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October 1, 2001

After protracted negotiations, the college discontinued its longstanding support of the annual fundraising campaign of United Way of Dutchess County, citing United Way’s continued support of the Boy Scouts of America despite that organization’s discrimination against gays. In 2000, United Way president and CEO James Williamson offered to allow a special opt-out for Vassar participants which would disallow their contributions from supporting the Boy Scouts. “We didn’t want anything,” he said, “to get in the way of people’s honest desire to help people.”

Mixed campus response to this compromise and the philanthropy’s continued support of the Boy Scouts led to the college’s decision. President Fran Fergusson—a past chair of the annual campaign—stated that, “Just as I would not expect us to want to give to any agency that would discriminate on the basis of race or religion, we should not want to give to agencies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That is a firm principle in my mind, and a simple matter of human dignity.”

Under President Fergusson’s leadership, for 2001 the college established its own philanthropic campaign, Community Works, raising $70,000 from the campus constituencies, 100 percent of which went to support local organizations and agencies chosen by a campus committee of students, administrators, faculty and staff.

In 2004, the total raised for Community Works was $88,500.

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