Danielle Jerry '72
I have two favorite memories. One reflects strongly on the type of women attracted to Vassar and the other is more personal.
1. The student strike against the Vietnam War. I should preface this by stating I was at Vassar from 1968 to 1972, entering college the fall after the assassination of Robert Kennedy during the Johnson presidency, and finishing my last 3 years with Nixon as president. College campuses across the country were involved in political protest at the national and regional level. Vassar students chartered at least 2 bus trips (e.g., I participated in 2 trips) to Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War. In May 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed 4 students and wounded 9 others in a barrage of gun fire at Kent State University during a protest against Nixon's expansion of the war into Cambodia. A national Student Strike was called and students in campuses across the country had to decide whether to join the Strike or not. At Vassar, it was decided that students would vote to join the strike by Department. So, we interested History majors met on the lawn of Swift on a beautiful sunny day. There were probably 20 - 30 students, overwhelmingly women, because Vassar at this stage, I believe, had only admitted male transfer students. We were having a discussion about the Strike, when a college-age man stood up and started urging us vehemently to strike. As a sophomore I was trying to figure out if I had ever seen him before, when an older classmate (I wish I knew who it was) rose asking him tensely who he was and where he came from. He stopped awkwardly and responded that he was from Williams; at which point, she lashed into him stating that we were Vassar women and perfectly capable of making our own decisions without any help from men from Williams or anywhere else. The rest of us cheered and he walked away. We voted to strike.
2. Nobel Prize awarded to Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1970. I was taking Russian History as a sophomore. I considered myself an average Vassar student and certainly was not the best history major in the class. Nonetheless, after it was announced that Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel prize, our professor asked who in the class had read any of his books. One girl mentioned that she had read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a wonderful, but short description of his experiences in the labor camps. I said that I had read 3 of his books, One Day, First Circle and Cancer Ward. She immediately scolded the rest of the class telling them a good education required more reading and interest in current events than just classroom assignments. For the rest of the class we had a 3-way discussion about the Solzhenitsyn books. The rest of the class sat mutely. I remember this incident vividly because I had never been singled out for any particular reason, and because it struck me that her continued interest in my thoughts for the rest of the semester was based on who I was (i.e., a curious reader), rather than a student focused on required class work.
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