrop featuring your fellow group and that one guy your friend has been hooking up with. If you’re on a sports team, you’ll probably have a pregame and a postgame, with live commentary provided by that one senior who loves to gossip. This is also part of another lost art among COVID times, which is the Facebook event invite you get leading up to the pregame and Mug Night. The theme of the event is always something weird, like monochrome, costumes, frat party or even the classic “just dress kinda sl*tty.” The Mug is typically open until 1 to 2 a.m., so the Mug is an all-night event. You always want to leave the Mug before they turn on the lights. If the lights come on, you’ll have to see how sweaty you and your friends have gotten, and it’ll make you rethink some choices.
Finally, the Mug is a functional f*ck spot on campus. No, you won’t be having sex in the Mug itself (well, okay, let me say that this does happen but please don’t do it), but one second you’re in the Mug just hanging out with your friends, and then suddenly you’re giving some sophomore twink the largest hickey you’ve ever seen. The Mug is a slippery slope, and it’s exactly the place where Vassar students go cruising to find someone to share their twin bed in Jewett with. Your hookups in the Mug will not always be pleasant—you’re both probably drunk and sweaty, and the odds that one of you has a single is pretty low if you’re a first-year—but this is still a universal Vassar experience. And hey, if you can’t find a place, there are always plenty of places to bang on campus.