Hello from Vassar! What was once considered a place of political activism and a breeding ground for social change has turned into a place where students bicker and insult each other through the relative anonymity of the internet. When I was a sophomore, an anonymous message board was set up, and instead of it being a place for thoughtful discussion in a name-free environment (which is what this message board had become at other colleges), it turned into a place to insult other students and spread vicious rumors. After it was inevitably shut down, there was much complaining about “censorship,” In my college career, I’ve seen many controversies brew and diffuse, but too often the manner in which my fellow students behave is petty and childish. I suppose no such claim can be made without examples.
1. Kick Coke: Last fall, a movement began on the Vassar campus, as it did on many other college campuses. The movement called for the removal of Coca-Cola beverages from the dining halls and campus bookstore, due to concerns about the mistreatment of employees in South America. After much publicity, the matter was brought to a vote. After the VSA council (Vassar Student Association) voted to, in fact, kick Coke, the campus exploded. Over 200 comments were posted (mostly anonousmly) on the unofficial campus blog Madsvassarblog.com. Here are some selections
“Wow, I can’t believe I came to school filled with disgusting people like you guys.. it’s def. time for me to get out of here”
“CAN’T YOU ALL HEAR HOW APATHETIC, LAZY, AND SELFISH YOU SOUND?”
“In other words, stop being a pretentious self-righteous ass.”
“I mean, talk about rich, entitled elitist assholes, this moral crusade doesn’t really take into account those (poor) people who could lose jobs because of this.”
Some people may have made valid points, but they were over-powered by the masses. But this behavior was not confined to the internet. MICA, the Moderate, Independent, and Conservative Alliance, decided to not let the controversy die and set up a table in the College Center and handed out free cans of Coca-Cola products. Again, somewhat valid point, but a really obnoxious way to show it.
2. MICA and the 2008 election: This is a short one, but right before the Presidential election last fall, an email was sent out to the Vassar campus. It reminded us to not yell at, spit at, or verbally harass the members of MICA tabling in the College Center with information about the non-Obama candidate. I laughed for about a second and the realized how horrible it was that this email was necessary. In the next few weeks, I heard a rumor that the behavior that prompted the email came from not only students, but professors. I have no idea if this rumor was true, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
3. The removal of “The Backpage” from the Miscellany News: It was recently announced that the campus newspaper, The Miscellany News, would be discontinuing the “humor” section of the paper, called “The Backpage.” While sometimes funny, it often bordered on offensive. It was filled with inside jokes and gratuitous references to sex, drinking, and drug use–All things I have no problem with, but things that I feel might not be the things we should be including in a publication we show to parents and prospective students. After it was announced, Mads Vassar was flooded with comments, many of which personally attacked the former Editor-in-Chief of The Misc.
[Former EIC] and [Current EIC] are horrible people who wouldn’t know humor or journalism if it somehow managed to pull the gigantic stick that perpetually sits in their ass out.
And, perhaps as an example of the content of “The Backpage,” the final editorial from last spring. The words that appear in bold were censored from the final publication. (Quoted from Mads Vassar)
“Politically incorrect humor on Vassar’s camps is like lesbian sex in a nunnery: everyone’s doing it, but they’re praying to Jesus that the public doesn’t find out.”
In the final version, “genocide” became “tragedies.”
There have also been many examples of when wide-spread discussions have led to positive results, like student opposition to the budget-based firings of campus employees. But too often we revert to pot shots and below the belt jabs. But I am also fully expecting to have some commenter on Mads Vassar refer to me as something not appropriate to post on this family blog.