Stories including Matthew's Mug

The Fine Details of a Vassar Experience

I’ve learned a great deal of important and weighty things in my time at Vassar, but that’s to be expected. What I find far more interesting is the astounding number of absolutely trivial facts I’ve learned about life, myself, living in a community and Vassar. Here are some of my favorites:

Birds will always start singing at 4 a.m., no matter how much work you have left to do.

I can probably walk from the TAs to Main with my eyes closed, but I don’t want to test it. The TA bridge is indestructible…maybe.

Somebody should wash the dishes in the sink, but not me because I didn’t use any of them.

Cell phones are not allowed near Raymond Avenue when construction crews are dynamiting it.

Bacio’s is the most successful thing to ever occupy that spot on Collegeview. Staying “open until whenever” is a good business policy.

New England Building makes incredible noises between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

The golfers will insist on sharing their golf games with you at 9 a.m. on a Saturday by talking with each other very loudly outside your window.

Meteor showers are incredible.

Meteor showers are more incredible when you can hear dozens of your classmates sitting on the same golf course as you – but you can’t see a single one of them.

Somebody will always find a way to break the sound system at Matthew’s Mug.

The Mug used to have mirrored ceilings, nice decorations, and a sunken dance floor.

If you have an afternoon to kill after classes, going on a prospective-student tour of Vassar is a baffling, enjoyable experience.

The storm drain in the Aula parking lot will collapse and form a sinkhole every year. The TA stair platforms will collapse and form asphalt moats/ankle traps every year.

Preparing to throw a party is the quickest way to get your house clean.

Throwing a party is the quickest way for your toilet to end up in multiple pieces.

Bathroom graffiti in the Library can range from inspiring song lyrics to helpful conversations, but usually it’s just drawings of penises.

Totes, belig and cray were big in ’08.

When someone asks you for your ID number and says “999″ for you, you will never be able to remember the rest.

Hypermediation, globalized, neoliberal, heteronormative and most other words that will be featured in a thesis or essay title above the 100 level are not recognized by Microsoft Word.

It is possible to cite yourself in a paper: you wrote enough about the topic last semester.

Pulling an all-nighter with the rest of your class every other week is both an excellent and terrible bonding experience.

Disco fries are never the right choice (except when they are).

Moodle is an acronym for “Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.”

Always send duplicate jobs to VPrint.

Always know the location of the nearest four VPrint stations from any point on campus, just in case.

The phrase “Cisco Systems Web Authentication Redirect” will be burned into your mind after one semester.

There are secret walking trails in the forest behind Sunset Lake.

The Farm Oversight Committee is a shadowy organization that only appears when you want to throw a rave on the Farm.

Chili Wednesday isn’t always on a Wednesday.

The Retreat used to serve alcohol. More recently, the Retreat also used to serve energy drinks.

There are hidden staircases in the Library. Try to find all seven!

For my fellow outgoing seniors, I hope this trivia brings back fond memories of some of the wonderful quirks of Vassar. For those still attending, learn these well and add your own. Use your spare time to find places on campus you never knew existed. Enjoy every square inch.

Paul Noonan ’10 was the president of Vassar Teknowledgy (VT) and a member of The Limit sketch comedy troupe.

The (Non-Academic) Value of a Vassar Education

When I first arrived at Vassar in August of 2006, I felt certain that my primary focus in college should be on academics. After all, why did we come here other than to get the best education possible? I had no interest in running for student government, becoming a leader in any extracurricular group or even getting a campus job. I knew my parents were spending $200,000 to put me through college, and they rightfully expected me to concentrate on school.

What I’ve learned during my time here, however, is that academics represent but one component-albeit an important one-of a Vassar education. Other important pieces of the puzzle include things I’m quite proud of, like growing as a person and getting involved with worthwhile causes, and things I’m a little less proud of, like dancing at Matthew’s Mug until 2 a.m. and going home to eat an entire Napoli’s pizza by myself. (Note to underclassmen: Eating a whole pizza in the middle of the night by yourself is a bad idea.)

Yet perhaps most importantly, my Vassar education has taught me that my ability to make a difference in the world and in people’s lives is limitless.

For me, this realization came after I discovered a group called ACT OUT during my freshman year. The organization, still in its infancy, was composed of several young political activists seeking to end LGBTQ discrimination. That year I participated in two sit-ins at the New York City military recruitment center to protest “don’t ask don’t tell.” At the second sit-in, six Vassar students told the recruiters that they wouldn’t leave until Curt Peterson, an openly gay man, could enlist in the military. They were arrested for engaging in this courageous act of civil disobedience. I was immediately hooked.

I had never intended to seek an official leadership position in the group. But in the spring of my junior year I went to Washington, D.C. to intern with the Human Rights Campaign, and for the first time I felt like I could do anything. After returning to Vassar, I channeled all of my energy into being president of ACT OUT. As it turns out, we really could do anything. With the help of my amazing co-president and our dedicated Executive Board members, ACT OUT chartered two buses and brought over 100 students to the National Equality March last fall. We raised $600 for a LGBTQ homeless youth shelter in New York City. We attended a marriage equality rally in New Paltz. We single-handedly planned and organized a Congressional Lobby Day to support three pieces of federal legislation. And, most impressively to me, we convinced two members of Congress to co-sponsor a bill that would help prevent anti-LGBTQ bullying in public schools. We had indeed made a difference in the world, regardless of how small that difference might be.

Without diminishing the importance of schoolwork, I would say that the best advice I have for students is to take an active role in Vassar’s non-academic student life. During these four years, we are given almost entirely free reign in our extracurricular activities. We have the opportunity to work with low-income children in local schools, to support social and political issues we care deeply about, to help get-out-the-vote in Poughkeepsie during election years, to food-drive for local homeless shelters and to do any number of other things that suit our interests. To all students, I urge you to join an organization. Get involved with its leadership. Brainstorm new ideas. You’ll be surprised with what you’re able to accomplish during your time here.

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