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Co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America and Queens College Professor of Political Science Michael Harrington, author of The Other America (1962), lectured on “The New American Poverty” in the Villard Room. Said Harrington, “There are now more poor people in America…than when Johnson started his war on poverty.” In response to these problems, Harrington called for a political move to the left, saying “the conservative period in American life is about to end.”

The Miscellany News

Harrington spoke at Vassar in November 1972.

Approximately 400 people lined up each night at the Vassar Observatory to view Halley’s Comet, which had last appeared in 1910 and would not appear again until 2061.

Vassar’s recognition of the first official Martin Luther King Day, a screening of a documentary about King’s life, was thought by some to be insufficient.

Five members of the Debate Society—Dan Blum ’89, Evan Brenner ’89, Scott Cooper ’87, Anne Louise Gibbins ’89 and Scott Kirkpatrick ’87—argued for 100 hours in a continuous Parliamentary Debate in the Villard Room, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. The resolution sponsored by the team of Brenner and Blum, “The government that governs best governs least,” was opposed by the team of Cooper and Gibbons, with Kirkpatrick acting as speaker of the house.

Interviewed midway through the marathon, Blum observed, “We have debated abortion, capital punishment, the monetary system…Laura Ashley, garbage disposal and childbirth… All these topics must eventually relate back to teh original question.” Gibbons added, “After we heard Kirk [Kirkpatrick] snore, we even raised the issue of respiratory difficulties.” The longest speech of the five days was given by Blum, who spoke at one point for over almost four hours. Said Blum, “I have the biggest mouth…and can speak for the longest time without really saying anything.”

In the debate’s final hour Vassar President Virginia Smith, the New York State chief of protocol and spokesperson for Governor Mario Cuomo Frederica Goodman and Thomas Aposporos, the mayor of Poughkeepsie, observed its conclusion.

The Miscellany News

The Film Committee’s Erotica Weekend, featuring Last Tango in Paris (1972), In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and Café Flesh (1982), drew mixed responses.

An exhibition in the Vassar Art Gallery of contemporary work by Hudson Valley artists, curated by John Yau and Thomas Nelson of the Albany Institute of History and Art, ranged from “clear, crisp landscapes to interpretive collage to abstract forms.”

Beyond Vassar

The Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart shortly after lift-off, killing the crew aboard: Francis Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe.

President Smith had served on a panel that aided in the selection of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, for this mission.

The Committee to Locate Alternate Social Space opened a part-time non-alcoholic nightclub in the Aula for a three week trial. “This can only be good and has been sorely needed for years,” said committee member Rick Singer ‘87. “However, if people do not show up for the first few weeks the Administration might get the impression that this is not a popular idea.” The club’s first weekend was well-attended; the Aula hosted 635 on Thursday, 945 on Friday and 705 on Saturday.

Despite some difficulties from its location in an academic building, offering a wider range of entertainment and an ambiance, as one student put it, “much more like New York City night club atmosphere,” the non-alcoholic club flourished in the Aula until 1994, when funds were secured to develop student entertainment space in the underused second floor of the Students’ Building. The Miscellany News

The African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock performed songs with social messages, commenting on women’s issues, civil rights, apartheid in South Africa and commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. “You can steal my tongue/ But someone else gonna sing my song,” the group sang in Echo, a modern gospel work about the Wilmington 10 and one of the hardest hitting pieces of the evening. The Miscellany News

In preparation for the concert the Joseph Camp’s video profile of the group, Gotta Make This Journey (1983), was shown the preceding week.

Concerned with its demoralizing effect on younger faculty members, at the recommendation of the faculty the board of trustees abolished a policy that limited tenure to no more than 60 percent of the faculty.

Daniel Kunene, professor of African languages at the University of the West Indies; Edgar Tidwell, humanities fellow at Yale University and Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies Constance Berkley participated in a panel discussion on “A Literature Round Table: The Politics of Literature” in the Villard room. Speaking about apartheid in South Africa, Kunene said, “The first function of art [is] to stir society out of complacency…We cannot go from this war to peace. War has moved from the battlefield to an ideological frond on which the heroes and new warriors are intellectuals and educators.” The Miscellany News

The Student Coalition Against Apartheid staged a sit-in in President Smith’s office, claiming that Vassar, instead of divesting, had increased the amount of stock it held in apartheid-supportive companies.

The same day, the Trustee Investor Responsibility Committee approved a divestment timetable by which the college would rid itself of South Africa-related stock.

The trustees approved an increased in the comprehensive fee of $1,000 (7.46%) for the 1986-87 academic year, bringing the fee to $13,600.

Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Anthony Stellato accounted for the increase in an all-campus letter: “There are a number of reasons why the increases in college costs continue to outpace inflation. As we continually review every phase of the college’s operations for possible efficiencies, we have to keep in mind that maintaining quality in education prevents a college from taking the same steps as a business or a cooperation for improving productivity.”

The Miscellany News

Chair of the Board of Trustees Mary Draper Janney ’42 announced that Bucknell University provost and vice president for academic affairs Frances Daly Fergusson would succeed the retiring Virginia Smith as Vassar’s ninth president, effective July 1, 1986. Fergusson, Janney said, “values the faculty-student relationship as central to the educational enterprise in an undergraduate college….Most importantly, she fits Vassar.”

At a news conference on campus, Fergusson—a graduate of Wellesley with a PhD in art history from Harvard—praised Vassar for resisting current trends towards specialization and career-oriented courses and for adhering to the “strong liberal arts tradition,” adding that this particularly attracted her to the college: “instead of predetermination there is exploration with a desire to see what else a student can learn and can become, to move away from replicating the past.”

The New York Times

Professor Ali Mazrui from the University of Michigan lectured on “Africa and Global Reform: In Search of a New World Order.” The former director of Michigan’s Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, Dr. Mazrui’s presentation of the BBC’s Reith Lectures in 1979 appeared from Cambridge University Press as The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis (1980), and his The Africans: A Triple Heritage was published in 1986. Mazrui discussed his motivations in producing his various oral and written works. He described his move to the United States in 1973 as having “globalized my perspectives. It is as though I had climbed to the top of the world and could suddenly see all over.”

Dr. Mazrui returned to Vassar in November to show and speak about the documentary film series, The Africans: A Triple Heritage (1986).

Writer-in-residence and O. Henry award winner James Salter read from his works, including an upcoming “autobiographical piece,” in Taylor Hall. Salter spoke of his journey from West Point and his position as a fighter pilot to a journalist and author, and responded to his reputation as “a writer’s writer”: “I still have hopes of emerging from that distinguished position,” the author said.

Salter’s memoir, Burning the Days appeared in 1997.

A lecture by Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica from 1972 until 1980, “Prospects for Third World Self-Reliance in the 1990s,” surveyed the history of Jamaica, its dealings with the International Monetary Fund and the economic problems faced by Third World countries. During his speech, Manley proposed an “international conference on debt” to “bring together debtors and lenders.”

The Miscellany News

The stage adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s 1954 radio drama Under Milk Wood, directed by Tim Licata ‘86, was performed at the Powerhouse Theater. “The absurdity of the many lives, and the oddity of the characters all add to the lull by which Under Milk Wood takes the audience in. The play’s characters each have an element of tragedy in them and each of the actors does a fabulous job of creating them.”

The Miscellany News

The Energy Resource Management Company conducted tours of the campus power plant for Vassar students in order to raise awareness about energy conservation and consumption.

Novelist and filmmaker Jerome Badanes, visiting lecturer in religion, American culture and urban studies, gave a reading from his novel in Rocky 300.

The college stopped payment to the firm that designed and built the Seeley G. Mudd Chemistry Building due to energy conservation problems in the structure and design of the building.

Vassar held a conference on world hunger, “Hunger: The Ethical Challenge of Our Time,” including lectures, films, readings, a canned food drive, a “Hunger Benefit concert” and an Oxfam marathon. M.R.C Greenwood, Biology professor and co-chair of the conference, hoped the conference would examine “the causes and possible solutions” to world hunger, to “both educate and encourage further action.”

The Miscellany News

U.S. Representative Mickey Leland of Texas, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Select Committee on Hunger, spoke in the Villard Room about “the Great Dimensions of Hunger” to open the conference.

Other speakers included Raymond Hopkins, the co-author of Global Food Interdependence: Challenge to United States Policy (1980); the program coordinator at Oxfam America Joel Charney; Adrienne Germain, former director of Ford Foundation programs in Bangladesh and officer of International Women’s Health Coalition and Mal Nesheim, the president of the American Institute of Nutrition.

Associate Professor of English Eamon Grennan and Lecturer in English Nancy Willard read from their works.

Local 1120 of the Communications Workers of America—created when Vassar secretaries, nurses, and technicians unionized in December of 1985—began negotiations with the Vassar administration.

Author, pacifist and feminist Grace Paley, winner of the 1983 Edith Wharton Award, visited campus for three days, giving a reading, teaching a writers’ workshop and leading a discussion with her husband, poet and novelist Robert Nichols, on “Being an Urban Writer.”

“I think all writers are basically regional,” Paley told the audience, “There’s no getting away from what I am, which is New York and Jewish…Texas writers are Texas writers, but that doesn’t make them less interesting to me.” The Miscellany News

Vassar College Television (VCTV) presented its first program, consisting of features, news and sports; the broadcast was followed by a celebratory party in the Aula.

The Africana Studies Department organized a march, attended by 40 students and faculty, to protest “the lack of black faculty presence on campus” and the alleged harassment faced by black students.

Former Illinois Congressman John B. Anderson, independent presidential candidate in the 1980 election, was the keynote speaker for Sophomore Parents weekend. In his address, Anderson cautioned against too much individualism, saying “The banner of self interest to which we are marching today…is leading us away from the values…that held use together.”

The Miscellany News

Anderson’s wife, Keke, had spoken at Vassar in October of 1980, in support of his presidential campaign.

Women’s Week celebrated the theme “Sisterhood is Global” with lectures, a concert, a reading, a potluck dinner and a discussion.

Robin Morgan, author of Sisterhood is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology (1984) spoke on “The Politics of International Sisterhood.” Morgan dismissed the “myth” that feminism was only a “white woman’s movement;” instead, she contended that it was “indigenous to every country and culture.”

The Miscellany News

The next day, Egyptian feminist Faiza Blashak spoke about feminism in the Middle East.

The mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, answered questions from students on issues ranging from his views on Nicaragua to whether children with AIDS should attend public schools.

The VSA Council issue a statement opposing the creation of a new post, director of religious and chaplaincy services (DRACS), to take the place of a chaplain. The statement expressed “great displeasure with the Trustees’ solely engaging in dialogue with the faculty and in no way with the student body whom this new program most directly affects.” Protests about the decision also came from some student religious organizations.

The Miscellany News

The position and its title were subsequently changed, the post become that of director of religious and spiritual life.

Students from Vassar, Marist, and Dutchess Community Colleges protested IBM involvement with the apartheid government of South Africa by picketing, blocking and chaining the doors of the IBM building in Poughkeepsie. The protesters yelled “IBM you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

Ten Vassar students and three students from Marist and Dutchess Community Colleges were arrested during the demonstration. Charges against them were eventually dropped.

Thirty-nine percent of all students on the meal plan fasted, raising over $1,500 in the Hunger Action fast.

The Vassar College Choir performed Handel’s oratorio Jephtha in Skinner Hall.

The Task Force on Racism held a race relations discussion about whether racism was institutionalized at Vassar. Said panel participant Karen Roberts ‘86, “In my opinion, I would say racism does exist at every level [on campus]…At some levels it isn’t overt racism, but it’s covert.”

Another student said, “I have black friends on campus and if I approach them while they are with a group of their black friends I feel as if my friend has to approve me—to let the other friends know I’m alright.”

The Miscellany News

Filmmaker, painter and sculptor Nancy Graves ’61 visited the campus as the President’s Distinguished Visitor. During her visit, Graves led a tour of her workspace at the Tallix Foundry in Beacon, NY, and gave a talk entitled “From Bones to Bronze” in Taylor Auditorium. “Graves has taken scupture down from its pedestal and forced us to look down at it,” reported The Miscellany News on her work.

While on campus, Graves participated in a panel discussion about her work with Associate Professor of Anthropology Judith Goldstein, Lecturer in Art Harry Roseman and Professor of Philosophy Jesse Kalin, and she attended the opening of the Vassar Art Gallery exhibit Nancy Graves: Painting, Sculpture and Drawing 1980-1985. The exhibit was the subject of a panel discussion that included the guest curator of the exhibit, Debra Balken; Linda Nochlin ’51 Distinguished Professor of Art History at the City University of New York Graduate Center; Tallix Foundry owner Robert Polich; Professor of Art History Robert Rosenblum of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and Michael Shapiro, curator of the St. Louis Art Museum.

Graves was the first artist to be selected as President’s Distinguished Visitor. Curator Debra Bricker Balken published Nancy Graves: Painting, Sculpture, Drawing, 1980-85 in 1986.

Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, directed by Clifford Evanson ‘86, was performed in the Aula. Tom Beller ‘87, reviewing the production for The Miscellany News, found “The production excelled when the actors shed some of the noticeable self-consciousness of being involved with such a profound and complicated script and fell back on their natural talent.”

Written in 1944, Brecht’s play was first performed by students at Carleton College in Minnesota. The first professional production was in Philadelphia in 1948, under the direction of its translator, Eric Bentley.

Mary Draper Janney ’42, chair of the board of trustees, hosted a reception in the Villard Room to honor the retiring President Virginia Smith.

At Vassar’s 122nd commencement, speaker Garry B. Trudeau, creator of the popular Doonesbury comic strip, encouraged Vassar students to question the Strategic Defense Initiative, called “Star Wars.”

The inaugural Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) included 26 students and 26 professors. Professor of Biology M.R.C. Greenwood ‘68, the URSI coordinator said, “This is a unique co-development program for students and faculty….We hope to plan for the future so that Vassar will maintain its top-rate science faculty and its standards as an active research college.”

The Miscellany News

URSI students presented a symposium on their summer work on October 1st.

The Department of the Interior designated Vassar’s Main Building—architect James Renwick Jr’s third building in the mansarded French Second Empire style—a National Historic Landmark, making it one of only six in the state. in the nomination for historic landmark status, Elizabeth Daniels ’41 cited architectural historian Henry Russell Hitchcock’s assessment of the building, modelled by Renwick at Matthew Vassar’s order on the Tuileries Palace in Paris:For such things as the Smithsonian and his churches Renwick had plenty of visual documents on which to lean, either archaeological treatises on the buildings of the medieval past or illustrations of contemporary foreign work. But for Vassar College, very evidently, he was dependent for his inspiration on rather generalized lithographic or engraved views of the Tuileries. Nor could he, at this relatively early date, borrow much from published illustrations of contemporary English work in the new international Second Empire mode. The particular plastic vitality of the Americanized Second Empire is already notable in this early example, however, even though the rather crude articulation of the red brick walls is remote from anything French of any period from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth. Later buildings by Renwick in the same mode are richer and closer to Parisian standards, but their architectonic vitality is considerably less.”

In recognition of the new honor and of the 125th anniversary of the college’s charter, plans and elevations for Main Building by James Renwick Jr. were displayed in the Vassar Art Gallery.

Henry Russell Hitchcock, Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, “National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form: Main Building, Vassar College (Vassar Female College)”, The Miscellany News

The Vassar College Art Gallery gained full membership in the International Council of Museums.

Freshman orientation was restructured and extended to a full week. Some students complained that the prolonged orientation, combined with the upperclassmen’s later arrival, weakened bonds between freshmen and upperclassmen.

The college announced that a computer store would open in the College Center for a one-year trial, filling the space left by the closing of a student-run record store.

The Yeh Yu Chinese Opera Association from New York performed two “Colorful, dynamic, wondrous and eye-opening” Peking Operas—“The White Snakes” and “The King’s Favorite.”

The exhibit All Seasons and Every Light: Nineteenth Century American Landscapes, featuring 19th century works by the Hudson River School, opened in the Vassar Art Gallery as part of Poughkeepsie’s art festival Artscape ’86 and the Vassar 125th anniversary commemoration. The paintings, drawings and sketchbooks by Frederic Church, Jasper F. Crospey, Charles Moore, Sandford R. Gifford, Asher B. Durand, William Trost Richards and Aaron D. Shattuck were from the collection purchased by Matthew Vassar from charter trustee Elias Magoon in 1864.
An exhibit of architect James Renwick Jr.’s plans of Main Building—on display since July—remained on view, as another exhibition associated with the college’s 125th anniversary.

All Seasons and Every Light was first shown at Vassar in 1983.

As part of the celebration of Vassar’s 125th anniversary, Professor of Drama Evert Sprinchorn directed a reading of Hallie Flanagan’s Can You Hear Their Voices (1931) in the Hallie Flanagan Davis Powerhouse Theater.

Conservative journalist Midge Decter spoke on “The Press and Terrorism” in Taylor Auditorium.

The Lorellen Green ’86 Dance Company, Vassar’s company in residence, performed Green’s The Mystery of Deidre at the Mid-Hudson Arts and Science Center. Green founded the company after graduating that spring with a degree in philosophy.

Assistant Professor of Music Carol Wilson sang works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including pieces composed by Professor of Music Richard Wilson in Skinner Hall.

The Vassar Women’s Tennis team won second place in the New York State Division III Tournament.

Joseph Heissan ’87 directed Eugène Ionesco’s The Lesson (1951) and Jean Genet’s The Maids (1948) in the Powerhouse Theater.

The Vassar Art Gallery held a symposium on James Renwick Jr., the architect of Main Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Smithsonian Institution Building. Speakers included college historian Elizabeth Daniels ’41, author and photographer Rollie McKenna ‘40 and New York University art historian Bannon McHenry.

McKenna’s A Study of the Architecture of the Main Building and the Landscaping of Vassar College, 1860-1870 (1949), her Vassar Master’s thesis, was the first scholarly study of Renwick’s Main Building.

Former Lecturer in English Brett Singer ’74 read from her recent novel Footstool in Heaven.

Frances Daly Fergusson was inaugurated as the ninth president of Vassar College in a ceremony held in the Outdoor Theater and attended by faculty, students, alumnae/i, the Board of Trustees, former Presidents Alan Simpson and Virginia Smith, and delegates from eighty universities and colleges. During the inauguration, the bell on Main Building rang nine times to honor Fergusson, and Vassar’s eight preceding presidents.

Speakers at the inauguration included Mary Draper Janney ’42, chair of the board of trustees, VSA President Richard Feldman ’87 and the Presidents of Wellesley College, Yale University and the University of Rochester. Feldman noted the college’s recent decision to divest itself of stock in companies operating in South Africa, adding that “Vassar, by setting very high standards for itself and its students, has more often than not been ahead of its time…and now that the college has committed itself to divest, it has set an example for the world to follow….”

In her remarks, President Fergusson echoed Feldman’s concerns, saying “Today, in many quarters, truth has become narrowly conceived, rigidly tied to ideologies and unbending in the face of competing truths…. We see the consequences: the Iranian revolution, the intransigence of the South African government and the rise of fundamentalism in America.”

The New York Times

The inaugural ceremony capped off a week’s celebration of Fergusson’s presidency and of the college’s 125th anniversary. The week’s events included a ceremony dedicating Main Building as a National Historic Landmark, a conference on the building’s architecture, an alumnae/i panel discussing the Vassar experience and a concert by the Vassar College Brass Choir.

President Fergusson held an open forum in the Aula in an effort “to improve some of the communication on campus.” She said she thought students should “understand why decisions are made, even though sometimes those are decisions you cannot or do not fully support.” Among the issues discussed at the forum were the recently raised drinking age, the Mug, the Aula and all-campus parties.

Dean of Studies Colton Johnson, associate professor of English, took a six-month leave to begin preparing a volume for The Collected Works of William Butler Yeats. Advisor to Juniors Garrett Vander Veer, professor of philosophy, served as acting dean of studies in Johnson’s absence.

An exhibition of Vassar postcards belonging to Deborah Goldberg ‘88 was displayed in the Library. Goldberg, an art history major, collected the 200 postcards at antique shows and flea markets. “The older postcards have more charm and a greater variety of perspectives,” she told The Miscellany News.

Selections from the documentary series The Africans: A Triple Heritage, created by Dr. Ali Mazrui, the former director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Afroamerican and African Studies was screened and followed by a discussion. The Chicago Tribune called the nine-hour series “a curious piece —a provocative, exhaustive, highly selective potpourri that is enlightening and irritating, informative and intriguing, petulant and polemical.”

Vassar held a symposium on “Museums in Academe: Design, Function and Funding,” featuring Jan E. Adlmann, director of the Vassar Art Gallery, President Frances D. Fergusson and Executive Director of Development Judith A. Lewittes ‘63.

Otis Day and the Knights played at Vassar’s Autumn Ball. Originally a fictional roadhouse band in the 1978 film Animal House, the group, led by DeWayne Jessie, continued to tour and issue recordings for several decades. Their Vassar set got mixed reviews from students: “I really enjoyed Otis Day when he was there,” commented Heather Fowler ’89, “But in the future, they should get a less popular band. I mean, Otis was great, but you couldn’t dance and really enjoy him.”

The Miscellany News

Hindy Borenstein, co-director of the Mid-Hudson chapter of Chabad—an organization designed to promote knowledge about Judaism— and Fruma Rosenberg, instructor at the Jewish Women’s University in Pittsburgh, spoke on “Judaism and Feminism: Do They Share Common Values?” in the Rose Parlor. Both Borenstein and Rosenberg argued that women were not subordinate in Orthodox Judaism.

The Kronos String Quartet—David Harrington, John Sherba, Hank Dutt and Joan Jenrenaud— performed twentieth century music in Skinner Hall. Among the pieces presented were Scott Johnson’s Bird in the Domes, Jin Hi Kim’s Linking, Mel Graves’sPangaea, Philip Glass’s Mishima Quartet and Jon Hassel’s Pano Da Costa. Of Bird in the Domes, student reporter Joanna Guinther wrote, “The simultaneous presence of different meters creates an impression of movement under the surface, in an overall context of stillness, as metric chaos contrasts with rhythmic unity.”

The Miscellany News

Philaletheis presented Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit (1944), directed by Cybele Fisher ‘88, in Kenyon Hall. The Miscellany News reviewed the show, commenting, “Robert Schajer portrayed Garcin down to the smallest feature. He did an excellent job of conveying the image of Garcin – an old, decrepit man, who feared Hell, but at the same time held it in contempt.”

Writer, philosopher and objectivist social critic David Kelley lectured on “Capitalism and Equality” in Rockefeller Hall. Dr. Kelley taught in the philosophy department and the cognitive science program at Vassar between 1977 and 1984.

The Vassar Art Gallery presented “Avant-Garde Chinese Art: Beijing/New York,” showing work from young artists—Yang Yiping, Li Shuang, Yan Li, Yin Guanzhong, Zhang Wei, Zhao Gang ’88, Xhu Jinshi, An Wei Wei and Xing Fei— who attempted to fuse traditional Eastern art with 20th century Western art. The majority of artists in the exhibition presented abstract work, and many experienced difficulty getting their works shown in China. “With the progress and interesting art these artists are creating, it seems only fair to suggest that Chinese artists, when given the opportunity, participate as an integral part of the art world,” wrote Emily Tobias ’89 in a review of the show for The Miscellany News, “Many Chinese artists hope that the appointment of novelist Wang Meng as cultural minister will lead to a period of increased artistic freedom in China.”

The Years