Vassar Disorientation Guide 2019-2020

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION.............................................................3 STUDENT ACTIVISM HISTORY.........................................5 VC & POK TIMELINE......................................................11 CASE FOR DIVESTMENT................................................14 WHEN PEOPLE SAY “POK IS SKETCH”............................19 RHETORIC OF COMMUNITY...........................................21 ENVRIONMENTAL JUSTICE...........................................25 CORPORATIZATION OF EDUCATION.............................28 CAMPUS SECURITY.......................................................33 POTENTIAL ACTIONS....................................................39 WHY WE RECOGNIZE LAND..........................................41 MENTAL HEALTH AND BURNOUT..................................44 THE UNIVERSITY AND THE PRISON...............................47 GET TO KNOW YOUR TRUSTEES..................................55 LET’S TALK TITLE IX.....................................................60 GET YOUR MONEY BACK..............................................63 THINGS TO DO NEAR CAMPUS......................................67 CONCLUSION...............................................................69 1 1


WOMP S WOMP K BASH BAC

*not an actual threat of arson or violence lol

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THIS IS STOLEN WAPPINGER LAND

VASSA R IS IN IN APA VESTED RTHEID

EGE YOUR COLL RATION IS A CORPO

WELCOME CLASS OF 2023

TY CAMPUS SECURI WILL POLICE YOU

A OOL HAS THE SCH UP FUCKED TANDING UNDERS LLENCE OF EXCE

WELCOME! After months of anticipation, you’ve finally arrived on campus ready to embark on a transformative 4-year journey. Through admissions packets, guided tours and college webpages, Vassar has been sold to you as a beacon of enlightenment and progress. Your Orientation Week has attempted to further inculcate you with tired cliches of a “liberal arts education” and create a fantasy of exceptionalism. We are a group of students who created this publication to combat this romanticized administrative introduction. This guide aims to peel back the carefully curated image of college and provide an understanding of institutional power at Vassar. Underneath the college’s supposed ‘progressive’ history and ‘social justice’ emphasis is a deep legacy of colonial violence. The grandiose library and manicured lawn have long been bastions of consolidating class power and catering to whiteness. Our institution sits on stolen Wappinger land and maintains an exploitative relationship with Poughkeepsie. We aim to disrupt the narrative that Vassar is committed to being a “just, diverse, egalitarian, and inclusive college community” by offering a glimpse at the white supremacist, carceral, and capitalist values that govern the college. Vassar, as fucked up of an institution as it is, is still an incredible place in many ways and most of us generally enjoy our time here. We have all made transformative connections, gained important knowledge, and had a lot of fun in this space. We are in no way telling you that you will be miserable on campus (although you certainly may be at times) or

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that there aren’t aspects we appreciate about the school. Our intention is simply to provide a critical look at the ways the institution operates and Vassar’s historical legacy. This guide is fundamentally a means of sparking much-needed conversations, giving context to student activism and examining of our own role as students of a colonial institution dedicated to producing the next generation of civil bourgeois intellectuals. Everyone is coming to campus at wildly different places with varying analyses and lived experienced. Some of the material in the following pages may be obvious to some and entirely new to others. Our hope, however, is that even if you don’t read this cover to cover, it can help you dive into the conversations student organizers are already having and create connections. This is the second year Vassar has had a Disorientation Guide and there’s still so much room for this platform to grow and be taken in new directions. As you may hear, last year’s publication caused quite the controversy on campus. Security sent out a school-wide Safety Alert, House teams were instructed to order first years to delete the email with the guide, right-wing media published stories on it, VSA held a tense forum, folks accused of being involved were put through student conduct processes, and administration labeled it violent and anti-Semitic. While we do apologize for any harm that was caused and acknowledge that last year’s guide as well as this one are thoroughly flawed, the response was frankly ridiculous. To be clear, anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism and while the discussion about the role of violence in our movements is an important one to have, we have no intention of committing any acts of physical harm. Our desire to share all of this with you is grounded in love, care and the belief that another campus and another world are possible. We are not experts or authhorities on any of this. Our thoughts do not represent a consensus among the student body and we do not pretend to speak for anyone. Critique is welcome and even encouraged but know that attempts to represent the Disorientation Guide as discriminatory or violent work to preserve the business as usual politics of the campus and keep students under the arm of the administration. Recognizing the fallacies in the harmonious advertised version of Vassar is an uncomfortable process. As your ideals of campus life begin to crumble under the dismal reality of the corporate college, you may become disillusioned. But to disorient and defamiliarize oneself from the logic of the modern university is to begin. It is the necessary first step to undermine and challenge institutional authority. We hope this guide contributes to a culture of dissonance and passes down institutional memory. Don’t feel rushed to read this or know everything right away and if you are feeling lost, overwhelmed, or even just a little confused, don’t hesitate to reach out to your fellow groups, classmates, professors and new friends. Take care and talk to each other! Please hit up vassardisoguide@gmail.com with your questions, criticisms, death threats or general feedback.

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HISTORY OF STUDENT ACTIVISM @ VASSAR MARCH 1960: Over 100 students picketed the Woolworth’s store in Poughkeepsie to protest against lunch counter segregation in the chain’s southern stores. FEBRUARY 1965: Vassar Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) coordinate a march down Main Street in conjunction with a national SDS demonstration against the Vietnam War at the capitol. APRIL 1967: 200 Vassar students and faculty members assembled outside of Main Building to participate in a silent vigil against the Vietnam War. Days later, a group of cassar Vassar students joined anti-war demonstrations in New York City. OCTOBER 1969: Hundreds of students travel to West Point in an attempt to address cadets and collect signatures for petitions against the Vietnam War. The first edition of Blood & Fire, a leftist anti-war student publication is published. On October 15, the day of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, students boycott classes to attend a variety of events and 23 Vassar men announce that they will resist the draft in front of a crowd of 5,000 protesters in Poughkeepsie. OCTOBER 1969: 34 black female students take over and occupy Main Building calling out anti-blackness on campus after the Vassar college president fails to respond to the demands of the student Afro-American society. Their demands included expanding the Black Studies program into a degree-granting department, hiring more black professors, a 5


black housing facility, and a renovation of the urban center. The occupiers nailed doors shut and sealed off the main lobby. 300 students and faculty, some supporters and some critics of the occupation, gathered in Main Circle. After 3 days, the sit-in ends when a motion is passed to meet the demands of the students. APRIL 1972: Vassar Gay Liberation Front, the college’s first acknowledged gay organization, holds its first meeting. DECEMBER 1974: Black students march to house of the vice president of student affairs in protest of the State Board of Regents’ order to desegregate Kendrick House, a black student residence. FEBRUARY 1978: The Coalition for Social Responsibility urged Vassar to divest from the apartheid regime in South Africa, holding their first major protest with 400 students and faculty members outside the President’s Conference Room confronting the Board of Trustees. OCTOBER 1978: Fifty students demanding divestment from South Africa barricaded exits of the Students’ Building while the board of trustees were meeting inside. Ten students were detained and arraigned before the College Regulations Committee for “violating public order”. FEBRUARY 1986: 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. In response, the Trustee Investor Responsibility Committee approved a divestment timetable by which the college would rid itself of South Africa-related stock. APRIL 1986: 40 students and faculty march for two hours to bring attention to the lack of black faculty members and racial harassment on campus. 6


FEBRUARY 1989: A group of students created CARES, a confidential peer listening service, founded to provide support for victims of sexual assault. OCTOBER 1989: 450 Vassar students marched out of Main Gate towards the Dutchess County Jail to show their support for the effort to end racism. FEBRUARY 1990 : Students take over Main again following the appointment Senator Patrick Moynihan to a special “Humanitarian Chair” During his visit to campus, someone questioned him about his racist “Moynihan Report” on the state of the African American Community in the 60’s, and he responded by taking the woman by both shoulders, shaking her, and telling her that if she didn’t like it here in America, “Why don’t you go back to where you came from!” A number of student organizations came together under an umbrella called the Coalition of Concerned Students to protest not only Moynihan’s remarks, but the college administration’s response to those remarks. Events culminated in a takeover of Main Building and a list of extended demands including the creation of a Black Student Center, an Intercultural Center, a task force on racism, and divestment from South Africa. Later that year, 26 black seniors sign statement about “consistent neglect” of black students during senior week. SEPTEMBER 1990: Vassar students joined about 500 community members at the Poughkeepsie waterfront to rally for reproductive rights. APRIL 1997 : The Vassar Daily publishes satire about ebonics and controversial drawing, leading to a speakout and confrontation. FEBRUARY 1999: The Revolutionary Student Movement organized a rally in the College Center and at Dutchess County Jail to protest the NYPD shooting of Amadou Diallo, a 22 year-old unarmed Guinean immigrant. FEBRUARY 2000: Vassar student organizations put on a conference to build and empower a movement dedicated to freedom for political prisoners. APRIL 2000: 50 students go to D.C. to protest meetings of the IMF and World Bank. OCTOBER 2001: The day after U.S. military operations began in Afghanistan, a student group led about 100 Vassar students, faculty and 77


community members on a silent march through Poughkeepsie. AUGUST 2004: Five Vassar seniors are arrested in a demonstration highlighting the death toll in Iraq in New York. NOVEMBER 2011: A rally is held at Hulme Park, the site of Occupy Poughkeepsie and Vassar hosts a teach-in about the Occupy Movement. Some Vassar students spend nights at the Occupy Poughkeepsie demonstration and others travel to Zuccotti Park in the city. FEBRUARY 2013: VSA overwhelmingly passes the first fossil fuel divestment resolution 23-1. MARCH 2013: Vassar becomes the target of the Westboro Baptist Church, labeling the school an “Ivy League Whorehouse” and planning a visit to campus. More than 500 Vassar community members rally against the four protesters who are protected by the Poughkeepsie police. SPRING 2014: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) protested a campus trip to Israel and led an Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). 39 faculty members write an open letter supporting ASA academic boycott of Israel. In May, it’s revealed that a student is being paid by a Zionist organization to harass SJP. The SJP Tumblr posts an image with anti-Semitic iconography, and within hours SJP removes the image, immediately removes the member who posted it from the org, and issues a school wide apology. President Cappy sends out an email about the anti-Semitic graphic --this is her first condemnation of campus racism ever. APRIL 2014: Vassar Security calls the Poughkeepsie Police on Black boys from Poughkeepsie who were in the Vassar Library. They later accuse one of the boys of stealing iPods from campus. This sparks a larger conversation about Vassar Security and racial profiling on campus. Students speak out at an event about their experiences with racism on campus, but Security Director Kim Squillace refuses to admit that racial profiling happens here. NOVEMBER 2014: Student/Labor Dialogue organizes a rally at the deece in support of deece workers who were negotiating with management over issues of understaffing. NOVEMBER 2014: Following the announcement of Darren Wilson’s non-indictment, students join folks in Poughkeepsie at Black Lives Matter rallies. Cappy sends out an all campus 88


email about Black Lives Matter, this is the first time the school has said anything about BLM or Mike Brown’s murder. DECEMBER 2014: Hundreds of students, faculty and staff surround Main and occupy adminsitrative offices to protest the college’s inaction by the administration in responding to racism and sexual violence on campus. MARCH 2015: Student/Labor Dialogue organizes an action in support of Kemar Williams, a Vassar security guard who was fired for attempting to address a racist comment by another worker. SPRING 2016: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) initiate a BDS Campaign attempting to pass a BDS Resolution through the VSA. The BDS Resolution passes the VSA and later loses in a school wide vote. It was a heated semester and Zionist students and alum said a number of racist and islamophobic things throughout making it an especially hostile campus for Muslim students, Middle Eastern Students, and other students of color. APRIL 2016: Vassar College’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign holds a week-long sit-in outside President Catherine “Cappy” Hill’s office, demanding a full divestment from direct holdings in fossil fuel companies. Over 400 students show up altogether with dozens spending the nights to ensure the hall stays occupied. Although administration refuses to divest, Hill acquiesces to several of the protesters’ demands. FALL 2016: Trump is elected. Some students attend a rally in Poughkeepsie and others travel to NYC. FEBRUARY 2017: Healing 2 Action leads a campus protest called “Rally, Resist, Rise,” making space for students to grieve, heal, and organize. FEBRUARY 2017: Someone wrote an anti-black homicidal message, “Kill the Blacks,” in a library bathroom stall. The graffiti called attention to the anti-blackness embedded into our institution, and the hesitance for administrators to every actually label these actions as anti-black. Black students organized a library blockade and shut down the library for a day. Vassar Security responded to the incident by increasing patrols in the library and adding cameras around campus. SEPTEMBER 2017: Student/Labor Dialogue organized a rally in hand with campus dining workers over campus dining’s horrible roll out of the new 99


all access meal plan. Workers were frustrated with their unsafe working conditions, understaffing, and outright disrespect from management. OCTOBER 2017: William Jacobson, a right-wing law school professor with a white supremacist following spoke on campus with a lecture titled “An Examination of Hate Speech and Free Speech on College Campuses”. Healing 2 Action (H2A) coordinated two really well attended planning meetings to plan some sort of protest of the event. Students established their own campus security force for the day of the event, alternative events were hosted in the library and other spaces around campus, and 150+ students actually attended the event. Rocky 300 was overcapacity, and students asked “tough questions,” but did not disrupt the event. FEBRUARY 2018: The Vassar Asian Ameircan Studies Working Group organized a campaign to improve and expand the Asian American Studies Program. They published demands, met with administrators, reached out to alumni, held a panel, and generated campus-wide discussionns around critical ethnic studies and the lack of Asian representation in academics. SEPTEMBER 2018: Vassar’s first disorientation guide is published to give new students information about the school not presented during orientation week. It is immediately labeled anti-Semtic and violent by Vassar Safety & Security and President Bradley. Right-wing media publish stories on it, VSA holds an open forum and students thought to be involved are fired from campus jobs and go through disciplinary hearings. APRIL 2019: As part of Israeli Apartheid Week, Vassar Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a panel discussion with two Palestinian-American organizers and a Vassar Professor. The speakers explore the meaning of solidarity and analyze recent developments in the struggle for a free Palestine. However, VSA initially denied funding for one of the speakers based on information from the racist blacklist website Canary Mission and a Zionist Vassar alum and another local comunity member attempt to disrupt the event. APRIL 2019: After plans to build a $30 million Inn & Institure and tear down faculty housing are announces, the newly formed Vassar Climate Action Coalition circulates a petition demanding that the building be carbon neutral.

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a vassar & poughkeepsie timeline 1609: Henry Hudson and crew sail upriver, claiming to have “discovered” land which had been inhabited by Mahican, Lenape, and Munsee peoples for centuries. The people of the Wappinger Confederation, closely related to the Lenape and Mahican, lived closest the waterfall called “Pooghkepesingh”.

1645: The Dutch allied with the Mohawk nation killed half of the Wappinger population in a series of battles over the course of just two years.

1655: Following the Peach Tree War with the Durch, the Wappinger confederation broke apart and many survivors fled to neighboring nations.

1686: Two Dutch and English settlers coerce a Wappinger leader to sign over a deed for the land around Pooghkepesingh falls, including part of where the City of Poughkeepsie now sits. They invite tenants to lease and farm the land and begin to build up a settlement.

1760: The population grew as the owners began to sell and lease farmsteads, expanding into the second largest population in all New York counties. Much of this growth occurred along the river, where whale rendering (hunting whales for their meat, oil, and blubber) and shipping developed industry in the region.

1788: Town of Poughkeepsie is incorporated and New York State ratifies the U.S. constitution in Poughkeepsie as it temporarily serves as the capitol.

1845: Hudson River Railroad opened and manufacturing industries grew, further increasing Poughkeepsie’s population

1854: City of Poughkeepsie is chartered

1880: Two foreign Japanese students enroll at Vassar, likely the first students of color.

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1861: Matthew Vassar, a prominent businessman, founded Vassar College on former fairgrounds, catering to the daughters of the white Protestant elite. Milo P. Jewett becomes the first president.


1882: A post office called “Arlington” established at what had formerly been called East Poughkeepsie, thus changing the name of the area. Arlington spread westward of Vassar College with upper-middle-class residents and businesses catering to Vassar students.

1897: Anita Hemmings becomes first African American graduate, passing as white until a few weeks before graduation

1911: Fiat builds an automobile plant in Poughkeepsie.

1915: Smith Brothers, the first makers of cough drops in the U.S., open their first factory in Poughkeepsie.

1934: Vassar President Henry MacCraken organized a tour of Nazi Germany for college students and professors. Footage of the trip was used for a Nazi propaganda film.

1940: First acknowledged black student enters Vassar. Vassar maintains very small population of students of color in the following decades.

1941: A subsidiary of IBM, Munitions Manufacturing Corp, purchased 215 acres of land in the Town of Poughkeepsie, where they would produce cannons and firearms for WWII. As the war ended, IBM shifted its manufacturing toward technological devices. The company which had relied on local industrial labor began recruiting IT workers, most of whom had college degrees, and most of whom were white.

1947: IBM’s president, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., bought 400 acres of land outside of the city with the intention of providing affordable housing for his employees. Many white workers migrated to the suburbs leading to a 3,000 person decrease in the city between 1950 and 1960. They took their money with them, spending it at newly constructed shopping centers.

1953: Plans for a north-south arterial began, allowing people to drive around the city instead of through it—ensuring that (white/ middle-upper class) people would never have to interact with it. This enormous plan “would rip apart existing human scale neighborhoods, decimate ethnic social networks, and change the nature of the relationship of city to hinterland,” (Flad & Griffen, 2009).

1954: Vassar gets its first full time black faculty member.

1969: Declining to merge with Yale, Vassar begins to admit men, ruining the only thing it had going for it.

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1972: Smith Bros. factory shuts down; WVKR begins full operations 1974: Vassar closes Kendrick House, an all black dorm and home of afroamerican cultural center. 1976: An Intercultural Center is established in Lathrop’s basement, later moves into former coal bin building and is renamed ALANA Center in 1998 1987: Poughkeepsie Galleria mall opens, directing business away from downtown and contributing to overall economic decline in the area.

1993: IBM begins massive layoffs, announcing plans to cut 3,500 jobs in East Fishkill, Poughkeepsie and Kingston. The local economy crumbled as unemployment tripled, housing prices collapsed and businesses struggled.

2007: Vassar reinstates needblind admissions 2009: Walkway over the Hudson and Rail Trail open

2016: Dutchess County legislature votes to approve a $192 million bond for new Dutchess County Justice and Transition Center and Law Enforcement Center.

2016: Construction is completed on the $90 million Bridge for Laboratory Sciences and Cappy, unpopular among students, steps down

2017: Elizabeth Bradley is chosen as Vassar’s 11th president. Her welcome party was rumored to cost $1 million.

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THE CASE FOR DIVESTMENT

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In 2005, 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, women’s organizations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies put out the call to “people of conscience” all around the world for an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Intended to apply non-violent pressure on Israel to comply with international law, the BDS call has three demands: Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the illegal apartheid Wall, recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. BDS is a powerful avenue for challenging unconditional Western support for Israel and strategically weakening cultural and economic structures sustaining the subjugation of Palestinians. Born out of frustration with failed negotiations, continuing on-the-ground colonization and false potrayals of symmetry in peace talks, BDS shifts the discussion around the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict” out of the realm of one or twostate solutions and sturggles for specific territory and into a broader framework of decolonization and human rights. It marks a refusal to hold occupation, ethnic cleansing and a system of blockades, checkpoints, mass imprisonment, economic devastation, beatings and racism as normal. The movement is informed by the legacy of the globnal campaign to boycott and dismantle South African apartheid and a tradition of Palestinian boycotts. With 86% of Palestinians in support of the BDS movement, BDS represents a direct ask from the Palestinians fighting for their freedom on the ground. As students, we have an obligation to answer that call. With the U.S. funneling $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel every year and an everexpanding web of corporate partnership between the two countries that derive profit from apartheid, the insititutions that govern us have pledged their unwavering alleigance to the state of Israel. Vassar is no exception – a portion of our endowment is almost certainly invested in companies on the BDS list, we offer multiple study abroad programs in Israel, and our

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administration time and time again demonstrates a willingess to conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Our school is complicit in apartheid. Just last summer, President Bradley travelled to Israel where she met with a former IDF General as well as Israel Nitzan, Israeli Deputy Consulate to New York, who is now working the forge economic connections between Israel and Dutchess County business. Bradley claims the trip was an educational one, that she went to learn about liberal arts and public health in the region. However, she seemed to take away little about how Israeli forces demolish Palestinian schools in the West Bank, cut off access to essential medicines in in Gaza and deny sick Palestinian permits to travel for medical treatment as she refuses to condemn Israeli human rights abuses and continues to promotes a rhetoric of open dialouge and the need to consider all views, even when those views regard the Palestinian people as subhuman. This sort of engagement with Israel, especially when coming from a figure who is seen as representative of the college, sanitizes the violence and racism inherent in the Zionist project. In their reaction to last year’s disorientation guide, in their selective scrutiny of Palestinian solidarity work on campus, and in their handling of the 2015-2016 Vassar BDS campaign, the administation prioritizes the wishes of Zionist alum, trustees and media over the basic human rights of Palestinians. They paint Jewish students as victimized by expressions of solidarity with Palestine but provide no protection from the racist and islamaphobic attacks from our opposition. Any time talk of divestment comes around, we hear the same tired refrain: the endowment is not a political instrument and is only to be used to further the mission of the school. This excuse is illogical. The mission statement, which includes language that the college “strives to pursue diversity, inclusion, and equity as essential components of a rich intellectual and cultural environment in which all members, including those from underrepresented and marginalized groups, are valued and empowered to thrive”, is in itself incredibly political. The fight for equity and the empowerment of marginalized groups will never be apolitical acts and if the college really sought to align itself with this mission, it would support a free Palestine. On top of the ridiculousness of claiming the college’s primary functions are removed from the realm of politics, the trustee’s argument against divestment erases that Vassar did indeed use the endowment for the purpose of a political statement when it divested from South Africa under the apartheid regime. They simply don’t want to deal with the outcry and loss of funding that may come with any semblance of support for BDS and the Palestinianled movement for human rights. Still, we should not feel discouraged by administrators’ refusal to consider a conversation about BDS. We have a duty to push for it regardless and to change the hearts and minds of our peers along the way. Even without institutional

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recognition, student resolutions carry symbolic weight. It truly does not take much to generate media attention, spark discourse, and educate our friends and classmates. No matter the scale, our actions here matter. The organizing we do creates tangible ripple effects on the larger Palestinian liberation movement. First and foremost, our motivation to promote an academic, cultural, and economic boycott of Israel is grounded in the immense suffering Palestinians are subjected to as a result of the Israeli settler colonial project. The relationship between Israel and Palestine is not one of a two-sided conflicted but instead constitutes apartheid as defined by the U.N. The entirety of the state of Israel exists on occupied land, but since the 1967 Six Day War, Israel has invaded and exercised control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Their residents consist largely of the Palestinians who were forced from their homes and land during the 1948 Nakba and their descendants. While even international bodies such as the United Nations recognize these regions as sovereign Palestinian land, Israel has continued to flout international law by consistently encroaching on the territories, subjecting their residents to inhumane treatment and draconian restrictions on movement and liberty. Palestinians in the West Bank regularly face home demolitions and forced evictions, punitive arrests, unfair trials, detainment, torture, and the use of excessive, often lethal force. This violence is accompanied by a legal system that explicitly discriminates by ethnicity; Israel erects checkpoints and military blockades around and between occupied Palestinian lands, restricting physical movement and the flow of goods and services to vulnerable Palestinian populations. In Gaza, Israel maintains complete control over all but one border crossing, along with the region’s airspace, territorial waters, electricity/telecommunication infrastructure, and the population registry which determines who is allowed to enter or leave. Israel’s blockade on Gaza, renders its inhabitants effectively inmates of an open air prison. With this, BDS is not about our advancing or even having specific vision of liberation for the Palestinian people but is intended to build the necessary international leverage for Palestinians to assert their right to self-determination. Our sense of self-importance is not inflated to the point of believing any Vassar student resolution is going to magically rebuild bulldozed Palestinian homes in the West Bank or bring adequate medical supplies to Gaza or strike down Israel’s exclusionary citizenship laws. Even if the trustees were to wake up one day with a dramatic change of heart and actually divest the portion of the endowment is currently invested in companies that profit from Israeli human rights abuses, we are well aware that the IDF would not be suddenly swayed to lay down arms. By virtue of our distance from Palestine, the lack of Palestinian students, and the perceived insignifigance of our campus population, we are inclined to feel powerless and doubt the weight of our actions. We know that Vassar administration, with the relatively small amount of money it has placed in these companies, does not have the power to put substantial economic

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pressure on Israel. And often, the symbolism of our rhetoric alone simply does not feel sufficient. But BDS is precisely a call to refuse that line of thinking– to reject arguments that depoliticize or normalize any level of participation in an apartheid state and to wage the struggle agaisnt Israeli human rights abuses on whatever ground we stand on. However small our efforts be and however frustratingly slow our progress may seem, we are cognizant that Palestinian solidairy work at Vassar is not isolated from the international arena. The conversations we are having on campus form a part of a broader shift towards a recognition of the human rights violations Israel was founded on and continues to commit. We are working in concert with student organizers across the country to use the university as a site of reeducation on Palestine and to challenge the complicity of our schools. On this issue, the surrounding attention and controversy alone give us more of a platform to reach people and change minds. We also find reassurance in knowing the campaign to demand divestment from South Africa did not start to see major implementation until over two decades after organizing began. BDS continues to gain traction and sway public opinion and our symbolic measures play an important role in that. However, it won’t be long before you start to notice certain types of students, faculty and administators on campus who will be quick to declare their support for reproductive justice or openly speak out about violence at the border, but refuse to come out as anti-Zionist, at times even actively championing Zionist cuases. Dubbed ‘Progressives except Palestine’ or PEPs, these people ignore the plight of the Palestinians with an inconsistent antiimperialist ideology. We don’t buy into this concept. Support for an apartheid state and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is funamentally incompatible a desire for a more just, more free world. Regardless of your other politics, if you back the Israeli state, you are pledging your support for racism, imperialism, fascisim, the military industrial complex, environmental degradation, gendered violence etc. Still, Palestine is treated as an exception. Many people across party lines adamantly argue for the backing of the settler colonial Israeli state and wage smear campaigns against anti-Zionist orgnaizers. The same folks sounding the alarm about an epidemic of political correctness on campuses destroying our right of free speech actively seek to censor, dox, and harass activists speaking critically about Israel. We see this with Canary Mission, an online blacklist dedicated to destroying the lives of pro-Palestinian activists. The intesnity of the racist intimidation and surveillance is embodied in the backlash Ilhan Omar has received, in the firing of Marc Lamont Hill, in the disallowal of Omar Barghouti to enter this county and in every instance where someone is made fearful that a stance against Zionism will compromise their future success. Pro-Israel backlash is well-supported in establishment politics and is the product of Israeli lobbying groups, evangelical influence, organizations conflating anti-

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Zionism and anti-semtmism, and racist security politics. The amount of powerful lobbying groups and powerful individuals one comes up against when agitating for a free Palestine can be terrifying. The potential repercussions often work as a deterrent to people who may otherwise support the struggle of Palestinians but they also can lend to a wider platform for our message as controversy generates attention and creates a rift in the passivity of the Vassar community. Because there is so much misinformation around Israel/Palestine and a hesitancy to “choose a side”, it is our job to educate and push folks out of complacency. Calling support for Israel into question exposes the inconsistencies of supposedly progressive politics at Vassar, generates larger questions about the administration’s priorities and inspires a culture of dissonance. In a similar vein, agitating for BDS and the realization of Palestinians’ human rights allows us to make global connections and see ourselves as part of an international humanitarian movement against colonialism, racism, borders, prisons, environmental degradation, and state violence. Contrary to our critics’ portrayals, Palestine is not a “single issue”. In what is called the “Deadly Exchange”, thousands of U.S. Law Enforcement Officials have traveled to Israel to learn counterterrorism and surveillance tactics from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli police. The occupied territories of Palestine are used as a field laboratory for experimental military/security technologies which have gone on to be employed to confront refugees on the shores of Europe, to track and capture migrants at the southern border of the US, and to disrupt the protests in Ferguson in 2014. Elbit Systems, an Israeli company, is at the center of the international military and surveillance technology trade In 2018, the company sold its drones based on their “combat tested” record of employment in Gaza for $68 million to the European Maritime Safety Agency in order to identify and capture migrants off Europe’s shore. Elbit has also profited from a $145 million contract with the U.S. government to construct surveillance towers on the border in Arizona. The surveillance, policing, and killing of Palestinain bodies in Gaza and the West Bank informs the surveillance, policing, and killing of black and brown bodies in the U.S. State officials are openly collaborating to develop the most effective technologies to control us. And as our oppressors have forged these connections, our movements must too to effectively resist them. These expressions of solidarity are increasing as more and more people become aware that we all have a stake in each other’s freedom. The Movement for Black Lives and many prominent leftists around the world have endorsed BDS and Palestinian activists have travelled to Standing Rock, tweeted advice at handling tear gas to Ferguson protesters and lended their support to occupied Kashmir. None of us will be free until Palestine is free and as students, fighting for divestment and non-collaboration with Israel is one of the best avenues we have to promote peace and justice around the world.

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WHEN PEOPLE SAY POK IS SKETCH... When people say that Poughkeepsie is “sketch”, they are saying “Poughkeepsie is a Black and Latinx working class city and I’m scared of those demographics.” Poughkeepsie is fine. There are tons of great people, crime rates are high because policing is racialized, but the threat of anything happening to you as a result of you being in Poughkeepsie is virtually zero. You’re more likely to face harm by your peers than by folks from Poughkeepsie, you’ll find more illegal drug use on campus than anywhere else in the area, and you’ll come to understand the violence enacted by our campus towards folks in Poughkeepsie that’s legitimated through assertions of student “safety and security.” Our “safety” comes at the expense of folks in Poughkeepsie, and our “security” justifies racist policing practices on and off campus. “Poughkeepsie is sketch” is a racist expression and we must work to address that and unpack the history of this college. Poughkeepsie, like a lot of working class and rural areas, used to house more industry (paper mills, breweries, cotton and wool factories + more). In the 1940s, IBM purchased tons of land in the area and transformed Poughkeepsie’s urban layout and demographics. In order to accommodate wealthier IBM families, the city would create entirely new School districts, and build shopping centers, suburbs, and additional infrastructure. Vassar has always played a role in attempts to rezone and gentrify Poughkeepsie. The area surrounding campus that we know as “Arlington,” used to be “East Poughkeepsie.” And the construction of the arterial highway through Poughkeepsie further separated a wealthier part of Poughkeepsie from the downtown area and allowed wealthy white folks to drive around the city as opposed to through it. 19


Whether it’s a real wall around campus, or a highway that’s breaking up the city, these zoning and bordering practices are sustained through policing efforts and are said to be crucial to the “safety” of the students on our campus. To this day there’s been attempts to demarcate Poughkeepsie as crime ridden, in need of policing, and as an area to be avoided. Really, there’s a lot of amazing work being done there. Poughkeepsie is home to 32,000+ people, with a significant portion of folks being Black and Latinx. Folks say that Poughkeepsie has the largest amount of Oaxacan people in the world outside of Oaxaca. There is a lot of great food, a “Rail Trail” that folks can walk and bike on, and so many different communities and attractions in the area. Just actually leave campus and learn about the Hudson Valley. On the other hand, Dutchess County also has tons of Trump Supporters, not to mention that the County Sheriff Butch Anderson was on Trump’s transition team. It’s home to active white supremacist groups with racist and anti-Semitic Patriot Front and Daily Stormer posters and stickers appearning on and around campus in the past year. There’s so much to be done in order to disrupt the school to prison pipeline in the Poughkeepsie School District, to better defend undocumented folks from deportations, and to fight everything from utilities shut offs, home evictions, and the construction of a new Poughkeepsie Jail. Last spring, two black girls attempting to console the victim of a fight were arrested and thrown to the ground by Poughkeepsie police officers. In 2018, a New Paltz Officer punched Paul Echols, a 22 year-old black man who was already in handcuffs, breaking his jaw and knocking out several teeth. We also know Diego Ismael Puma Macancela was arrested by ICE in Ossining, NY just hours before his senior prom. Diego was detained and deported not long after. These incidents are just miles away from our campus, and force us to think about the implications of our college, its investment in painting Poughkeepsie as “sketch,” and the role that it plays in justifying these sorts of racist attacks on folks in the surrounding area. This also calls upon us to see the ripple effects our college has in the area, and the role we must play in challenging Vassar and acting in solidarity with folks on and off campus. 20 20


UNPACKING THE RHETORIC OF “COMMUNITY”TY

As an institution that openly markets itself as “highly selective” in its own one-sentence descriptor while persistently promoting a romanticized notion of community, Vassar can tell us a lot about the contradictions bound up in the rhetoric of community. We seek to unpack the cognitive dissonance it takes to sustain the advertisement of the school as simultaneously inclusive and elite, taking on the mantra of a mythical ‘equitable’ exclusivity. At every turn, it seems that administrators, professors, family members and peers are instructing us about just how deserving we are to inhabit these spaces. They inculcate us with the belief that we earned our right to be here, that we are part of the select, the talented few. These understandings of excellence necessarily rely on othering. To see ourselves as part of an elite group is to buy into the conception of a meritocracy. It means cordoning ourselves off in our ivory towers and self-righteously denoting ourselves as somehow above the general population. As designed, Vassar has always functioned as a space of exclusion and as a bastion of inequality. Following the expropriation of the land the college sits through colonial conquest, the creation of our institution is predicated on the attempted destruction of the Wappinger and Lenape peoples. We remember that whatever sense of community we hold comes at the expense of the historical and ongoing violation of indigenous lands, bodies, and communities. We are aware that while the current student body may represent a partial departure from the historical norm, the intended purpose and originally desired demographics of the school matter and additive diversity 21


will never be liberatory. Vassar was created by wealthy white men for wealthy white Protestant women to preserve an elite, but still subservient, brand of traditional femininity. Since the first group of students stepped foot on Vassar’s campus in 1865, the college administration, influenced by Victorian-era expectations of women, established paternalistic practices policing nearly every aspect of the young women’s lives—cutting them off from Poughkeepsie and the broader outside world. From its inception, the Vassar ‘community’ was constructed to be isolated as a form of protection for the young white female students’ perceived fragility from a broad, unnamed, external threat. We see this vague, racialized threat embodied today in the ways that Poughkeepsie is discussed on campus. Students express their distance from the city only blocks away through naming it as ‘sketchy’ or ‘dangerous’ or, more subtly, displaying their reluctance to leave campus or Arlington. There is a popular and often reductionist perception of the “Vassar Bubble” and an expressed desire to break down barriers between the school and Poughkeepsie. But the institutional ways that we are offered opportunities for engagement with the broader geographical ‘community’ often feel like a perpetuation of a salvivc approach and more about adding to resumes and self-satisfaction than a fundamental desire to share space and connect with folks. We are in need of an overhaul of our rendering of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County residents as subjects to study or a victimized demographic ripe for our intervention. This requires a radical shift in our thinking to see us as meaningfully connected. First, we can’t think of the populations of Poughkeepsie and local towns as an indistinct mass but realize there are a huge range of people with frequently oppositional platforms and interests and who we chose to try to build community with is in itself a political act. Our engagements with the surrounding localities must be established on a mutual desire to work together towards a shared vision of a more just world and not a one-sided sense of entitlement to spaces we were never invited into. Acknowledgments of our privileged status as Vassar students and Vassar’s historically problematic role in shaping Poughkeepsie and programs designed to redistribute the huge mass of resources on this campus and funnel money out are incredibly important. But we also don’t necessarily need to see ourselves as occupying an equal status or having access to the same power structures to believe in a joint interest in working in solidarity with one another to abolish the forms of subjugation 22


and carceral logics that govern our lives. Aboriginal activist Lila Watson’s quote, although misapplied at times, still stands as a useful for guide for examining our motivations for ‘community engagement’: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Part of this shift entails a questioning of how the language of community is employed internally on campus. The rhetoric of community featured in administrative emails, promotional material and advertisements for events presumes a common affinity between students, faculty, workers and administrators. To speak of a single “Vassar community” is to render us to some degree a homogenous group. The broadness of the term obscures difference and asks us to see ourselves as aligned with one another. It is often packaged with talk of shared values and descriptions of certain traits common to all Vassar ‘community members’. While there are obviously certain commonalities between us by virtue of our attachment to the school and our lifestyles on some level are structured around the same things, it is simply not accurate to portray all students as holding a strong collective identity. Just because someone who has a building on campus named after their family eats in the same dining hall as to a low-income, first-generation student doesn’t mean the two share some unbreakable communal bond. We have to know that our dream of a world free of prisons, borders, authority, etc. is not necessarily a popular one among our peers. We share a school with an abundance of future corporate executives and people who value professionalism above all else. We are not and will never be in community in any real sense with Zionist students reporting anti-colonial work to administrators, repeated abusers who refuse to take accountability, hallmates who call security on black and brown students when they deem them too loud, etc., regardless of what President Bradley’s emails suggest. The language of the Vassar community and the typical Vassar student is a language of exclusion that glosses over contradictory values and glaring differences in life experiences 23


to create a false appearance of cohesion. Beyond students, we wonder who else is meant to be included in this supposed campus community. Does it encompass the grounds, dining, custodial and other workers who maintain this campus’s everyday operations? Are we seeing the folks who make up this crucial, but often invisible, labor force as truly part of our circles? And what about administrators? Are we really supposed to buy into the idea that we are existing in some united group with the people making half a million a year as many of us struggle to come up with money for laundry and books? Can we believe the economic success and public image of our corportatrized college is congruent with our desire for liberation? How do we reckon with the reality that administrative interests and the business of Vassar are at odds with the best interest of students? The community that Vassar purports to hold is one of a forced affinity that offers no agency to students in choosing who we want to be interdependent with. Again and again, the term ‘community’ is tossed around carelessly with undefined but implicit borders of belonging. We need to start challenging the empty romanticized rhetoric of community and ask the necessary questions of who is included/excluded, in what ways are we actively practicing community, and how do we see ourselves as aligned or in opposition with one another. That doesn’t mean we should abandon our attachments to the conception of community altogether. There may not be any single overarching Vassar community, but there is certainly a need for more spaces that center care and love and relationships on this campus. We wish to rid ourselves of the pervasive Vassar coldness and appearance of apathy, challenge social hierarchies and refusals to engage with people outside certain circles, and work to support one another enough to protect from the burnout so many experience here. Community doesn’t have to be an abstract, but ultimately meaningless, ideal. Relationality is at core of abolitionist work, and we need to figure out how to create accountable communities. While no one path forward is visible, it is clear to us that we must seek out the best possible ways of being with one another in a space that is incredibly hostile towards vulnerability and tenderness. We want to be careful with each other so we can be dangerous together. Knowing that it is our relationships that sustain us through this place, let’s determine how we can minimize the exclusion inherent in community formation and consider how and with who we can work towards a sustainable interdependence. 24


We often hear about the Vassar bubble, a barrier Vassar creates around campus and in the minds of students that keeps them from forming connections with people not a part of the community and from thinking about things in ways that are profoundly challenging to Vassar as an institution. A major part of this bubble is how Vassar treats what is now being called the climate emergency, a “cascading breakdown of the climate system due to unsustainable extractive economic and social forces, posing an existential risk to humanity and life on earth.” The threat of climate change is so huge and so fundamental to the balance of power in the world that Vassar does not prepare students for what the future will actually be, a future that will look very different from the world we perceive to be living in now. Vassar does not teach its students that we are in an unprecedented global emergency that demands we mobilize all our society’s resources to fight climate change. Nor does it explain that the system of education, innovation, and scholarship which we enjoy so much is created by the very things that are killing us--coal, oil, and gas. Failing to understand that the true source of Vassar’s power is fossil fuels, and that those fossil fuels are destroying our society, is not merely negligence. It is a form of climate denial and is reprehensible! Most colleges are complicit in this denial and it is 25


very important to recognize that commitments to decarbonizing our institutions, though important and well meaning, are not acts of heroism but the bare minimum that colleges can do. At Vassar, even the bare minimum has come only after a long struggle. Though environmental activism has been around for a long time, the current era of activism started to 2012, when a group of students began to push Vassar to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. The early days of this campaign seem, in retrospect, absurdly naive. One photo of an early protest shows a sign reading “We Trust our Trustees.” [Side note: Never Trust the Trustees!] After a few years, though, it was clear that stronger action would be needed. In the Spring of 2016 students engaged in a series of aggressive actions that culminated in the occupation of Main building for 4 days and 3 nights. Students demanded divestment from fossil fuels, a meeting with then-President Carthine “Cappy” Hill, and a hand in restructuring key parts of the administration. The demand for divestment was not met (President Bradely has since reiterated that the board of trustees despise the idea) but the other ones were, and out of this semester of high tension and pressure between students and administrators came the 2016 Climate Action Plan, which set a 2030 carbon neutrality goal. Much of the campus-focused environmental organizing right now is directed toward meeting this 2030 goal. Students for Equitable Environmental Decisions (SEED), has been working closely with the administration through the Climate Action and Sustainability Committee to make sure the college develops a roadmap for going carbon neutral, a task that, we must remember, requires large and highly technical changes to the mechanical systems that keep campus working. Without a good roadmap for how these technical changes can be made, any carbon neutrality commitment is just nice words on a page. However, it is not students’ role to come up with the nitty-gritty aspects of the technical plans; we can be involved in creating those plans in a myriad of ways, but they are ultimately always going to be lead by members of the school’s staff. On the other hand, students need to understand these plans enough to know when things are going well, and when we need to raise hell to get them back on track. Because of this, SEED is most powerful when it walks a line between working with the administration on technical matters and channeling the power of the student body. A great example of this balance, as well as its pitfalls, is the fight last semester over the Inn and Institute, a new building, paid for by and the brainchild of a couple trustees, that will be built beside the 26


alumni house and replace the Williams faculty housing. Purported to be a space for engaging with the local community, it is really a place for the Board of Trustees and rich prospective students to stay when they visit campus. At its base the I&I is a classist institution that tokenizes community engagement. In spite of these problems, the Action Coalition decided that there was a lot of momentum behind the project already and confined its outrage to the simple fact that it would not be carbon neutral. In the Spring of 2019, a newly formed group called the Climate Action Coalition did a teach-in on the I&I and circulated a petition demanding it be carbon neutral. SEED also put pressure on the administration by bringing up the issue in CASC meetings, and getting a seat at the Inn and Institute planning committee meeting on sustainability. The combination of activism outside the administration and advocacy within has proven successful; this summer, the Inn and Institute was announced to be combustion free, meaning it will emit no greenhouse gasses directly. Energy will come from solar, geothermal, and the electricity grid. While this is a win, it is frankly absurd that a carbonized building was even proposed in 2019. The very proposal earns President Bradley and the Board of Trustee renewed disdain and proves that without serious activism, Vassar will wiggle out of its most basic commitments toward sustainability. The achievement of carbon neutrality in a new building should not be celebrated. It should be the bare minimum standard in a building that is, essentially, a vanity project for a few trustees. Going beyond this bare-minimum of sustainability and pushing for environmental justice is difficult. How to build the kind of grassroots power needed to take on entrenched power and redirect its resources towards building a truly just and sustainable society is the oldest question in the political activism book. And, given the imminent, existential threat climate change poses to our civilization, it's an unbelievably urgent question. If we want to do this as Vassar students, we’re going to have to redefine our ambitions and join in with the suite of new international movements that are pressuring governments across the world to take unprecedented action on the climate emergency. These movements include the Global Climate Strike, Extinction Rebellion, and the Sunrise Movement, all of which have begun to establish themselves on campus, bringing an effective, militant approach to center marginalized people in environmental organizing. The kind of measured outrage these movements organize is incredibly important both on all levels of politics: campus, local, state, and national. While the climate emergency is reaching a clear tipping point--act now or forever lose your shit!--the opportunities for students to engage with environmental groups organizing and rebelling at local, state, and national levels have never been greater. Join the rebellion! 27


How will you fight back? “The goal of the university has always been to train workers for the changing needs of capital. But at least during the Golden Age of embedded liberalism, a fortuitous mix of steady economic growth, cheap housing, and abundant cultural funding, all of which were indirectly sustained through worker repression at home and imperial interventions abroad, allowed intellectuals to exist on the fringes of the university and of capitalist economy in general. [The academics who] were instrumental in channeling the democratic excess of the 1960s into revolutionary action against the oppression and alienation of the military-industrial complex, had more in common with the bohemia than with the professional managerial class. The neoliberal counter-revolution to follow would make this kind of collaboration nearly impossible.

— Wanda Vrasti, “Mic Check/Reality Check”

The university is a corporation. For university administrators and the neoliberal economists whose theories guide them, this is less a contestable accusation than a guiding principle, a foundational social fact. The university, these parties assert, is a “firm” like any other: it seeks to maximize profit and ultimately exists to provide its customers (students/families) with a service -- the “college experience” and a degree -- which, in the boardroom and trustee meeting alike, boils down to nothing more than a commodity exchange. It is this model of university organization -- “neutral”, calculated, mercantile -- that has made way for the complete abdication of the political from the university’s guiding principles. The universities of the past were organized around a set of values, almost universally exclusionary -Vassar, for example, was instituted to inculcate wealthy white women with the mores and knowledge of 19th century Christian high society, including courses in the traditional, male-dominated liberal arts alongside practical 28


seminars in domestic etiquette and the management of household servants. But rather than changing their guiding principles to better reflect a truly social, hopeful mission — structuring the university around inclusion and possibility — the contemporary corporate university has abandoned any notion of political and social “values” altogether. Rather than existing to fulfill a stated political aim, the university wraps itself in the gauzy and uncontroversial language of “inclusion” while pushing policies to the active detriment of the most marginalized people both inside and outside the university gates. When pressed on political issues, faculty proclaim that they are “scholars (or administrators, not activists”; they refuse to take any expressly political stance while ignoring the fact that prevailing politics of our time — the ideologies that we take for granted, that go unquestioned, that guide every single one of their decisions — are by their essential nature political. “The university,” administrators cry, “is an educational institution, not a political one!” We ask: Political? When has the distribution and production of knowledge, the issue of who has access to it and who doesn’t, the supervision and administration of massive nepotistic networks of resources and support, the decision as to what is worth learning and how students deserve to be living — been anything but? The 20th century shift towards myopic, depoliticized rhetoric surrounding the aims of the university has been accompanied by a sweeping wave of corporatization in the institution’s administrative structure. When we say that the university has been “corporatized”, we mean that university administration has increasingly adopted a hierarchical, 29


calculated model of governance exported directly from the world of corporate management. Though the title of “President” stands in for CEO, “trustee” for board member, “dean” for manager, their roles are the same by design; the corporate university is a financier in a ratty tweed suit, a sleek executive board room in the stern, dark-wood guise of a college parlor. Values have been replaced with financial imperatives; social, philanthropic missions have been usurped by a calculated, competitive impetus to simply stay afloat. All decisions are made in a hierarchical, top-down fashion. Though they build their rhetoric out around a notion of “community”, Vassar and other corporatized universities couldn’t structure their operations in a less “communal” way. In a 2015 Boilerplate Magazine (an alternative campus magazine worth reading) interview, a senior financial administrator at laid bare Vassar’s hostility towards student activism, detailing the fact that students have no legal control over Vassar's investments, and are limited to expressing their demands through “influence and persuasion, not voting and power”. All major changes which could possibly be rendered through the activities of bodies like the VSA must first be approved by the board of trustees, making any substantive change a near impossibility. We believe that a “community” should be based on values of shared governance, m u t u a l i t y, a n d h o r i z o n t a l distribution of power, but Vassar’s structure couldn’t lie further from such goals; students have just about the same influence and recourse as customers at a massive corporate restaurant. We can complain, boycott, threaten to stain the institution’s public image to reduce future profits; most importantly, we can stage disruptions to force change and conversation to the forefront of the campus climate. But, like most consumer activism, the potential for achieving real change is limited without 30


focusing on the larger structural issues behind the institution’s ills; we want power and responsibility, not a “customer suggestions” box. Why fight against the corporatization of Vassar? Our school is still highly ranked, and manages to provide its services effectively; many of us, subsidized by financial aid, are essentially paid to study here. But even if many of us aren’t necessarily victims, we are all losers in the process. Consider the new Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, which opened in January 2016 at an expense to the tune of $90 million (a full tenth of Vassar’s entire endowment, which declined precipitously during the same period). While Vassar's science equipment was likely due for an upgrade, according to former President Hill, a major reason for this building was to secure Vassar's place at the forefront of a modern economy where STEM fields play an increasingly important role. Students had no real power to determine whether or not this building was to be constructed. Yet, we bear the consequences of the construction costs. When we are told that the school simply lacks the adequate funding for mental health services, adequate work-study wages, increased financial aid, and resources to confront the host of social and political issues boiling on campus, we must recognize this falsity for what it is and tell the administration that we see everyday where the money went! The administration cannot hide—they chose to have a state-of-the-art science center rather than devote our finances to racial awareness training for security; they chose to produce 31 31


“leaders of a future economy” rather than the citizens of a liberated society. And it is not just at Vassar, but across the country and the world—by ignoring our claims, fining us, suspending us, and all the while stating that they are simply acting in our best interest, administration treats us like petulant children, while covertly eroding our right to any control over the circumstances of our lives. Despite living at the college for up to 4 years, we are told that we have no right to directly determine the manner in which we will live and grow. Even more shameful is the fact that this same logic and control is suffered by College workers and faculty who labor (and for many faculty, live) at Vassar for decades. The administration will rarely share -- or even understand -- our aims. The administration that will not recognize our right to democratic control. Thus, we must face the necessity of struggle—for the administration will not fight for us. From the Quebec student strike of 2012, the South African divestment movement, peace activists during the Vietnam War, May 1968 French university occupations and Civil Rights activists of 60s— we know that students have successfully s t r u g g l e d b e f o r e . Va s s a r students have always been a of that struggle, often occupying the forefront of the movement. We must never forget 1968, when 34 Black women occupied Main Building and won the Africana Studies major. We must never forget the Vassar students who faced $1000 fines and disciplinary action for protesting our investments in South Africa. And we must remember that the educational system is the site where the economy's next generation of workers and citizens are produced. It is where we can begin to imagine a new society. Vassar wants to prepare us for the economy of our present society; we wish to be prepared to build a new and better society. Thus this struggle is greater than us; the struggle for power in our schools is part of the struggle for liberation, nationally and internationally! 32 32


CAMPUS SECURITY

POLICING BORDERS; SEX AND SECURITY

By now, you’ve endured a multitude of presentations about your safety at Vassar. Members of Safety & Security have stressed the importance of their role and assured you of their capabilities to defend you and your property against unnamed external threats. You’ve probably been instructed to put the Campus Response Center (CRC) in your phone more times than you can remember. You’ve likely had a litany of college rules rattled off to you. But these presentations don’t give the full picture of what security looks like here. Left out of orientation programming is a meaningful consideration of who’s safety we are prioritizing and at what cost. Vassar Safety & Security employs vague, neutral language to define their role, sanitizing their policing practices as in the interest of “providing a safe, peaceful campus”. But we know all too well that campus security, like all police forces, has been and always will be a racist project that works to defend private property and the colonial settler state. As a historical women’s college, we can’t have a discussion on security at Vassar without talking about patriarchal protection for white cis elite women. Sex, sexual violence and race are at the center of the narrative of safety. Vassar looks to secure the campus from outside “threats” to their students, and being located in Poughkeepsie, NY, a predominantly Black working class town, those threats are understood as the Black men looking to potentially violate these women. Vassar was built with a paternalistic commitment to “security” for these vulnerable white women. The college began as one building, Main Building, where students were able to live upstairs, take classes downstairs, get their mail at the mailroom and eat their dinner in the dining space. Students were regulated with strict schedule, expected to follow curfew, and had to obtain written permission to make the short trip into town on their own. A stone wall was built around the campus and the single entrance through the Main Gate ensured that the school knew just who was entering, and strict rules regarding signing guests in ensured the school knew exactly who was in the Main Building. The violability of the young, white, Victorian era women

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warranted such security, and the reproduction of wealth, whiteness, and traditional femininity made them worth protecting. As the school expanded, went co-ed in the 1970s, and became more liberal with policies surrounding curfews, guests, and the like, it’s managed to sustain itself as a “white space.” Yes, campus populations are much more diverse today, however, insofar as they commit themselves to the maintenance of the university, professionalism, and white civil society, they’re not necessarily threatening to the perception of community. The moment one diverges from the standards of respectability expected to be upheld by all that step foot on the liberal arts campus, they become subject to the scrutiny of security. A raised voice, a baggy sweatshirt, Under President Catherine “Cappy” Hill, our campus became “open”. This means than on paper, anyone can enter and walk around without showing ID. This measure is hugely important in tearing down campus walls. Yet, that openness, partnered with demographic changes of students more broadly, means the campus is thought to be more difficult to police from this sort of unknown threat to “our community.” The threat is racialized and understood as already being present on campus, whether it be students, staff and faculty who do not carry themselves with the same sort of brand of whiteness and passive intellectualism as Vassar wants, or be those who are now allowed to enter the campus walls without ID. Vassar Safety & Security will only call Poughkeepsie police into campus in cases where they believe theft is taking place. The “threat” is a question of private property. And these potentially threatening people, the “something” are anyone who doesn’t look like a Vassar community member ie. anyone who isn’t white and/or doesn’t meet arbitrary standards of respectability. Our Latinx activist friends in Poughkeepsie talk about how they’ve been approached by Vassar security when they’ve been on campus to speak or meet with students. Students call security on other Black students who are doing their laundry. Is racially profiling people and protecting private property what we mean by safety?

MILITARIZATION/PLAYING POLICE In recent years we’ve seen a significant change in the people “securing” our campus. Vassar’s Safety and Security Department continues to morph and becomes more militarized each year. Instead of simply having “workers” and “managers” the department insists on calling its workers, “officers”, and managers, “sergeants.” The number of sergeants continues to grow, as does their fleet of security cars, the size of their office, and their security budget. Vassar is one of only a handful of colleges with security staff assigned to patrol dorms at night. With no escape from the constant hum of their excessive fleet of Honda CRVs driving around and the muffled chatter of their radios

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echoing into our dorm rooms as we go to sleep, Campus Safety and Security reminds that someone is always watching. The majority of the sergeants and workers are themselves former police officers, state troopers, and prison guards. The listing of a background in law enforcement as a preferential qualification for a position at Vassar reveals a desire to replicate the white supremacist violence and utter disregard for humanity intrinsic to American policing in the structure of security on campus. While the unarmed Vassar security officers’ ability to freely enact violence is certainly far more restricted than the typical American cop, the line between the folks patrolling our schools and the police occupying our neighborhoods continues to blur. We’ve seen our peers and those perceived as ‘outsiders’ at other institutions, particularly larger public schools, be assaulted and slain by the same campus security forces claiming to act in the interest of their safety. We remember Scout Schultz at Georgia Tech. We remember Jason Washington at Portland State University. We remember Samuel DuBose at University of Cincinnati. And we haven’t forgotten about the UC Davis pepper spray cop nor the brutality of the baton-wielding UC Berkeley police during the removal of the Occupy Cal encampment. These incidents remind us that we cannot rely on campus security forces to protect us and that no matter how progressive a college purports to be, security forces will turn on us the moment we assert our collective power and present a disruption to the normal functioning of the modern university. Vassar’s Safety & Security, despite not having reached the levels of militarization seen at police forces at larger universities, attempts to emulate those same policing practices and assume the same air of authority. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that they are not cops and certain security officers are friendly in their interactions with students. But this isn’t about individual character. We reject the logic that just because the folks patrolling our campus could be worse, we shouldn’t disagree with the underlying administrative approach and methods of campus security. And claims of security's willingness to resort to force in tense situations and long-standing practice of racial profiling aren’t baseless accusations. We’ve seen more than enough troubling conduct from Vassar security to know that their vision of what makes a safe campus is incongruent with ours. In April 2014, the campus erupted in outcry and debates over racial profiling after security was called on four black teenage boys from Poughkeepsie making too much noise in the library. Security, in turn, called Poughkeepsie police when a couple of the boys couldn’t provide ID. An officer visited one of the teenagers a few days later at school, questioning him about phones stolen on campus and instructing him to never return to Vassar. Following this and an essay written by former Vassar Professor Kiese Laymon titled “My Vassar College Faculty ID

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Makes Everything OK� about his experience with racial profiling on and near campus, the school hired a private firm, Margolis Healy and Associates, to investigate Safety & Security. Their report, presented that fall, found insuffienct empirical evidence to conclude racial profiling was taking place and provided a set of reccomendations for Safety & Security to become more in line with federal policies and other campus police forces. The events also prompted the hiring of Arlene Sabo, the former Chief Police Officer at SUNY Plattsburgh rumored to be pushed out for creating a hostile work environment, as the new Director of Security. These steps do not put a stop to the harassment of people of color on campus but further integrate law enforcement standards and methods into the mission of Vassar security. Last December, students received multiple alerts about the threat of 13 year-old boys wandering around campus harassing people and attempting to steal. The messages relayed that campus patrols would be enhanced in response and police investigation would follow, as if providing the assurance that these kids would have their lives disrupted by the criminal justice system makes this campus safer. In the past few years, campus security has tackled and broke the ankle of a student tripping on acid, berated students of color for being too loud, and profiled countless community members. These patterns inform us that even though security may not have the same power or arms, they fundamentally behave as cops. And accordingly, cannot be trusted.

RISK MANAGEMENT & DATA FOCUS The risk of being sued for not complying with Title IX and federal policies pertaining to racial profiling, sexual violence, and other ways in which the school becomes responsible for the well-being of students becomes the focus of campus security. As the primary interest of the modern university is minimizing its own liability rather than challenging a climate that enables sexual assault, security becomes absorbed in bureaucratic risk-management practices that often reviolate the rights of those who report an assault. With Title IX policies creating an additional requirement for campus security, protecting the campus becomes a project of knowing the threats in all new ways. To best navigate this always present threat and retain federal

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funding, campus security looks to practices reminiscent of the War on Terror and Homeland Security in order. The college creates the procedures and increases surveillance for mass data collection, they map the campus with that information, and look to further police it in relation to such. The 2014 Margolis Healy report made this even more of a priority as it stressed the need for the increased collection of information and use of databases to improve security operations on campus. In the last few years, Vassar decided to add names to the campus streets, numbers on all of the buildings, and has changed their approach to monitoring campus activity. Collecting a report or writing a student up becomes the task at hand for VC security, even if that means writing students up for a candle in their room as the student asks for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Or breaking down a student’s door because she’s not responding to their initial knocks. These are actions taken by “Safety and Security” in the last few years at Vassar and are done because “if I didn’t report the candle and the dorm burned down the school would be liable.”

LATERAL SURVEILLANCE Security alerts often conclude with a reminder of the “integral role” students play in campus security. We are told that while we should refrain from reporting behavior based solely upon race, religion, gender etc., we should inform security of anything we witness that may be “criminal in nature”. This statement neglects the fact that what is perceived as being inherently criminal has always been directly informed by race, religion, gender etc. Without unpacking the deep association between criminality and blackness, race-neutral pleas for us document ‘criminal’ activity reinforce anti-black violence. Vassar security, following the lead of the state’s historical reliance on white civillian’s desire to participate in extralegal and white supremacist policing to disempower black people and keep communities of color under watch, assigns much of the work maintaining a persistent sense of surveillance to the student body. Students are called upon to participate HI SAFETY & SECURITY, in the surveillance and administering of their I’D LIKE TO REPORT peers. Campus security offers work study A SUSPICIOUS INDIVIDUAL... positions in which students, equipped with a walkie talkie, sit in dorms at night and survey the flow of people, intermittently patrolling the halls. We have the opportunity to sit on judiciary boards that determine consequences and enact punishments of individuals and student orgs. Students are instructed to lock their doors, never let anyone you don’t recognize into a dorm, and

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report “suspicious individuals” who we see loitering. We are made to always be on guard and always vigilant. But when we call security on our hallmates for being too loud, hire them to act as guards at our events, or report behavior perceived as suspicious, we are displaying a willingness to turn to an external authority to dictate the lines of belonging and punish those who fall out of them. This eagerness to regulate fellow students’ adherence to college norms hinders our ability to hold each other accountable when real harm is done. These lateral surveillance practices undercut our abilities to trust one another, instead promoting a permanent state of racialized hostility and suspicion. Rather than allowing ourselves to be used as volunteer cops and resorting to retributive mechanisms of control, we need to kindle a popular desire to work through the messiness of sharing space with one another in all our complexities.

CONCLUSION When we talk about “school safety” we have to ask, “safety for whom?” and “safety from what?” What do we actually mean when we say “is this campus safe?” What do we actually want in a safe campus? And how do we address actual threats to our peers? We do not have a singular vision of what this could look like but we know the role of Safety & Security is utterly incompatible with the sort of radical and unconditional care we would like to see in our interactions with each other. Trained to police and punish, Vassar security does not have the ability the handle crises appropriately or support us in our most vulnerable times. We cannot see Vassar as our ally or protector, and we refuse to let our stories become justification for additional cops on campus. Ultimately, we will face different forms of harm and violence and our task is to reduce harm on campus. This is not something that will not be done by Vassar security nor our administration. Refuse to be an extension of campus surveillance and policing apparatuses. Take care of each other so we can be dangerous together.

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to change everything, start anywhere

We know this college is a corporation, a bourgeois invention, part of a sustained colonial project; in no way can/should we wait around for someone to further prove that this place is fucked. It’s time to draw the lines and begin acting immediately. We need to create a culture of dissonance, where actions happen and spark further action. here are some subtle, silly & potentially important actions to take: - start rumors of campus uprising, false tips to security, let them take things into their “evidence closet” - play on insecurities of faculty: “prove it” - try out Sobriety - post pb’s house up for rent on zillow - yelp reviews are w/o question effective. get to work reviewing ur local zionist print shop, your corporate university, & your local gentrifying businesses - start an antifa chapter. institutionalize it, antifa needs a pres, vp, secretary, regional coordinator, treasurer, pr team, etc. make sure it’s on your resume, linked in, and handshake account. - throw a warehouse party or maybe a rave at roosevelt’s house. - remember, there’s nothing at vc to have fomo about - cc cuomo & meryl streep on all campus communications (bcc others the bcc is so satisfying) - remember, res life is yr landlord & we’re all for the abolition of landlords - venmo request yr first vc crush for wasting your youth - cherish your youth and beauty - tip at the deece - scream and throw milkshakes - catfish using pics of vc security - sign the vc matriculation book w your blood - host photo shoots for ur seeking arrangement accounts the same days as linkedin profile photo cdo opportunities - make & distribute fake v cards - leave econ dept windows open & a little food inside & let squirrel comrades take the lead (s/o rat comrades also) - hack / scam - make all events you help organize “no boys allowed”

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- join arrrrrg - dump him - remember that you owe this institution absolutely nothing. - tip off peta that animal testing occurs in the science center and annually vassar slaughters an unreal amount of deer - lol pull a hampshire college - know that “something came up,” “i was processing,” and “i just threw up” have all proven to work as excuses for late work or tardiness/absence - coordinate a “good night alt right” fitness class ! - make good security culture your personal brand - ask if canary mission will make you a profile —only campus elite have profiles !! - sign up to be the camps koch brother rep you really can make an unreal amount of money - submit / display your art at the loeb - allude to the inherent downfall of the corporate university & to the united states of america - install a hot tub in ur dorm bathroom - be gay by may (at the very least) - take confrontation to totally new realms / places previously impossible - speak up - make a scene - remember that it’s okay to steal from rich people - understand that if your activist efforts end w having been annoying, silly, fun, or friendship forming, that’s actually really fucking good - file osha reports when things on campus seem “unsafe” - publish stories in the pok journal - get back on the misc’s investigative journalism ! read up about the former women’s center x gay center’s previous embezzlement efforts lmao - buy a hot tub ? - refuse to see the university as a place of enlightenment - destroy fascism ;) - disrupt the surveillance state: use yr 999 neighbor’s id when you get in trouble - chain urself to the deece - unionize vc athletes and start a strike - arm the campus bear - show up to dinners at PB’s house and read the anarchist cookbook silently at the table - make vassar a trades school - clean sunset lake - get a good night’s sleep <3

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This land, the land that Vassar and the surrounding towns of Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, and Hyde Park all sit on, is land that was stolen from the people native to it when European colonizers arrived on this continent and began settling the land. The Mahican, the Lenape, the Munsee, and the Wappinger indigenous communities lived on, worked with, and had unique relationships to this land for hundreds of years before the violence of settler colonialism pushed them out. In 1609 European colonizers sailed past the banks of what is now Poughkeepsie for the first time exploring north on the Hudson. Despite the indigenous communities living there, the Dutch and English colonizers spent the next hundred years settling the land on either side of the Hudson, with the town of Poughkeepsie beginning to grow toward the end of the 17th century. Importantly, the indigenous communities continued to exist during this time despite the threat they were up against. The Europeans brought disease, actively sought to take and own the land the Native folks and their ancestors lived on, and viewed Indigenous people and their culture as distinctly other. Because the settler-colonial project is to conquer, to acquire and accumulate property, and ultimately to get rid of those who stood in the way (ie the indigenous communities living on their ancestral lands), relationships between the colonizers and the indigenous communities were inherently violent. The indigenous peoples were pushed out and killed in an attempt to erase them from this region. And yet these are still the ancestral lands of the Wappinger, the Lenape, the Munsee, and the Mahican and Native communities have survived and continue to fight ongoing colonialism and erasure. So to keep acknowledging that, to keep in mind that this land was stolen,

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is to challenge and disrupt what settler colonialism aims to do: to eradicate these cultures deemed “other” and “savage.” More than just being on a campus built on stolen land, likely built through stolen labor, we must also address how Vassar and the American university as an institutional machine produce violence toward Indigenous folks as well. The western university doesn’t make space for Native ways of knowing and being. In fact, universities have long legitimized the portrayal of indigenous peoples as uncivilized. Education has always been tied up in settler colonial projects with missions and boarding schools playing a crucial role in the attempted cultural genocide of Native peoples. Many of the first institutions of higher education in the U.S. expanded on this and sought to teach elite Native students who could spread the European values and customs they learned to their own people to assimilate the entire population. But indigenous people and their knowledge and expertise historically haven’t been accepted into the discourse of the western university. While there is an invasive anthropological fascination with the perceived exoticism of Native communities, prestigious institutions have had much less interest in supporting indigenous scholars writing their own stories. Native students have organized for representation in college curriculums since the 1960s but Native American Studies continues to lack widespread institutional backing as a discipline. Beth Leonard, in her article concerning indigenous struggles in the academy, points out that the separation of knowledges through department lines is incompatible with the holistic nature of studying indigenous knowledges. She writes that indigenous knowledge is “not only about the cultural and social inherited tradition, or only about the land and the physical space, but it is also about whiteness and privilege, and systems of power like colonization and how these interact with and continue to colonize indigenous knowledge systems.” Vassar has just a couple Native faculty members and a tiny handful of Native students. Most academic departments do nothing to implement Native methodologies or feature indigenous voices. It is important to reflect on how the settler colonial project attempts to teach you certain ways to think, certain ways to learn, certain ways to know. The settler colonial project excludes other kinds of expertise in order to maintain itself. However, indigenous knowledges help us understand the power structures of our world better and give us tools to challenge the settler colonial project. It is our job to uplift Native epistemologies and voices to disrupt the powers that be.

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WORD SEARCH

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Fuck Cuomo Meryl Streep Feminism is the theory Lesbianism is the practice VR in the Lib Grand Strategy I Love College


ADDRESSING BURNOUT & ISOLATION

W

e wish we could say we haven’t spent numerous nights in the after hours section of the library, seen many friends sob due to a ridiculous amount of assignments, or witnessed a plethora of students passed out on library desks due to severe levels of exhaustion. We wish we hadn’t heard many students say they can’t wait for the weekend so they can finally get drunk enough to forget these stressors. Unfortunately, we cannot. College burnout, isolation, and mental health problems are a reality across college campuses, and at Vassar. “Burning out” entails various symptoms, including, but not limited to: insomnia, concentration issues, chronic fatigue, a weakened immune system, isolation, hopelessness, and a lack of productivity. The most insidious part of “Burnout Culture” is that no matter how self-aware one is of the destructive effects of working up until the point of exhaustion, the amount of work and pressure our institution places on us students makes it seemingly impossible to escape the cycle. Our college fabricates an impossible standard of excellence based upon the expectation of juggling classes, classwork, work (putting extra pressure on low-income students), sleep, and a social life. This standard makes it challenging to find time for oneself. 44


Burnout Culture generates shame and cognitive distortions of one’s weakness. It is easy to sink into the mentality that “everyone in college balances work, academics, extracurricular, social life and mental health, while I am barely scraping by.” The truth is, if you turn to the person next to you in class, they are most likely also freaking out about that seven page paper due Friday. We must reject the abelist notion that being unable to work (due to various mental health problems precipitated by burnout) is a sign that one is lazy. Instead, we need to recognize that our campus environment normalizes the idea that a natural part of college life is a chronic state of stress. We must dismantle the idea—that our university promotes—that our productivity equates to our worth. We should not spend our days worrying if our grades will land us a well-paying job, nor let our institution run a college that is merely a factory that produces efficient workers to further our capitalistic society. Instead, we must value college for what it really is: a time of growth, self-discovery, and, most importantly, a place to form life-long connections.

Loneliness It’s currently orientation week, and you are most likely scouting every person’s face in the Deece wondering who is going to become your new best friend. You were told that Vassar’s small campus ensures that you will not be washed away in a sea of tens of thousands of people. As true as that may be, Vassar’s small student body can make first-years feel as if there's a ticking time bomb about to go off unless you immediately find your ideal friend group. Let’s make this clear: the belief that “everyone has found their squad” is nothing more than a myth. During orientation week you will see groups of people sitting together, and you might thing fuck, another friend group that I’m not a part of. The truth is that those people will likely never hang out as a group again. The truth is that you probably have no idea who you are when you first enter college, so how are you supposed to know which people are the right ones for you? 45


Over the course of your first year, you will change, grow, and eventually find the right people for you. The one thing to remember is that there is no time limit to solidify your college identity.

Visit Metcalf… But Don’t Depend on it Before graduation nearly half of all students will have sought help or advice from the staff of Vassar’s Counseling Service. While Vassar pushes the narrative that they offer free mental health services, writing on their website, “If it is a problem to you, then it is a problem to us,” a visit to Metcalf makes it clear that it is merely a “good-jumping-off-place” for addressing student’s concerns. A shortage of staff in Metcalf creates a system where weekly free therapy is impossible to receive. This, in turn, makes it difficult to maintain a close relationship with your assigned therapist.

Alternative Ways of Addressing Burnout • Take a break: Leave the library and meet up with some friends - our small campus makes it easy to find distractions • Talk to your Professors: Many Professors understand the immense stress we are placed under and offer extensions for work. • Don’t buy into the “your GPA is indicative of your worth” mentality. Who you are, what you do, and how you treat people (and yourself!) is infinitely more important than a number. • Join an organization! It is a great way to make friends and to realize that getting good grades is not the only way to be a “good college student.” (if joining an org feels like too much effort do not put pressure on yourself to do so) • Sleep!!!!!! • Talk to friends—it is more than likely that your fellow peers are struggling with similar stressors as you do— talking to them can make you realize that you are not alone nor too weak to handle college. 46


THE UNIVERSITY AND THE PRISON “The slogan on the Left, then, ‘universities, not jails,’ marks a choice that may not be possible. In other words, perhaps more universities promote more jails. Perhaps it is necessary finally to see that the university produces incarceration as the product of its negligence. Perhaps there is another relation between the University and the Prison—beyond simple opposition or family resemblance—that the undercommons reserves as the object and inhabitation of another abolitionism.” —Stefano Harney and Fred Moten In April 2015, a group of up to 20 guards known around Fishkill Correctional Facility as the “Beat Up Squad” descended upon Samuel Harrell, a 30 year-old black man suffering from delusions and bipolar disorder. The officers shouted racial epithets, shoved Harrell down a flight of stairs, and according to one witness, “jumped on him like a trampoline”. These repeated blows resulted in his death. But when paramedics arrived, they were told Harrell had overdosed on synthetic marijuana. Although a medical examination disproved this and 19 other Fishkill prisoners came forward with testimony implicating the guards and describing a rampant culture of abuse within the facility, prosecutors refused to file charges. All this occurred just 14 miles from campus. Vassar sits in a hub of prisons. With 16 state prisons and one federal prison within a 60 mile distance from the school, the school is surrounded by facilities with a combined capacity to incarcerate 16,824 people. New York,

mirroring practices around the country, has constructed the bulk of its prisons in small, overwhelmingly white and often conservative towns dependent on the facilities to employ large sectors of the population and generate needed revenue in the wake of industrial decline. State prisoners, the majority of which are black and brown and from New York City, are shipped upstate to be warehoused in facilities hundreds of miles from their families and communities. But when admissions materials talk about the “scenic Hudson Valley” surrounding Vassar, prisons are erased from our mental map. Prisoners, often considered socially dead and a sort of uncomfortable underside to the business-as-usual functioning of society, are forgotten about in the imagination of those of us with few personal connections to them, including a good portion of Vassar students and administrators. Samuel Harrell’s death at the hands of 20 Fishkill Correctional Officers did not speak a substantial outcry at Vassar. Neither did Anthony

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Myrie’s at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie last spring. Or Benjamin Van Zandt’s suicide after being placed in solitairy confinement at Fishkill in 2014. There wasn’t a lot of talk in 2013 about the brutal assault of Kevin Moore at Downstate by two guards. The hundreds of reports of “sexual misconduct” by New York Department of Corrections staff members, routine use of 23-hour solitary confinement on thousands, and many deaths due to medical negligence that happen every year don’t get much attention on campus either. This is not to say there is not considerable discussion at Vassar around prison abolition or no history of prisoner solidarity organizing here. There are a lot of people who care and are there is notable work being done around incarceration. But we lack a real widespread consciousness of our positionality towards the prison-industrial complex. We are not committed to cutting our direct ties to companies that profit from the prison industry or towards advancing the movement to eliminate prisons and a society that could have them. In popular discourse, we position the university and the prison as isolated sites. One houses the expendables, the hardened criminals, the untouchables and the other, the nation’s best and brightest young people, the future leaders. With mantras like “education not incarceration”, these institutions can appear entirely oppositional. While we certainly would like to see the end of incarceration and a shift towards increased accessibility to education, this analysis negates a symbiotic relationship between the university

and the prison-industrial complex. Universities are complicit in building and sustaining the carceral systems preying on so many poor, black, brown, and trans people. The ties between the two institutions, including economic investments, complementary missions, and the production of knowledge that legitimizes the existence of both, operate in both overt and subtle ways and are hugely important to unpack if we are really interested in working towards a world without prisons. Student organizers at more and more colleges across the country are calling attention to their schools’ enablement of the incarceration of 2.3 million people in the United States through their financial holdings. In 2015, Columbia became the first school to divest from the private prison industry after a students organized an impressive campaign to demand trustees pull the school’s endowment from investments in G4S and Corrections Corporation of America. The UC system followed suit after student pressure, selling $30 million in holidings in the Geo Group, G4S and Corrections Corporation of America. Student organizers at Harvard and a dozen other schools have now also taken up the demand that their universities divest from the prisonindustrial complex. Vassar is likely to have at least a small part of its hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investments tied up in some companies involved in the business of caging people as well. We may not hold shares in the corporations that directly run private prisons but the concept of the prison-industrial

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complex involves so much more than the relatively small portion of private facilities. It calls for an analysis of the prison industry that includes all of the companies that profit from prison labor and do business with corrections and law enforcement departments. From the private entities making money off of unaffordable phone services inhibiting prisoners’ ability to connect to their loved ones to the manufacturers of prisoner’s jumpsuits, there is a large sum of businesses with a stake in continuing to throw huge numbers of folks behind bars. We can’t know for sure what sort of human rights abuses our school is backing through its investment portfolio as information about our holdings is not publicly available, but we haven’t received any assurances that Vassar is not financially interested in a thriving prison industry despite an outward academic interest in criminal justice issues. Until the remodeling of the Deece in 2017, Vassar contracted food service management out to Aramark, a company that serves food to more than 500 correctional facilties across the country and has been subject to complaints about maggots and rocks, sexual harassment, drug trafficking and other employee misconduct. The end of the contract did not necessarily come as an important step towards divestment for Vassar. Now, we rely on Bon Appetit management, paying $6 million a year to its parent company, Compass Group which also has a stake in the prison food industry. As the largest contract food service company in the world, Compass Group profited from the sale of and retains substantial shares in Trinity Services Group, a food service provider to prisons and jails. The company has also come under fire

for overcharging for meals in New York City schools and serving food to seven Canadian correctional facilities that tested positive for a serious infectious bacteria. This school has also always held a close relationship with IBM, a company that relies on prison labor to manufacture some of its prodcuts. The contracts and investments Vassar and many colleges hold are only the most visible ways in which institutions of higher education relate to the expansive American project of imprisonment. Like prisons, colleges help maintain social order. In its punitive practices and language of security, Vassar borrows from the criminal justice system. No broad false equivalencies should be drawn between the treatment of a predominantly white and wealthy class of liberal arts students on a beautiful campus and the treatment of prisoners who have so many of their basic human rights violated on a daily basis. One population is to be protected, the other is made out to be the racial threat that justifies such protection. However, the campus does seek to replicate the technologies of control employed in the prison to regulate the people who study, work, and live here. As Harvery and Moten remind us, the university cannot be the opposite of the prison as they are “both involved in their way with the reduction and command of the social individual” (Undercommons, 42). This disciplinary power sees its embodiment at Vassar in our Safety & Security, pseudo-judicial systems capable of punishing students and exclusionary understanding of excellence as synonymous with professionalism. Last year, students who the administration suspected of distributing the disorientation guide were charged and found guilty of

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with walls surrounding gampus and gates and large, brick building, is enough to conjure up the images of the correctional institutions a short drive from campus. Universities expand the prison industrial complex by producing penal technologies and knowledge that legitimizes the prison as a necessary apparatus of punishment. Criminology scholars provided the intellectual backing to tough-on-crime policies that locked millions behind bars. It was academics and criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling’s who gave us the “broken windows theory” which undergrids quality of life policing. Other products of academia like the “selective incapacitation theory” justify three-strike laws and harsh sentencing practices.. Even left-leaning criminologists have entrenched the prison as a legitimate social institution by advocating for “gender-responsive” facilities which have only helped grow the female prison population. While most of the professors in the humanities departments at Vassar appear critical of prisons or at least

“disruptive conduct” in a theatrical display of the university’s power to keep behavior within the standards it deems acceptable and willingness to take punitive measures against those who stray from that. Students are charged with various transgressions and punished by these mock judicial bodies frequently. A certain politics of disposability is at play when our peers who are struggling with their mental health and/or can’t meet particular academic standards are forced to take semesters off and not given they support they need to be at school after experiencing trauma. Historically, Vassar’s administrative structure took more obvious inspiration from prisons. For many years, the school’s payroll used to include a “warden” who lived in Pratt House and prior to that, a “Lady Principal” who referred to students as “inmates” served as the primary disciplinarian. Curfews, bans on leaving campus, and restrictions on guests meant the college exerted extreme control over the students’ movements and behaviors. The architecture alone,

WITHIN 60 MILES OF VASSAR, THERE ARE...

8

MEDIUM SECURITY STATE PRISONS

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1

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FEDERAL PRISON

PRISONERS

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OTISVILLE

EASTERN

GREEN HAVEN

2,170 PERSON CAPACITY 16 MILES FROM VASSAR

FISHKILL

849 PERSON CAPACITY 47 MILES FROM VASSAR

1,250 PERSON CAPACITY 33 MILES FROM VASSAR

HUDSON

402 PERSON CAPACITY 46 MILES FROM VASSAR

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1,540 PERSON CAPACITY (STATE AND FEDERAL FACILITIES) 48 MILES FROM VASSAR

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SING SING

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condemn mass incarceration, there is academic work being done and classroom conversations being had here that normalize, sanitize and reinforce the prison industrial complex. Just last spring, before the event was cancelled last minute, Vassar was slated to host a lecture on the “Mathematics of Crime” given by a professor who helped develop a racist and classist “predictive policing” computer program at UCLA. The college is an active participant in reproducing a class hierarchy in which prisons can exist. Sure, there are working and middle class students on campus and tons of amazing folks who have gone here. But at large, Vassar is involved in the project of producing the next generation of elite professionals, including those who ensure the prison-industrial complex is running smoothly. To further keep racial and economic hierarchies intact, the most criminalized populations are inhibited from ever stepping foot on campus. These classrooms are used as a training ground for future politicians, lawyers, judges, bureaucrats and corporate executives. Selective, private schools can equip their already well-off students with the foundational tools to pursue careers predicated on exploitation and incarceration. There’s no question that this school has helped supply a stream of professionals responsible for locking people up. On top of Linda Fairstein, the alum and former trustee who resigned last June over role in the prosecution of the Central Park Five, there’s Besty McCaughney, class of 1970, former Lieutenant Governor of New York who writes racist think pieces blaming black families for disparities in school discipline and calls Jeff Session a “civil rights hero”. There’s also Sylvia Bacon, class of 1952, who was a judge of the Superior Court of the District of

Columbia considered for the Supreme Court by Reagan and Nixon and author of a bill that allows law enforcement to enter properties without notifying the residents. And there’s tons of other prosecutors, detectives, judges, cops, and “law and order” politicians among the ranks of Vassar alumni. Even one of the school’s early alums, Katherine Bemet Davis, hailed as a progressive social reformer, oversaw many correctional facilities, helped build the model of gender-responsive incarceration for women and held a position on the Committee on Eugenics of the United States’ Advisory Council. Clearly these alumni’s careers can’t be blamed on the current administration; they stem from the drive to ascend professional ranks and gain power that is insprired in part by the structure of higher education and expectations of

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students. There is an opportunity to disrupt this flow of graduates into careers of incarcerating people through a cultural shift and the popularization of an abolitionist analysis. Currently, though, Vassar, like so many other employers, includes the question of whether or not one has any felony convictions in all online applications for faculty and staff positions. The presence of this question and requirement of background checks for so many positions eliminates opportunities for formerly incarcerated people to become economically self-sufficient and puts folks on the streets or back behind bars. By keeping our physical grounds pure from the stigma that comes with criminal records, Vassar reinforces the idea that criminalization is not a political tool and that the people who have been convicted of felonies deserve to be treated as second-class citizens. There is no need to know whether potential employees have had their lives disrupted because a racist and predatory system accused them of something it determines to be a crime. A conviction does not determine someone’s level of qualification. The inclusion of the box for people who have been convicted to check is discriminatory and frankly, racist and classist. Vassar needs to follow in the footsteps of Duke and the UC and SUNY systems and remove the requirement for job applicants to disclose their criminal record or “ban the box”. Vassar appears to have an academic interest in prisons and prison abolition. We have a correlate in prison studies, a class taught inside the Taconic Correctional Facility, well-attended lectures on abolition, and a dean who teaches classes on incarceration. We wonder what it could look like

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to follow through on this interest by examining and dismantling the carceral practices of the university and relationships to the prison-industrial complex we hold. Knowing that prisons and universities have long fueled one another’s growth and created complementary mechanisms of control, how could Vassar embark to detangle itself from the prison-industrial complex? We have a duty to refuse to let prisons exist silently within a black hole and capitalize on our spatial proximity and wealth of resources to forge meaningful connections to the people inside. There are so many folks serving their sentences while cut off from the world and outside support. We would love to see more Vassar students become penpals for incarcerated individuals seeking to connect. Something as simple as a friendly letter can be a hugely important gesture for someone who feels forgotten about. We also have the ability to support organizations getting free books and legal materials to prisoners and should create the necessary infrastructure to get more students involved in these. There are tons of ways we can fundraise and tap into the networks of affluent people so many Vassar students are part of to fund abolitionist work and help get folks free. Programs setting up visits for prisoners who request them or Vassar-funded publications of the art and writings many prisoners create while incarcerated would be great as well. Our ideas of intellectualism can and should be challenged through connecting with the many political prisoners and leftist intellectuals incarcerated near campus and establishing platforms for them to share their knowledge and experience with Vassar community members.


Bringing formerly incarcerated folks and abolitionist organizers/theorists to campus is hugely important for sparking critical analysis of carceral systems as well. Institutionally, we would also like to see an expansion of offerings related to prisoner solidarity. This school emphasizes community engagement in all fields. But the tens of thousands of

recruiting and supporting formerly incarcerated students at several UC and question what Vassar could do to further break down barriers that people with convictions face when trying to access a college education. This isn’t to say we should immediately jump right into all of this. It’s important that we approach this work critically and look to see what existing organizations we can build off of or collaborate with. Neither student organizations or institutional programs should be built with the idea that we are playing the role of the liberator. Nor should they use the language of rehabilitation or reformation of corrections departments that portray prisons as a civilizing project. We must embrace that while reform has its place and we should pursue anything that will get folks out of cells, there will never be a progressive or humanitarian way of imprisoning someone and that our ultimate goal must be the eradication of prisons and the carceral logics that sustain them. Before engaging with incarcerated people or organizing against the prison-industrial complex, we must realize that people with convictions are fully capable of self-determination and have been fighting for their own freedom long before “criminal justice reform” became a popular campaign platform. Our efforts, no matter how well-executed, are not likely to ignite a national cry to free all prisoners and redesign our entire understanding of justice. We can, however, leverage Vassar’s resources in strategic ways to support prisoners and movements for abolition and sever our connections to the legitimization and business of prisons. Equipped with a shared desire to see a world in which no person is disposable, we look forward to the work ahead and to the end of prisons.

prisoners in the area are left out of who we consider to be part of our immediate community. We would like to see more avenues of engagement dedicated to supporting the people facing or convicted of criminal charges. The class at Taconic, taught by Vassar faculty members to a mixed class of Vassar students and incarcerated women is surely a start. Still, only a dozen select prisoners are chosen for this course. We think back to former professor Larry Mamiya’s legacy with the Green Haven Prison Program which brough Vassar offered discussion groups and classes in Green Haven Correctional Facility from 1979 to 2011 and wonder how we could honor his recent passing by creating more robust academic programming for and with people in prisons and jails. The Common Application has just eliminated their criminal history question. We think of the Underground Scholars Initiative

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ORIENTATION WEEK Student Fellows make you do the Identity Wheel™

Sports boy puking

Someone asks Hear rumors you if you listen that founders to Mac day is S I C K Demarco

Title IX has an Security incredibly Bat/Owl/Flying reasserts that triggering Squirrel in the they can in fact presentation on dorm chase you sexual violence Realize that ~half of your peers are literally in the 1%

Accidently get FREE Denied a splash of entrance to a SPACE sports TH Party lemonade in ur (You made it water cup :( (for the best)

Someone says Boy facetiming mom in laundry their fav bc never woman is learned Emma Watson

Sweat in the chapel

to college !)

Realize that the little dorms were servant quarters

Waterfall - ie. dunk your head into Sunset Lake

Get lost in Blodgett

Rich kid boasts about their gap year abroad

Sabotage ur Be told you are special for house during being here Brewer Games

Have a regrettable crush

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White kids from subrurbs tell you they live in the city

Arlene Sabo tells you “your hands are a weapon”

Cry to “I Love College” by Asher Roth

Smoke on a roof


get to know your

TRUSTEES

Many of you have likely heard of Linda Fairstein’ resignation from the Vassar board of trustees last June. Fairstein was pressured to step down by students following newfound scrutiny around Fairstein’s role in the 1989 prosecution of the Central Park Five generated by the portrayal of her in Ava DuVerney’s Netflix miniseries, When They See Us. Fairstein, the former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan DA, helped coerce false confessions from the young and wrongfully convicted black and Latino teenagers using lies, intimidation, and methods of interrogation akin to torutre. Fairstein’s effort, later specifically called out by an appellate judge for gross misconduct, played a pivotal role in landing the boys behind bars. Despite their exonerations and a consensus around their innocence, Fairstein continued to oppose the city’s settlement with the Central Park Five and maintained their guilt in a 2014 statement. Fairstein’s decades-long career as a sex crimes prosecutor caused tremendous pain and suffering for the Central Park Five and countless other black and brown individuals and their families. She has made no attempt to reckon with this, instead repeatedly defending her participation in racist state violence and promoting a carceral brand of feminism through her novels and speaking engagements. As recently as 2015, Fairstein served as consultant to Harvey Weinstein’s legal team, helping to silence an allegation of sexual 55


assault. Evidently, Linda Fairstein should not be in any sort of position dictating the direction of Vassar. But while her departure from the Board of Trustees can certainly be claimed as a victory, the move did not represent an overhaul of the board’s values or a significant progressive shift in administration. Fairstein, who accrued wealth through the criminalization and exploitation of working class communities of color, found herself in good company among fellow trustees. A career predicated on racist, clacist, exploitative practices seems to be more of a common denominator than a case of exception for the board members. While not all quite live up to the villainous standard set Fairstein, the trustees’ proximity to huge corporate entities and global superpowers leaves little doubt that their interests are incongruent with the interests of the majority of students at Vassar. Mirroring Vassar’s often empty image of progressivism, many boast impressive records of philanthropy and commitment to liberal causes but ultimately constitute an elite power-hungry class with an active disinterest in the liberation of oppressed peoples. The influence the trustees wield in the world is frankly frightening. We look at it as a reminder that we can never have faith in Vassar’s administration to take seriously the voices of students against those of the corporate executives helping fund their salaries. For the immense amount of power the trustees hold, this group does an impeccable job avoiding inquiries into their shady backgrounds and hiding their influence behind the friendly demeanor of President Bradley. Despite never really interacting with us or having any meaningful awareness of the lives we live, the board holds the ability to control important aspects of our life at Vassar. The decisions they make behind closed doors shape our futures. With a $1 billion endowment in their hands, the trustees ultimately run Vassar while most of us have no idea who they even are. To familiarize ourselves with the environment at college, we must have a fundamental understanding of who holds power. So here’s a look at the assortment of snakes with the power to determine the future of the school:

TONY J, FRISCIA ‘78, BOARD CHAIR As the CEO of Eduventures from 2014 to its acquisition 2016, Friscia provided consulting services to for-profit schools, advised venture capitalists on investing in education and worked to further make colleges into businesses. His experience undoubtedly comes in handy when helping Vassar cut costs and take on a corporate administrative structure. Friscia also founded AMR Research in 1986 which focused on global supply chain and served many Fortune 500 companies. AMR sold for $64 million in 2009. He now works as an independent business consultant and director at Forrester, a market research company. 56


ELIZABETH BRADLEY, PRESIDENT President Bradley was chosen as the eleventh president of Vassar in 2017. PB came to Vassar from Yale where she served as Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, Faculty Director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute and Head of Branford College. More than anything, PB should not be trusted. She’ll have you over for cookies and do an amazing job pretending to listen to your frustrations, but she will not even try disrupt the violence enacted by the corporate university. Bradley must prioritize the desires of the board of trustees, wealthy alumni, and federal policy around higher education over the well- being of students or workers. Her welcome party cost close to $1,000,000 and she makes over $230,000 annually on top of free housing, but she has the audacity to explain to us that the need blind admissions policy might have to end. Ultimately that’s the job description of the President, and simply replacing her will not make that significant of a difference to the students on campus. Don’t trust PB and her “Grand Strategy.” And remember, she’s not the only snake among us.

ERIC H. BERINGAUSE ‘80 Beringause recently became the CEO of Dean Foods, the largest dairy company in the U.S. which generated $7.7 billion in revenue in 2016. His experience in the food industry is extensive. Before his current position, Beringause headed Gehl Foods as CEO and was responsible for the distribution of nacho cheese linked to a botulism outbreak at a California gas station that killed a man and hospitalized nine others. Protected by his wealth and position, he faced no evident consequences. Beringause was previously the CEO at Advanced Refreshment and Sturm Foods and held product management positions for Nabisco Brands and Nestle. He supports the Student Conservation Association and set up the first program for Native American participants at Vassar yet Nestle’s bottled water brand “Arrowhead” has an extensive history of environmental degradation stealing water from Native tribes. The company is also known for its reliance on child labor on cacao plantations, continuance of its bottling operations during Califronia’s hisotric drought, union busting and unethically promoting infant formula in third world nations in the 1970s, contributing to the death and suffering of babies. However, with an $800,000 annual salary, Beringause can sit back and relax in his multiple million dollar homes and donate thousands to fellow Vassar alum and Republician Colorado congressional candidate Lang Sias’ failed campaign. 57


CYNTHIA PATTON ‘83 Cynthia Patton is the Senior Vice President and chief compliance officer at Amgen, a large pharmaceutical company. Amgen has generated billions through a monopoly on a variety of important medications that it has consistently and substantially increased the price of, including Enbrel, a drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis which can cost $700 per 50 milligrams. The company profits through blocking cheaper alternatives to its drugs from being prescribed, a practice it has settled multiple lawsuits for. Patton’s role involves overseeing Amgen’s compliance and business ethics. She owns $4.3 million in Amgen stock and has sold over a million dollars in shares.

JEFFREY A. GOLDSTEIN ‘77 Goldstein worked for the World Bank from 1999 to 2004 as Managing Director and then Chief Financial Officer. He specifically oversaw the World Bank’s relationship with G-8 countries. For those who don’t know, the World Bank has enabled a neocolonial global financial system and entrapped Third World nations in a cycle of poverty. The World Bank is built on the practice of offering loans to these countries only on the condition that they privatize their economies and give Western corporations unrestricted access to their raw materials and markets. This leaves poor people around the world buried in inescapable debt as powerful Western financial institutions benefit under the guise of “development”. Goldstein, as the point person on the Bank’s International Development Association, along with the rest of his World Bank cronies also help finance environmental destruction, give Western states disproportionate votes, and back projects the disrupt indigenous communities’ lifestyles. From 2009 to 2011, Goldstein was the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, advising on issues related to U.S banking systems, regulatory reform and financial stability. He now holds the title of Chief Executive Officer at SpringHarbor Financial Group LLC and sits on the Board of Directors of Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and Westfield Corporation. 58


DEBRA FAGEL TREYZ ‘74 Treyz retired as Vice Chairman of JPMorgan Private Bank in 2014 after 36 years with the firm. The Private Bank profits through the management of the investment portfolios of already incredibly wealthy individuals. Treyz assisted individuals with over $30 million net worths set up offshore trusts to avoid taxes and further exaggerate wealth disparities. During her career, Treyz held the titles of CEO of the firm’s Wealth Advisory and Trust & Estate practices, CEO of JPMorgan Private Bank for Europe, Mideast and Africa, and Global head of the Philanthropy Centre. JPMorgan is considered one of the most unethical banks in America and has been forced to pay billions in restitution for mortgage fraud.

MARYELLEN CATTANI HERRINGER ‘65 Herringer recently retired from board of PG&E Corporation. PG&E, California’s largest utility company, filed for bankruptcy this year after being found responsible for failing to maintain the safety of their power lines and causing multiple major California wildfires. In the past, it has also been criticized for dodging taxes, pursuing a monopoly, unethical lobbying, removing trees, and dumping contaminated groundwater. Herringer reportedly owns over 12,000 units of PG&E stock worth over $2,657,37 and is married to the retired CEO of Transamerica Corporation, a life insurance company. Herringer has also retired from her position as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of APL Limited, the world’s third-largest container transportation services company.

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LET’S TALK

TITLE IX

The release of Vassar’s March 2016 statistics regarding sexual violence on campus made it clear that the rate of assault was high enough to implicate us in a federal Title IX investigation. This deepened our campuses’s culture of insecurity, as faculty feared being held responsible for not reporting disclosures of sexual violence. Seeking ways to eliminate liability, Vassar sought to ensure that “they did everything they could have” if potentially put under federal investigation. Reactionary measures were actualized in September 2016, when Vassar’s Interim President Chenette and Dean of the College, Dean Roellke, announced the college’s plan to expand the network of mandatory reporters on our campus in order to track more reports pertaining to sexual violence. In Spring 2016 all faculty went through an extensive Title IX training and became certified mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporters are required to report incidents of sexual violence involving students to the Title IX coordinator, which may immediately implicate the student in a Title IX invesitgation. This policy comes at the cost of students anonymity, autonomy, and the ability to confide with faculty without the fear of the school contacting them or their perpetrator. A report from Vassar College found that in 2018— two years after the plan to expand the network of mandatory reporters was put into fruition— only 9.3% of students spoke to the Vassar Counselors or Staff about experiences of sexual violence, illuminating the adverse effects of this plan. Students no longer feel safe disclosing information to faculty, robbing students of a valuable support system. This report further highlights how mandatory reporting strips students of their autonomy and consent, as the majority of students do not wish to pursue filing a formal report to Title IX. Only 4.9% of the 60


students who disclosed experiences of sexual violence spoke to the Title IX Office and only 3.5% of them reported filing a formal report to Title IX. Without even taking statistics into consideration, survivors of sexual violence ought to have the freedom to be in control of their healing process and work through their assult in the way they choose; anything less than that is degrading and a clear statement that a survivor’s judgement is not valued as much as the good name of our university. Since mandatory reporting may immediately implicate the student in a Title IX investigation, this can begin a grueling process that re-traumatizes survivors. Many survivors find it is a nightmare trying to cope not only with the repercussion of the assault itself but also with the strain of the legal process. Accordingly, in order to prevent survivor’s from feeling powerless, the wishes of the specific survivor must be prioritized over the institution’s. CARES originated as an underground peer-to-peer support group that provided assistance and care over the phone to anonymous callers who were affected by any sort of interpersonal violence or harm. Students realized the necessity to have the resources to navigate their assault outside of the administration. Instead of relying on our university, students created CARES and organized a system in which students were able to get better resources, share stories, and make sure sexual violence and other instances of interpersonal harm were being addressed. Initially, the school supported CARES financially, covering the cost of phone lines, as well as the cost of training. While beneficial in many ways, this ultimately meant that the group was subject to Vassar’s fluctuating policies and funding, which inevitably made the group dependent upon the institution. The disastrous effects arose in 2016, when the expansion of mandatory reporting led to the administration cutting support and eliminating the work of CARES and The Listening Center (TLC). This was a calculated effort that reflects the perceived threat that student’s control over the accountability process and commitment to transformative justice posses to our administration To this day, CARES and TLC provide ways to create spaces that support students implicated in instances of sexual violence, interpersonal harm, and other intances where someone 61


would simply want somone to talk to. We support them as they attempt to find ways to navigate the administrative structures and find ways to create spaces for students that actually look to gain student resources in ways that do not immediately put them in conversation with the Title IX office and the college’s “risk management” procedures. We learn the origins of CARES to help us think about possibilities for future action here. We can and must find ways to support each other outside of the constraints of our university. What would it look like to actually care for each other? What would it look for us to create a system of accountability and to provide justice for survivors, the way they want it? The end of CARES shouldn’t be interpreted as an end to our work, but rather as a call to examine who we’ve been working alongside, and who we really should be having the conversation with all along. Our goal is to make students who have survived assault feel free and safe to make the decision that is best for them. In this campus culture of insecurity, our administration works to find ways to eliminate their vulnerability by protecting themselves from federal Title IX investigation. This leads our institution to devalue the decisions and freedom of students and, specifically, survivors. Our university has made it clear that they fail to consider the ways we actually would like to be supported, the complexities of our situation, and the limitations of Title IX. Merely utilizing federal laws and administrative structures to carry out mandatory reporting fails to provide resources that heal survivors from sexual violence and inhibits the possibility of transforming our campus into one without the threat of sexual violence. We know that violence occurs. We know that Title IX investigations could become a re-traumatizing process that does not have healing for the survivor in mind. Transformative justice does not exists within our administrative structures. We need our peers to listen, and to converse with our professors without fear of becoming implicated in data collection and the surveillance apparatus. We cannot let this culture of insecurity about federal legal compliance sabotage our freedom to heal in the way we choose.

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get ur $$$ back Many of us are struggling to pay our Vassar bills and taking out thousands of dollars in loans. We have to figure out how we’re going to pay for books and travel expenses while over 200 Vassar faculty members and administrators are raking in over six figures, our endowment has surpassed a billion dollars, and an extravagant inn is being constructed. There is money everywhere you look at this school. We may not be able to access the vast majority of it but we are able to use our years here to take advantage of the resources in our reach. We can use the institution’s supposed generosity against it. As Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey reminds us in The Undercommons, “it cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the university is a place of enlightenment. In the face of these conditions one can only sneak into the university and steal what one can. To abuse its hospitality, to spite its mission, to join its refugee colony, its gypsy encampment, to be in but not of—this is the path of the subversive intellectual in the modern university.” Remember that you don’t owe Vassar anything. The schools expects us to be grateful for their financial aid and thank the wealthy alumni who make our presence on this campus possible while using socioeconomic and racial diversity as selling points to generate more revenue and boost the school’s public image. Refuse to feel indebted to an institution established to preserve class dynamics and capitalize on the proximity to wealth Vassar students have. We’re not telling you to embezzle but don’t hesitate for a second before jumping on funding opportunities or free resources at the school’s expense. If you are persistent and dedicated, you can receive and redistribute huge amounts of money and access all sorts of opportunities that would otherwise be impossible. Here are some ways to get you started on getting your money

administrative funds •

Marks Travel Fund will cover travel expenses related to academic work and Academic Enrichment Fund provides financial support for individual students for academic work, with strong preference to work related to a specific for-credit project. Both can be up to $500 and you need a faculty sponsor. Career Development Grant can be used to offset any costs related to career preparation, job and internship search, and graduate/professional school applications including attire, travel, and test/application fees. Can apply more than once and get up to a total of $500. Internship Grant Fund (IGF) provides financial support to Vassar students who are participating in low-pay and unpaid summer internship 63 63


• • •

• • • •

opportunities. Applications are easy to fill out and accepted on a rolling basis. While there is no set cap, typical grants are $250-$2500. The Burnam Fellowship supports students doing hands-on summer projects with a non-profit or other community-based agency. Deadline is in February. Kaplan Test Prep Scholarship can cover the cost of test prep courses for juniors and seniors looking to apply to graduate school Good Neighbors Committee offers funds for Vassar students to work in partnership with local community organizations/individuals from Arlington and Poughkeepsie to support innovative ideas in the areas of: food systems, the environment, urban gardening, education, mental and physical health, housing, community organizing initiatives, and the arts. Email vassargoodneighbors@gmail.com. Critical Language Scholarship provides fully-funded group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences overseas for seven to ten weeks in the summer. Application deadline is November and available programs include Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Persian, Arabic and much more. There are lots of other funds available for summer experiences abroad, more specific areas of work and graduate school. Go to the Office for Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising and CDO to find out about all the potential opportunities to get money. Appeal your financial aid! They will often give you more and it’s always worth trying! When the VCash Machine, washer/dryer, copy machine, etc. steals your money complain to the card office and they’ll reimburse you. Email card@ vassar.edu. You may have luck if you just email certain deans and departments to request additional monetary support for events on campus and opportunities related to academics. Just ask! Log extra work study hours and make sure you get your full allotment

understanding vsa finance • • • •

We all contribute $350 in student activity fees to the college. The VSA manages those student activity fees meaning they have a total of ~$800,000 each year to distribute to student orgs and other campus programming. Specifically the Chair of Finance (VSA Exec position) and the VSA Finance Committee (composed of VSA members and students from the general body who apply to get on) oversee the distribution of the VSA budget There are two types of VSA funds: Entitled Funds (approx 80 percent of budget) that are pre-allocated to student organizations and to specific events at the end of every year and Discretionary Funds (around $150,000) that can be applied to and allocated throughout the year Student orgs can get a PCard, use checks, purchase orders, or fill out 64


• • •

reimbursement forms to access their budget. Always keep receipts and tax-exempt paperwork and try to track how much you’re spending. House Teams have huge VSA budgets with few limits on spending. Tap into this and make events political. Capital Funds can be accessed for purchasing non-disposable goods that last for three or more years for your organization Additional money for events (speakers, conferences, shows, panels, workshops, etc.) can be accessed through applying for Special Purpose Funds and meeting with the Finance Committee. You have to apply at least a few weeks beforehand and need to be ready to explain how money will be used and why it is necessary you can get thousands of dollars with relative ease. Read over the VSA Finance Guide to learn more about the different categories of funds and how to apply to them! There are often funds left over at the end of every year and tons of possibilities around where the money could go so don’t be afraid to constantly be applying! This level of resources is unavailable in most organizing spaces and we have an obligation to take advantage of it. Applying to funds and using workday and filling out contracts can be tedious/overwhelming at first but it’s well worth it once you figure out the

other/misc • • • • • • • • • • • •

Apply to become a campus rep/brand ambassador different companies and get free products and fun benefits for minimal work. Always take advantage of student discount for admissions, tickets, services etc. VCards don’t have class year on them so hang on to your ID after graduation! Work during breaks for extra money. Work study students are always given priority for job positions. Stock up on toilet paper for your TH/TA/Off-Campus House from school bathrooms You can get away with taking books from the library fairly easily. Try to report them missing after so they get restocked. Always check the library, free online PDFs and second hand retailers for cheaper/free alternatives before buying your books for the semester VCards give us free fare on the Dutchess County bus. There’s a stop right next to campus and you can travel to the train station, the mall, Bard, and a bunch of other places pretty easily. People give away tons of stuff at the end of every year! Take time to actually go through the piles and you’ll find lots of valuable items. Don’t feel bad asking ur wealthy friends for help when you need it! They don’t have any more of a right to their money than you Swap clothes, actually go the the Free Market in the Old Bookstore Vassar is a non-profit so be sure to let businesses/people know they can get tax receipts for donations to your organization Utilize Free & For Sale and Hudson Valley craigslist as much as possible 65 65


• • • • • •

Professors get lots of free VPrint and will often let you print with their account if you just ask There’s a whole Design Studio with Adobe Creative Cloud software in the library as well as VR Check out camera and audio equipment from Media Resources for free. You can also borrow chrome books, button makers, chargers, a zine kit, sewing supplies, kindles and more at the library. The darkroom is pretty cheap to use and you can get the fee waived if you have financial need Look out for emails about free shuttles into the city and reserve your spot fast Bike Shop in Strong will fix your bike for free/cheap and even sometimes give away bikes

push resources out!! • • • • •

• • • • • • • •

Get extra meals for your non-Vassar friends from the Express, Retreat, and Food Truck Offer to cover printing for local organizations Tip well with PCards Reserve spaces for outside groups to meet or host events on campus Apply for a large honorarium for speakers and performers you’re bringing, make sure you’re being smart about who you’re financing (don’t just bring well-established/already successful activists, academics or musicians) Share any and all the equipment we have (tents, button maker, editing software, tables, mics) Let non-VC folks use ur VCard to eat, check out books, get into buildings, access supplies Hold events off campus too and collaborate with people in Poughkeepsie Make all events you organize open to the public and whenever possible ask that security not be there You can’t directly donate VSA money but you can fundraise and tap into Vassar student’s rich networks to fund important local work (Nobody Leaves does a great job of this but others can too) Prioritize POC-owned and local businesses when getting catering or purchasing anything Offer to pay for a meal whenever you’re meeting with someone Get creative!! But don’t let “robin hood” style work replace real organizing. Remember that the revolution will not be funded and panel discussions aren’t going to liberate us. Exploiting and redistributing Vassar’s wealth is a crucial aspect of organizing in this resource-rich space but it can’t be seen as the way forward. We have to find ways to make ourselves threatening to the daily functioning of the institution and that probably isn’t going to come through funding applications alone. 66


some cool spots near campus :)) It’s incredibly easy to fall into a habit of never really venturing past Vassar’s walls or Arlington. But there’s tons of nice places and things to explore in the Hudson Valley. It can be imporant to remind yourself that Vassar isn’t your entire world by stepping foot off campus. Try just walking around Poughkeepsie, make an effort to find folks who have a car and learn how to navigate the Dutchess County bus system which we can ride for free. Here are a few of our favorite spots in the area to check out:

overlook drive-in theater 3 miles from vassar

Overlook theater is a family-owned drivein movie theater that has been open since 1955. It’s the closer of the two drive-ins near Poughkeepsie (the other, Hyde Park, is 7 miles north of campus and run by the same family). They have a full concessions stand, a digital film projector, and offer discounted tickets on Mondays and certain weeks. If you don’t have a car, you can bring a radio and a blanket and spread out in front of the screen. They are open 7 days a week.

dutchess rail trail

~4 miles from vassar

The Rail Trail is a 13.4 mile paved trail that runs from the Walkway over the Hudson through Poughkeepsie, LaGrange, Wappinger, and East Fishkill. It is relatively flat and at least ten feet wide in its entirety, and the area south of Diddell road is significantly softer for joggers. The rail trail follows the track of the former Maybrooke Rail Line (now defunct), and is a project primarily funded by the four towns it runs through. It’s a lovely area for a walk, or to take your bikes. We suggest planning so that you end on the Walkway Over the Hudson, especially at sunset. You can find more information at dutchessrailtrail.com. 67


roosevelt & vanderbilt houses 9.2 miles from vassar

The Roosevelt Mansion was the birthplace of Franklin D Roosevelt. It is situated right next to the Vanderbilt Mansion, one of the many Vanderbilt properties in New York. Both estates are collasal American Renaissance homes in a gorgeous area of the valley, with gardens, art collections, and historical tours available. While tours are expensive and probably not worth your time, you can wander around the beautiful properties or chill out on the expansive lawns for free.

storm king

20 miles from vassar Storm King is a 500-acre outdoor museum in Cornwall, NY. It’s close to an hour drive, so more of a day trip than the rest of the items on this list, but well worth the trip: it boasts over 130 sculptures in one of the most beautiful areas of the Hudson Valley. Artists include Mark di Suvero, David Smith, and Louise Bourgeois. A must for fans of ecological sculpture, earthworks, or contemporary sculpture. Tickets are $8 and a shuttle is available from the Beacon Metro North station.

poet’s walk park 24 miles from vassar

Poet’s Walk is an 800 acre park in Red Hook, NY created to celebrate the connection between poetry and landscape. Landscape architect Hans Jacob Ehlers designed the park in 1849 under the conceptual framework of “outdoor rooms” made of stone and foliage. There are two miles of walking trails, with benches and outdoor seating alone the way, and the Hudson River is easily visible for portions of the trail. Entrance is free. 68


have fun & take care In all, we love college. It’s an amazing place to study, socialize, and think and act critically. Campus is beautiful, our basic needs are mostly taken care of and there’s tons of incredible people, classes, and events. But we must resist the tendency to become complacent during our years here. We refer to the “Vassar Bubble” to describe the relationship between Vassar and Poughkeepsie, or perhaps simply the closed campus and small student body that create an enclosed feeling between students. Yet, we cannot be so naive to believe that everything that happens here remains within these walls. Nor that we’re “safe” from all that haunts our world. Our campus acts as a microcosm of the power dynamics at play nationally. Vassar’s existence is an unethical one and all sorts of shady stuff happens behind these walls. So just as our professors instruct us to apply a critical lens to various social institutions, we must also place Vassar within our analyses of racism, colonialism, capitalism, sexual violence etc. and take steps to make the college actually align with our values. This guide hopes to offer a more complete picture of the campus politics than the one that you all probably learned about during orientation week. It’s undoubtedly limited in what it offers, but we hope you got something from it. Over time the things we’re talking about in this guide will hopefully become more obvious to you all, and/or there will be other examples of Vassar implicating itself in the reproduction of racism, cisheteropatriarchy, and the settler colonial state. We can’t fear disorientation, instead, we embrace it and learn from it. We’re not sure the best way out of this, but we do know that the university is fucked and we must challenge our college and society at large. 69 69


Remember that Vassar administrators and trustees will not change our school, nor the world, for us. They have different goals, a different vision, and a fucked up understanding of the world. It’s time to turn away from the university, to refuse their “help,” to stop seeking their validation, and to mark them as the illegitimate actors they are. Instead, we need to turn to each other, to our friends, hall mates, campus workers, professors, and so many others who we should have been talking to all along. We need to find ways to support each other, improvise new strategies for disrupting corporate control and racist narratives about our peers and friends in Poughkeepsie, and fight for a different world. Adjusting to college life is overwhelming, uncomfortable, and confusing enough on its own. So many of us experience imposter syndrome and feelings of isolation in this space. We understand that asking you to familiarize yourself with all the problematic ways Vassar operates and the school’s disturbing history can be an added stressor on top of all this. But learning some of this information upfront and passing on institutional memory is critical to building a robust student movement. Just please know that you are not going through any of this alone and that there is a long history of Vassar students pushing back against the school and organizing together. Take your time, rely on each other, and step back when you need to. We can’t wait to fight for a better future with you all!! <3

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