March 28, 2024 Issue

Vassar College's student newspaper of record since 1866

Volume 161 | Issue 7 | March 28, 2024 |

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160th Commencement Speaker Emily Mortimer talks acting, humanity

MARYAM BACCHUS, CHARLOTTE ROBERTSONOver the course of her career, British actress and filmmaker Emily Mortimer has starred in numerous film and television productions, including “The Bookshop,” “Relic” and HBO’s “The Newsroom,” also appearing in childhood favorites such as “The Pink Panther,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and the English-dubbed “Howl’s Moving Castle.” In 2003, she won an Independent Spirit Award for her performance as Elizabeth Marks in “Lovely and Amazing.” In 2022, she was nominated for a BAFTA award for her work as a supporting actress in “The Pursuit of Love,” a miniseries she also wrote and directed. She will portray Mrs. Brown in the upcoming “Paddington in Peru” movie. Yet, she describes herself as a work in progress. 

Image courtesy of Peter Ash Lee.

VSA general election names next student body president

SARAH MCNEIL | The results of the Vassar Student Association’s (VSA) spring election were released prior to Spring Break, naming the legislative, judicial and executive members of next year’s administration. The election results were announced at 5 p.m. in the Old College Bookstore on Feb. 29 and covered a total of 26 VSA positions, notably including the roles of VSA president and vice president. Emily Doucet ’25 will serve as the VSA President for the 2024/25 school year alongside Vice President Miles Harris ’25. 

Image couresty of Emily Doucet '25 and Miles Harris '25.

College faces obstacles in decarbonization effort

SASHINKA POOR, SUFANA NOORWEZ | Professor Alex Barron from Smith College will give a talk on U.S. college efforts to reduce carbon emissions on Monday, April 1. Vassar College has made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030, meaning it will not produce more carbon dioxide than it removes from the atmosphere. The College is currently creating a Climate Action Plan for 2025, building on previous ones from 2020. A number of initiatives have been established since then to reach this goal, but obstacles in the legitimacy and cost of these plans have prevented expected progress.

Guest speaker Beverly Gage uncovers the real G-man

Image courtesy of WikiCommons.

EMMA BROWN | Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Yale University professor Beverly Gage spoke about the creation and content of her recent book, “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” to students and faculty on March 20.

The biography of the former director of the FBI was lauded with the Pulitzer Prize for biographies in 2023, in addition to landing a spot on The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Washington Post’s “Best Books of 2022” lists. 

“G-Man,” the culmination of 12 years of dedicated research and writing, covers J. Edgar Hoover’s life and career, including a detailed account of his rise to power and ideological influences. According to The Atlantic, the 800-page book makes use of new information that was released under the Freedom of Information Act. 


New spoken word albums contemplate political pasts and futures

JESSE KOBLIN | There is an extensive tradition of vocalists who make innovative music with strong political content, going back to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” recorded in 1939 to vocalize the trauma of racist lynchings and legally-sanctioned injustice against Black Americans. The tradition of political consciousness and unconventional song structure embodied by Holiday, Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron and others continues unabated with three new album releases: Moor Mother’s “The Great Bailout,” Amirtha Kidambi’s “New Monuments” and Annie Chen’s “Guardians.” These 2024 albums, otherwise radically divergent in their sonic influences, share a political awareness that demands immediate change, embody aesthetics drawn from a personal connection to folkloric forms and project an innovative spirit that shatters musical expectations. All three albums are worth your time and attention.

Image courtesy of Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, via Wikimedia Commons.

Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon hosts screening of ‘The Seventh Seal’

ALLEN HALE | Last Thursday, I attended a screening of “The Seventh Seal” for PHIL 294: “Film & Philosophy: Ingmar Bergman” at the historic Bardavon Opera House in downtown Poughkeepsie. The six-week intensive course is taught by Associate Professor of Philosophy Christopher Raymond and introduces the philosophy of film through an analysis of Bergman’s thought-provoking work as an auteur. Our class schedule happened to coincide with the Bardavon’s free screening of Bergman’s highly-acclaimed film, making for a serendipitous outing. I hopped in a car driven by Philosophy Department Intern Catherine Borthwick ’24 [Disclaimer: Borthwick is Live Events Chair of The Miscellany News]. We traversed through hilly neighborhoods unfamiliar to myself, containing a handful of vibrantly colored homes. Upon reaching a crosswalk, we stopped so my friend and classmate Jesse Koblin ’25 [Disclaimer: Koblin is Arts Editor of The Miscellany News] could pass; in true New Yorker fashion, they elected to walk to the Bardavon. We arrived downtown and circled the area a few times, discouraged from using the garage due to $20 event parking for a convention happening across the street. After finding a conspicuous lot, a man on the street assured us of its legality despite conflicting messages from nearby placards. The Bardavon’s old-timey sign and facade were lit up, glowing amid a quiet, post-industrial backdrop. We entered and took our seats, watching live organ music before the film began.

'Dune: Part Two' delivers a modern sci-fi epic

Karen Mogami/The Miscellany News.

BEN KAPLAN | At the risk of over exaggerating, director Denis Villeneuve has set a new standard for the modern action blockbuster with his grand vision contained in “Dune: Part Two.” Once considered a nerdy franchise in light of Frank Herbert’s original drug-addled “Dune” novels and a few older attempts at adapting the space opera to the screen, “Dune” returned in 2021 to some fanfare. Now it is a roar whose echo will hopefully bring adequate expectations for the rest of Hollywood, demonstrating that grandiose, human stories are as valuable as the spice found in the dunes of Arrakis. 

Yoko Ono's artistic career is celebrated at the Tate Modern

BEN RICHARDSON | Over this past Spring Break, I was enjoying spending time with family in London and had made plans to check out the Tate Modern, London’s premier modern art gallery. To my surprise, while researching what the Tate had to offer, I learned that the gallery was holding a special exhibition: “Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind.” This could not have come at a more opportune time; I had decided a few weeks prior that my final paper topic for ART 364: “Marcel Duchamp Underground” would be about Yoko Ono’s artistic practice in relation to the work of Marcel Duchamp.  


New at VAG: a conversation with the latest VAG executive members

Image courtesy of Molly Ardren '.

YAKSHA GUMMADAPU | VAG has a new studio. VAG has new members. VAG has a new exhibit covering the familiar walls of Gordon Commons. So what is VAG and what does all this newness mean? I got lunch with Molly Ardren ’25 and Octavia Cordes ’26 at a tiny table in Vassar Artist Group’s (VAG) deliberately chosen exhibition space to ask them about their novel roles as executive members of VAG. Much like most of the student body, VAG’s first show introduced Ardren and Cordes to the organization. In fact, Ardren was one of the artists whose work was displayed, which led to her forming friendships with the three founders, Gracie Chang ’26, Leo Valenti ’26 and Phineas Cashman ’26. As someone who has spent hours coloring and writing in VAG’s new studio, Room 19 in the Blodgett Hall basement, I wanted to ask what the vision for the space was. “The goal of the new studio space is just to make art more accessible at Vassar. To really, like, have access to art supplies here, you have to be like a major or correlate. To even take any art classes you have to take a full year Drawing I class, which understandably kind of turns a lot of people away,” Ardren explained. This accessibility issue is something VAG resolves by offering any studio visitors free materials and a space to make art that does not have to be “academic” or “perfect.” 

Public library reinvigorates love for reading

Image courtesy of picryl.

JYOTSNA NAIDU | Many of us first explored reading through the library. Between storytimes, summer reading competitions and the thrill of finally getting your own library card, reading became an adventure rather than a school-regulated chore. But now, as a humanities undergraduate with only three days of classes per week, the majority of my days are reluctantly spent reading in the on-campus Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library. While I love the Thompson Library, I needed to branch out. In order to continue finding joy in reading, I ventured to local libraries. I hoped to discover if the library’s physical nature would hold its emotional resonance years later, and also find a new study spot.


Hold that thought: Reasons for having a bed cup holder

CASSANDRA BROOK | This weekend, as I was doing totally normal activities for an 18-year-old on a Saturday night (fake shopping for mattresses in a Raymour and Flanigan), I noticed something I’d never seen before: a cup holder in a bed frame. When I saw the indentations of those gloomy gray disc-shaped holes, I went into a complete state of shock. I just couldn’t possibly comprehend why anyone would put a cup holder in a bed. I mean, I’ve seen the usual cup holder locations—cars, movie theaters, that one floatie that’s two seconds away from tipping over and ruining an aspiring micro-influencer’s TikTok—but a bed, never. So, naturally, I began pondering reasons why someone would need a cup holder in their bed. And, well, I’m no genius, but, not to toot my own horn, I’m pretty sure the reasons I came up with are near perfect. So, here they are.

Students remain unconvinced Blodgett Hall not a maze

Image courtesy of Benjamin Savel '26.

BENJAMIN SAVEL | On Tuesday, Vassar’s Dean of Strategic Maze Operations, Riddle Mee Kohnfusing, announced that despite ongoing rumors, Blodgett Hall was never intended to be a maze. This prompted swift replies from hundreds of students searching for answers as to what exactly the intended purpose of Blodgett Hall was.

Once students enter Blodgett, they will soon realize that the laws of time and space become subtly distorted. On the third floor of the building, each section of the hallway is at a different elevation, meaning students need to climb several flights of stairs if they want to stay on the same floor. “I don’t know what Kohnfusing is talking about. No building I’ve ever been in has had three floors on the same floor,” student Adam Veir E. Lohost ’25 stated.

20 years on: Remembering Franklin House

Nicholas Tillinghast/The Miscellany News.

OLIVER STEWART | It may seem hard to believe, but this week marks 20 years since the tragic destruction of Franklin House, the dormitory building which stood on Vassar’s campus across from Noyes for nearly half a century. The building—a mirror image of Noyes, and similarly designed by the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen—burned down in the evening of Sunday, March 21, 2004. Thankfully, no lives were lost, but the estimated property damage costs ran into the tens of millions, and dozens of students were rehoused in the basement of Josselyn House for the remainder of the school year.

What the tour guides won't say about Vassar

Nicholas Tillinghast/The Miscellany News.

NICHOLAS TILLINGHAST | Tour season is in full swing right now, which means hordes of high schoolers are flocking to campus to try to understand whether Vassar is hot or not. I never actually toured Vassar when I applied, so my understanding of how Vassar tours work is limited. But I’ve picked up quite a bit about this school from eavesdropping, and it’s not great. 

Last week, I overheard one tour guide call the Retreat an “eight or a nine out of ten” dining spot on campus, which is patently false. The tour guide could have easily followed up “It’s an eight or nine out of ten” with, “They just started serving hot food for the first time in eight months.” Calling the Retreat a nine feels like the most disingenuous statement anyone has ever said about anything on this campus. Selling Vassar is one thing; straight-up lying about it is another.


Senior reflects on community and Vassar and trees

KARUN KRISHNAMURTHY | ​​A little precursor for you, dear reader—this is not an opinion piece as much as it is an existential senior-trying-to-grapple-with-the-reality-of-being-a-Vassar-student rambling piece. Let us begin with trees (so many things do anyway (like peaches!)). 

There is a division between ideology- and party-based voting

SOREN FISCHER | A two-party system defines United States politics. While third parties do exist in direct opposition to the Republican and Democratic parties’ general platform, they are mostly relevant during presidential elections. However, not even then are they remotely viable options because of the two major parties’ duopoly and the historical precedent of voting. The two-party system presents a significant barrier to a diverse ideological representation in government and a meaningful choice for voters.


This is March: Unpacking the first two rounds of March Madness this year

HENRY FRANCE | Every year in late March, the top 64 Division I men’s basketball teams compete in a three-week-long, single-elimination, bracket-style tournament, which crowns one team a national champion. The bracket is divided into four regions—East, West, South and Midwest—and a couple days before the first round of the tournament, the NCAA selection committee releases the selected teams for the tournament, along with their seeding. Last Thursday and Friday, the first round of the tournament took place, knocking out half of the squads hopeful to reach Saturday and Sunday, when the second round narrowed the field down to a Sweet 16—the informal title of the third round with 16 remaining teams. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) came into the tournament with high expectations, but the conference only has two of their eight qualifying teams still standing. On the other hand, the Athletic Coast Conference (ACC) and Big East will have a combined seven teams in the Sweet 16—a historically impressive number for the conferences, especially for the ACC whose teams are overall 8-1 with four teams in the Sweet 16. 

Brewers Ballin’: McCusker garners Liberty League Honors

NICK VILLAMIL, CARIS LEE | “A quote that I love is ‘no rain, no flowers.’ One of my favorite professional women’s tennis players, Marketa Vondrousova has that quote tattooed on her arm, which inspired me to get it tattooed as well. This quote is so simple, but its meaning is very powerful to me. Sometimes the good times cannot come without the bad times and we must persevere. Not only can I reside with this quote in my everyday life, but it especially means a lot to me in regards to my sport. Tennis is a sport with no clock, so even if you start poorly, you can still come back no matter what, and this season especially I have had to have that mentality.”

Image courtesy of Erin McCusker '26.


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