StudentsReview :: Vassar College
Search for Schools by Region

or within distance of city

Similar Schools
Brown University -- Providence, RI
New York University -- New York, NY
George Washington University -- District of Columbia, DC

  Who's got the Best?

Perceptual Rankings:
You Make 'Em.
We Post 'Em.
You Vote 'Em Up.
You Vote 'Em Down.
Aww yeah.

Vassar College

Vassar Campus News

Penetrating Questions | What's the difference between HIV and AIDS?
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Jiná Ashline Columnist
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS? I’m embarrassed to ask because I feel like everyone knows this but me. With all the new drugs available now, do I even have to worry about getting them?
Dear Uncertain,
Don’t be embarrassed; many people don’t fully understand the difference or the associated issues.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that breaks down a person’s immune system over many years and eventually causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and susceptibilities to other diseases. AIDS patients are particularly prone to rare diseases such as Karposi’s Sarcoma and rare forms of pneumonia. Before drug treatments became available, HIV developed into AIDS within about 10 years, but powerful anti-retroviral therapies developed in the last 15 years can slow HIV’s progress by changing the way that he body recognizes and attacks the virus. These therapies can prevent or cure some illnesses associated with AIDS, but neither HIV nor AIDS has a cure or a vaccine.
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, sexual fluids (semen, pre-ejaculate and vaginal fluid) and breast milk. Transmission can occur if these fluids enter the bloodstream. The disease can be passed during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person; through sharing a needle during intravenous drug use with an infected person; or from an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding.
There are few symptoms that accompany HIV before it causes AIDS, so if you don’t get tested regularly, you could be infected with HIV for years without knowing, putting both yourself and partners at risk. If symptoms appear at all, they usually take several years to manifest. Even without symptoms, however, the virus causes serious damage to the immune system.
When the AIDS epidemic began in the United States in the early 1980s, the virus was not well understood. There was no effective treatment, and it primarily affected gay men. Today, many mistakenly believe that HIV/AIDS is no longer a major concern. I once encountered a doctor who said that AIDS is not a concern because it is “a chronic and manageable disease like diabetes.” I later came across the same statement in a human sexuality textbook. I cannot overemphasize how dangerous such false assurances can be.
First, claiming that AIDS is a manageable disease encourages an apathetic view toward HIV/AIDS education and information about prevention. People lower their guard and fail to use protection to prevent infection. An HIV-positive status no longer results in an immediate death sentence like it did in the 1980s, but there still is no cure for AIDS.
Secondly, HIV is only manageable if you have enough money for a decent doctor and extremely expensive drugs. If you can access treatment, several drugs are needed, depending on the strain of the virus and what stage it has reached. Drug therapies often combine four or more HIV medications, and each drug can cost anywhere between $300 and $1000, or more, per month. The drugs must be taken for the rest of your life, and may need to be switched if your strain of the virus develops resistance to them; you may also have to increase dosages as the disease progresses. Even if you’re wealthy and lucky enough to find the right doctor and the right combination of drugs, the treatment can only delay the onset of AIDS. It cannot prevent it.
Numerous factors determine how “manageable” the infection is, and getting access to drugs for treatment is only one factor among many. Each HIV/AIDS drug causes different side effects and has different levels of efficacy for different people. Once you find the appropriate “drug cocktail,” you must schedule your life around it. HIV/AIDS patients take dozens of pills every day, some of which must be taken in the morning, some at night, some on a full stomach, some on an empty one and some spaced hours apart. You also must deal with the social reaction to your infection because of the stigma and shame that still surrounds this disease.
According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), an estimated 33.2 million people were living with HIV in 2007. Two-and-a-half million were newly infected, and 2.1 million died of AIDS. Each day worldwide, there is an average of 6,800 new infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) an estimated 850,000-950,000 people were living with HIV in 2000 in the United States, and about one-fourth didn’t know they were infected. That’s a quarter of a million people unknowingly walking around with HIV.
According to CDC analysis of HIV diagnosis in the United States, 49 percent of people diagnosed in 2006 were black, 30 percent were white and 18 percent were Latino. People aged 25-44 constituted 57 percent of new diagnoses. Fifty percent of the total number of transmissions came from men who have sex with men, and 46 percent came from exposure through heterosexual sex or injection drug use. Males accounted for 73 percent of all new HIV diagnoses, while 80 percent of females were infected through heterosexual sex.
HIV does not discriminate. Anyone can become infected. You cannot tell if a person has the virus simply by looking at him or her, but there are certain behaviors that increase risk. Unprotected sex and sharing needles are both high-risk activities. It is never a good idea to combine drugs and alcohol with sex because you may do something you’ll regret later, like not using protection—a mistake that could have lifelong consequences. Staying uninfected requires understanding the risks and learning how to reduce them. Make personal decisions about what you are willing to do during sex and communicate them clearly to your partner before you take your clothes off.
The best ways to stay protected are abstinence or exclusively having protected sex with a long-term mutually monogamous partner who is not infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). As with any STI, birth control pills do not protect against HIV. Latex condoms and dental dams are the only effective barriers against infection. A study of HIV-negative individuals in sexual relationships with HIV-positive partners concluded that latex condoms used correctly with every sex act were 98-100 percent effective at preventing the HIV negative partner from contracting the virus.
If you are sexually active, you should be tested regularly for STIs. Insist that each new partner be tested. If he or she is unwilling, you should consider whether sex with him or her is worth the risk.
Standard tests look for HIV antibodies that the immune system produces to fight HIV. It can take up to three months for the body to make enough antibodies to show up on a test. So if an infected person tests too soon after exposure, the test may not detect the virus, but the person can still infect others.
Today, there are several types of HIV tests that can be taken at home or in a doctor’s office, testing urine, blood or saliva. In many places, confidential and anonymous HIV counseling and testing are available, including the Dutchess County Department of Health walk-in clinic on Mondays from 1-4:30 p.m., Thursdays from 3-4 p.m. and Thursday evenings by appointment. Call (845) 486-3401 or visit 387 Main Street in Poughkeepsie for more information or to schedule an appointment.
There is more information on HIV/AIDS than I can cover here, and new information is always coming out. I urge you to become informed so you can make healthy choices. Accurate information is available on the Web sites of the Center for Disease Control (, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (, the American Social Health Association (, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( and UNAIDS (
—Jiná Ashline ’08 is a religion major with a women’s studies correlate. She is also president of C.H.O.I.C.E. Each week she will answer a question about sex and sexuality. Send your questions to or by dropping a note in Box 2172.”

Weekly Spotlight | What were all those one-in-four shirts about?
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Chelsea Mitamura Staff Writer
On Tuesday, April 22, students wearing bright yellow “1 in 4” t-shirts dotted Vassar’s campus, prompting many a bewildered stare. The “1 in 4” t-shirts represent the one in four college women who report being victims of rape or attempted rape. Students wore them as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness (SAA) Week, a week of events that highlights sexual and emotional abuse that is co-sponsored by Counseling and Assistance in Response to Rape and Exploitive Sexual Activity (CARES) and Sexual Assault Violence Prevention (SAVP). The week began April 20 and will end April 25.
CARES is an on-campus, student-run, peer-listening service for anyone in need of confidential conversation or resource assistance. SAVP is a program run out of Metcalf that, according to its Web site, “coordinates student and faculty interests around issues of sexual assault, stalking and violence in order to increase awareness of issues of violence against women, establish new campus-wide policies, protocols around these issues and work with campus and community resources to prevent further incidences of violence.”
These two organizations also have other events planned for SAA Week. Two males-only discussions will also be held this week to discuss ways in which men can get involved in domestic violence and rape prevention. “This year is our first year with the men’s discussion groups,” said CARES member Sarah Bane ’10. It’s a common misconception that men are not raped, yet three percent of college men report being victims.
“There’s also a film screening of Boys Don’t Cry that CARES is co-sponsoring with the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC) and the Women’s Center. Plus CARES study breaks,” explained Katherine Fussner ’09.
According to the non-profit “1-4”’s Sexual Assault Statistics, up to 84 percent of rape survivors knew their attacker prior to the incident. One in five high school students had experienced forced sex, and 20 percent of men admit that they have been so sexually aroused that even if a woman did not consent to sex, they would go through with the act regardless.
CARES aspires to change these statistics and provide a means through which people can feel comfortable talking about their experiences. In addition to SAA Week, CARES is currently running a flier program entitled “Is This Okay?” The fliers portray people being touched against their will and, according to Fussner, are meant to convey the message that “Your body is your own; you should always have the right to say what kind of contact is O.K. and what is not.” The fliers aim to make people aware of the boundaries of comfort between acceptable touching and unacceptable touching.
CARES runs workshops at Arlington High School on dating violence. The group is also hoping to incorporate permanent pink folders in random bathroom stalls to consistently fill with CARES handouts and information.
“We’re always evolving and working on ways to gain awareness. We just want people to constantly see the name,” said Abby Alexanian ’11.
She went on to explain, “A lot of people know of [CARES] but do not feel comfortable calling. People shouldn’t hesitate to call if they’re in an uncomfortable situation. If it feels like a big deal, then it is a big deal.”
In the past 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey reported that only around 30 percent of rape survivors tell the police. Other organizations estimate that the percentage could be as low as five percent.
CARES members urged anyone concerned for themselves or friends to pick up the phone. The 18-person group covers all issues from dating violence to emotional abuse, and runs 24 hours a day seven days a week. Members are all trained by the same process and are responsible for taking the calls on a rotating basis.
In such an emotionally charged atmosphere, group members often offer support not only to callers, but also to each other. CARES is non-hierarchical, so every member has an equal say in making decisions and determining policies. The group also often discusses personal issues of all natures and is constantly available to the community and to one another.
“We ‘CARES’ each other!” said Alexanian. The group uses the verb “to CARES” as a way of describing non-judgmental, sincere listening. “Everyone is really there for each other because it’s also hard to be on the listening end. It’s great to have such a genuinely concerned group of people,” she said.
To contact the service, Vassar students need only dial extension 7333 and ask for a CARES counselor. The counselor on-call will be paged and return the call as soon as possible.”

Vassar student engages in insightful papal visit
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Pope Benedict XVI visted Youth Rally in Yonkers, N.Y. on April 19. Some Vassar students who made the trip were able to meet the Pope himself at the stage ceremony.
Photo courtesy of New York Post
Rachel Wetz Guest Writer
Just two days after submitting my senior thesis on the scholarship of Pope Benedict XVI, I had the incredible honor and privilege of meeting the Pope himself onstage at the Youth Rally on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y on April 19. I took part in the beginning of the stage ceremony as a representative of Eastern European peoples during a tribute to the diversity of our country’s ethnic backgrounds.
It was a tremendous opportunity for me as a Catholic, but it was even more meaningful because the Holy Father’s philosophical thought has been integral to my intellectual engagement of my faith. I have spent a great deal of time trying to unpack the Catholic conception of faith and reason in his scholarship. Instead of a denial of reason itself, the Church teaches that both reason and faith interplay in a complementary relationship. This event held tremendous meaning for me as a student of theology and as a member of the Church because the substance of my reflections center around what the Pope says to the modern world.
I was particularly interested to hear what the touchstones of the Pope’s speech would be when he addressed the crowd. His carefully crafted speech dovetailed nicely off the themes he had laid before the United Nations the previous day on April 18, speaking to the consonant relationship of faith and reason. He articulated the nature of freedom and its sinister enemies: racism, poverty and those things that betray the integrity of human life. Without his usual professorial tone, he recounted his own youth under the Nazi regime, the first time he has done so publicly after his election as pontiff. The ideology of Nazism, he said, “banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good.” He then named a second predator of authentic freedom: a moral relativism that distorts the truth and gives value to everything indiscriminately.
This is his hallmark challenge to modernity. Whereas “traditional” cultures have understood freedom as the active pursuit of goodness, relativistic societies reduce freedom to “license.” This in turn prevents societies from coming to a notion of the common good and leaves them merely struggling to balance individual preferences. To disrupt the cohesion of faith and reason construes freedom as license, pleasure-seeking and an untutored exercise of the will.
Benedict believes that authentic freedom is not self-serving but rather seeks the good above all else. Truth, then, is not an imposition, he says, but rather a privileged path to freedom.
On the whole, that Saturday was particularly moving, not only because I was able to meet Pope Benedict, but also because I was in solidarity with the 25,000 other people present.
Because of his visit to the United States, many have been given the opportunity to encounter the pope in a way they may have not been able to otherwise. His shy and sincere personality revealed a more complex figure than his reputation as a scholastic hard-liner would expose.
I am certain that the Pope’s journey to the United States has given those watching a more concise picture of the man and his message, and perhaps now we will lean in closer to engage the substance of that message. Pope Benedict XVI’s visit was as much an opportunity for him to encounter us as it was an opportunity for us to encounter him.”

“Godot” arrives at Vassar for his 60th anniversary
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Michael Hirsch ’11 directs “Godot” cast into the woods.
J. Carlton The Miscellany
Gülfem Demiray Assistant Arts Editor
A boy rushes into the scene and timidly utters the words, “Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won’t come this evening but surely tomorrow.”
To Vladimir’s mental anguish and Estragon’s despair, Mr. Godot never arrives on the stage, but his mere nominality has brought incredible fame to the Irish writer, poet and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature Samuel Beckett, whose works incorporate universal themes in a peculiar, minimalist style.
Sixty years after the play’s premiere in a tiny theater in Paris, Unbound is presenting “Waiting for Godot” on Friday, May 2, Sunday, May 4, and Monday, May 5, at 7 p.m. in the Outdoor Amphitheater, located in the field behind Sanders Classroom. The play is Unbound’s final production of the year. Famously summarized as “a play in which nothing happens twice” by the Irish literary critic Vivien Mercier, “Waiting for Godot” deals with issues such as death, the meaning of human existence and God’s possible place within it. The play centers around two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, as they wait on a country road by a tree for two days and anticipate Godot’s arrival.
Directed by Michael Hirsch ’11 and Andréa Banks ’11, Unbound’s production of the play will present an incomprehensible world through black humor that touches upon delicate religious, philosophical, classical, psychoanalytical and wartime allusions.
Since the play consists mostly of dialogue, the cast worked on character building before they started studying the text. Jesse Levistky ’10, whose character stays mute for most of the play, said he particularly liked these improvisational character building exercises because they taught him to stay silent on stage for long periods of time.
“Godot” was the first time that either Hirsch or Banks directed a play. Hirsch, who has been involved in theater all his life, admitted that he was initially intimidated by the directing process.
“Luckily, I have had excellent superiors, and I quickly learned so many things from them,” he said.
Hirsch and Banks had difficulties when the two actors originally cast in the lead roles left. It was hard for the directors and the cast to keep up with production until new actors were found. Banks, who thinks the new actors fit their characters perfectly, said, “It was a time of panic, but I think it’s fine now.”
Hirsch agreed with Banks. “The dynamic of the group is a lot better with this new cast,” he said. “They have a great chemistry between each other.”
The cast was also surprised by how quickly the show came together. “Starting from scratch at a much later date, the rate we progressed is incredibly high even if we’re not as complete as other shows would be,” said Levitsky.
In a departure from the original play, Hirsch and Banks’ production includes female actresses, including Allison Douglass ’11, who portrays Estragon. Douglass said that it wasn’t especially hard for her to get into a male persona, since each of the actors have had to work hard to portray their respective characters. Hirsch thinks that making Estragon female puts a twist on the play’s most challenging character. But “Beckett would not be happy with it,” he said.
Hirsch hopes that the audience will find something in the play that affects them and makes them think more about their actions. He also promises to stage a show that will entertain everyone. “You have ‘Waiting for Godot’ moments every day in your life; you just don’t know it,” he said. Who knows, maybe you’ll have your own Godot epiphany as you breathe in the open air and figure out what you’re waiting for, as you watch Vladimir and Estragon wait for their Godot under a silent tree.”

Fresh face for annual Earth Fest celebrations
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Rukshana Jalil Staff Writer
As Earth Day approaches, the Vassar Greens are engaged in a flurry of preparations for the numerous preliminary events aimed to raise environmental awareness around campus including Earth Fest on Saturday, April 19. The Vassar Greens will collaborate on these evens with other groups, including the Sustainability Committee, the Student Activist Union and Hip Hop 101, to put a fresh spin on Earth Week festivities.
This year’s Earth Fest promises to be especially lively, as the Vassar Greens and Hip Hop 101 are collaborating on the event for the first time. In past years Hip Hop 101 has hosted its annual Throwback Jam on the quad on the same day as Earth Fest. Now the two are working together to combine the events.
Earth Fest will begin with a panel on environmental justice entitled “Green For All: Race, Class, and Environmentalism” on April 19 from 12-1:15 p.m. on the quad. The panel will feature rapper KRS-One, CEO of Seventh Generation Jeffrey Hollender, a representative from the Sustainable South Bronx and a member of the Poughkeepsie-based organization Green Teen. Professor of Geology Jill Schneiderman will moderate the panel, and afterward different Vassar environmental groups will table on the quad to educate the Vassar community on environmental issues.
The most exciting part of Earth Fest will likely be the performances and music. “I’m really excited about seeing the legendary KRS-One play,” said Vassar Green Party member Reed Dunlea ’09. “I think Earth Week is going to be great this year because a lot of people are going to be interested in coming to see KRS-One perform on the quad. Automatically, they’re going to get involved in environmental issues.”
The Vassar Greens have hosted film screenings every Wednesday leading up to Earth Day hope to continue these screenings after as well. The films King Corn, Everything’s Cool and Who Killed the Electric Car were screened in hopes of bringing about more aware of environmental problems.
The annual Contra-Dance hoe-down, hosted by Professor of Earth Science Jeffrey Walker and his family on their farm, will take place as well on Friday, April 19. On Earth Day on April 22, the campus is invited to partake in the traditional tree planting on the Vassar Farm.
The purpose of Earth Week is not only to bring about more awareness of environmental issues, but also to celebrate the positive changes that Vassar students have made to the environment.
“I think we’ve had some pretty good successes, one being to make the take-out containers at All Campus Dining Center compostable. Personally, I feel that Vassar, compared to other schools, is doing a pretty good job,” said Vassar Greens co-President Sophie Muschel-Horton ’09.
Dunlea agreed that there has been an increase in environmental work at Vassar. “Here at Vassar, I think people definitely do much environmental work on an individual level. Pesticides are being used in the lawns, the whole fluorescent light bulb exchange is a big deal because saves a ton of energy.
Also, the Senior Class Gift [last year] was solar panels on campus, a great move to do more environmental friendly building on campus,” he said.
The Earth Week collaborators have found it challenging to incorporate people who aren’t already involved in environmental activism. Through working with Hip-Hop 101 and publicizing the events, the groups hope that more individuals will join the fight to reduce energy consumption and protect the environment. Despite what Vassar has already achieved, there can never be enough environmental work done.
“I think everyone can always do a lot more. Maybe people are aware of these issues, but are a bit overwhelmed because they feel as if what they could do wouldn’t really make a difference,” said Vassar Greens co-President Mandana Nakhai ’10. “We want to infuse people with new ideas that will make them more active to change their life styles. People have this idea that living sustainably is a terrible fate that would change our lives drastically, but that’s not really true,” she said.”

Letters to the Editor | Shuttle service effective, but in need of expansion
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“I am writing to express a gratitude that I and many other students feel for the campus shuttle. Whether students are uncomfortable walking alone at night, cold, tired or too drunk to walk, the shuttle provides a valuable and convenient service. Similarly, the new community shuttle also provides a great service for those who work in the community or who simply want to get off campus.
Many students I’ve talked to appreciate both of these, so hats off to Security and the administration for providing these services. I would, however, like to suggest an addition. I think it would be a great idea to offer an additional shuttle to off-campus housing at night. This would provide safety and convenience to students who live off campus. I know many students are uncomfortable walking the Poughkeepsie streets at night, especially with the reports of burglaries and muggings along College Avenue and beyond.
Even though many off-campus students have cars, they often don’t drive to campus. If they do, they might sometimes be too intoxicated to drive back, forcing them to walk, which is even less pleasant during the Poughkeepsie winters. Although I’ve been told Security escorts are available, I feel that a regular running shuttle at night would be more convenient, even if it only ran within a mile of campus.
I recognize that this would require a considerable investment of time and money, but the campus and community shuttles already in place require a similar investment. Why not take this extra step to provide a safe and convenient form of transportation to off-campus students? Considering the small percentage of students who do not reside on campus, this could probably be a low-scale operation.
If other students feel this way, I would encourage them to let the administration know. Thanks again to the Security department, and I hope that they will consider the possibility of an off-campus housing shuttle.
—Andrew Dueñas ’08”

Absolut World ad offends, fails to offer solution
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Steve Keller Guest Columnist
Imagine an advertisement run in Germany that displays the country in its pre-World War II state. The spot includes a depiction of Germany’s lost eastern territories, places that had been integral to German history and owned by Germans for centuries before the Nazi craze led to their surrender. The banner on the bottom of the ad reads, “Absolut World,” an appeal to German revanchists in an effort to sell alcohol.
Offensive? Certainly. All rational thought would say the advertisement wouldn’t be acceptable. Good thing it was never actually run. But a similar ad was publicized in Mexico in March that displayed the territories lost to the United States in the Mexican-American War.
Though I don’t agree with censorship, the ad is not constructive and exploits feelings of “Reconquista” within certain radical communities in order to sell vodka. With the immigration problem already at the forefront as a wedge issue and a rising tide of “Aztlan” revanchism within many Hispanic-American communities, I feel that the ad is unhelpful in any sort of debate regarding relations between the United States and Mexico.
A further example might illustrate the situation better. How about picturing an advertisement showing the entirety of Mexico under U.S. rule, as many had proposed after the Mexican-American war? Surely, we would not have the immigration problems we do now had we gone ahead and annexed it! (I say this sardonically.)
We didn’t end up annexing Mexico. That would have been absurd and imperialistic. Instead, we took the vast, empty territory known as the Mexican Cession and paid millions of dollars for it. We paid for land we took in a war we won.
The problem here is not the ad. The problem here is the ideas that the ad is playing on. Not only is the spot inciting revanchism, but the wounds of the genocide of Native Americans are still fresh. There is still injustice reaching back as far as the Trail of Tears to the inequality of many Native Americans in the economic system of the modern United States.
But the fact is that California, Texas and the land in between is American. The territory has belonged to the American people for over eight times as long as it had belonged to Mexico. During the time of Mexican ownership, it was a mostly vacant land. It was so empty, in fact, that they’d invited American settlers to live there, thus causing the Texan secession and the Mexican-American war.
To suggest that Mexico should have the territory back would open the door for other wild suggestions, especially because the land once belonged to Spain, who took it from the Native Americans. Should the entire Americas be given back to native rule, despite the fact as a white person I have just as much right to the land as a descendant of Native Americans?
We’re living in the present. The idea of giving land that was “unjustly seized” back to the “original owners” is ridiculous, not only because everyone who was alive at the dawn of history is now dead, but also because there exists no solid information on which to base these claims. To the contrary, these claims often contradict. If the borders in the year 1848 trump those of 2008, what about the borders of 1453? What about the Roman Empire?
Perhaps the one good thing about this advertisement is that it has given us a chance to have this conversation. At this point, it is too late to give the land “back” to anyone.
Absolut’s advertisement only fires up a very real movement among the Mexican public that seeks to separate these lands from the United States. That is why I am glad that the advertisement, in the end, was pulled.”

Yale artist’s project incites controversy
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Shvarts reviews footage for her art project, for which she allegedly inseminated herself and induced miscarriages.
Photo courtesy of The Yale Daily News
Julianne Herts Assistant News Editor
Yale University senior Aliza Shvarts has garnered national media attention with her latest art project. Shvarts claims to have spent the past year repeatedly becoming pregnant and subsequently using natural herbs to induce miscarriages. Though Yale officials argue that Shvarts’s project is a fictional piece of performance art, Shvarts herself maintains that her claims are true.
Shvarts wrote an opinion piece in the Yale Daily News stating that anonymous men, whom she refers to as “fabricators,” donated sperm for the project after being tested for sexually transmitted infections. Though Shvarts wrote that she would not disclose the “frequency and accuracy” of insemination, she went on to state that she injected the donated sperm each month using a needle-less syringe.
Shvarts claims that she took legal herbal medicines to induce miscarriages each month on the day she expected to start menstruating. Nobody knows if the blood she collected is the result of a miscarriage or if it is merely menstrual fluid.
Shvarts wrote in the Yale Daily News that the ambiguity of the project is what makes it true art.
“This ambivalence makes obvious how the act of identification or naming, the act of ascribing a word to something physical—is at its heart an ideological act, an act that literally has the power to construct bodies,” she wrote. “In a sense, the act of conception occurs when the viewer assigns the term ‘miscarriage’ or ‘period’ to that blood,” she wrote.
Yale Spokesperson Helaine Klasky issued a statement claiming that Shvarts herself has admitted that the project is fictional. “She stated in front of the Dean of Yale College, the Dean of Students, and the Master of her Residential College that she did not impregnate herself and did not induce miscarriages,” said Klasky.
Shvarts herself denies that she ever made such an admission, though Klasky insists that the denial is part of a performance and that Shvarts herself warned the deans that she would stick to her fake story.
In light of this disagreement Shvarts’ controversial exhibit did not go on display as planned. Yale administrators refused to allow Shvarts’ display to go up on Tuesday. The exhibit will be presented in the future only if Shvarts submits a
written statement admitting that her project was performance art. In a further act of censure, Yale disciplined two of the faculty members who have known about the project since it began.
The Yale Daily News reports that in her exhibit, Shvarts planned to show video footage of herself bleeding into a cup. In some of the clips, Shvarts is said to be naked. She also planned to display the blood she collected and kept refrigerated throughout her project. She planned to hang a plastic sheeting-covered cube from the ceiling and line the sheeting with her own blood.
The graphic nature of the planned exhibition and the sensitive subject matter that it addresses have led to a great deal of national criticism and prompted Yale administrators to denounce the project.
“If I had known about this, I would not have permitted it to go forward,” Dean of Yale School of Art Robert Storr said in a statement on Yale’ Web site. “This is not an acceptable project in a community where the consequences go beyond the individual who initiates the project and may even endanger that individual.”
Stoor also criticized Shvarts for not taking accountability for her project by addressing the controversy that it has raised.
Shvarts’s project has caused national controversy and angered both pro-life and pro-choice advocates. President of the National Right to Life Committee Wanda Franz told Fox News that Shvarts is a “serial killer,” and the Communication Director of the pro-choice organization NARAL called Shvarts’ actions “offensive and insensitive to the women who have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriage.”
Vassar Assistant Professor of Art Laura Newman agreed that artists must be sensitive to their subjct matter. “Anything can be art, can be a legitimate form of expression, but it’s hard to make good art, and even harder to give difficult subjects, like abortion and miscarriage, the serious attention they deserve,” she said. “Most of the art we deal with in the studio department at Vassar is visual art, so I don’t think it would come up here.”
“I personally resent feeling like my buttons are being pushed to get attention, but there are some really good artists who made very sensationalist [art],” said Newman in an e-mailed statement, citing such controversial artists as Orlan, who expressed herself via plastic surgery and Yale alumnus Chris Burden who once nailed himself to a car and, on another occasion, had himself shot in the arm.”

Erika Amato ’91: The Full Interview
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“The Miscellany News: “Triumph of Love” is a musical based on a commedia dell’arte play. It uses stock characters and an improvisational technique. Did anything from your undergraduate experience at Vassar prepare you for the stock character situation typical of commedia dell’arte?
Erika Amato: Yeah, definitely. It’s actually a pretty odd piece. It’s a little bit commedia dell’arte, but it’s also very much like the French farce along the lines of Molière. It’s sort of crossed the line between both, and I was actually fortunate enough to do “Tartuffe” at Vassar. So besides studying it, I actually had some onstage experience.
MN: What other experiences have you had where your education at Vassar has served you well in the theater world?
EA: Well, I also did another Molière play. In English, it’s called “The Bungler,” and it’s not terribly well known. But the way the director worked, he really just expected you to know the genre and know what you needed to do and just sort of try things out. And because of the fact that I did know what was sort of expected, we were able to do a lot of really creative things, staging-wise: jumping on each others’ backs and doing all kinds of crazy things that perhaps I would not have had the wherewithal to try if I didn’t know that was acceptable in commedia dell’arte.
MN: How did Vassar produce a Molière performance in Avery Hall, Vassar’s former theater facility, when you were here?
EA: It was my senior year, and, it was in Avery, and they did it in an incredibly, absolutely traditional way. William Rothwell was the director, now deceased, and everything was absolutely historically accurate right down the boning in your corsets. At the time, we were not doing anything experimental. It was definitely: this is how you’re going to do a Molière play if it’s going to be done, you know, contemporaneously to when it was written, which was actually very exciting, you know, feeling like you were really getting into the nuts and bolts of how it would have been done at the time, and I think it’s great to know that because then if you do choose to, in the future, take liberties, hten you know where the source material is really coming from and then I think you have more of a right to take liberties if you actually know how it was meant to be done originally. It’s like what they say about majors: you have to know how to paint realistically before you’re allowed to go off and paint abstract.
MN: One of the characters in “Triumph of Love” needs to infiltrate a “men-only” zone in the musical. How does that compare to Vassar, since Vassar was breaking into a “men-only” zone, academia, when it was founded?
EA: Quite honestly, in this musical, it really plays so much like a broad farce. And the reason that she’s infiltrating this “men-only” zone is really just to get beyond the garden wall so she can get the guy that she’s fallen in love with. I don’t think it really explores those issues, although that’s a great issue. Also, it’s a little bit of a misnomer because my character Hesione is already in the garden, and she’s a woman, but she’s the only one who’s allowed in because she’s so stern and she’s a philosopher, but it’s not really a men-only zone because I’m already there…In drama, in acting, in theater, it’s really not a men only zone, so I really haven’t had any of those issues in my adult life, like having to break into a men-only zone. You know, what I correct myself because I also was the lead singer of a band for a while, and I have to say: rock-and-roll is very much a men-only zone, and sometimes it was a bit difficult to have people take you seriously and have people listen to you as a woman, and that can be a bit frustrating, so I guess I do relate to that whole experience, and I’m very grateful to all the women’s studies classes that were available at Vassar. So you can have that sense of presence. And say, “Get out of my way; I’m a girl, listen to me.”
MN: I’d like to speak about Velvet Chain. I know that your band performed the song “Strong” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Could you talk about that experience? Why did you create a band?
EA: I graduated from Vassar and ended up moving to Los Angeles, pretty much immediately after graduation. Even though I was trained in theater and everyone said I should probably go to New York to pursue theater, I think because I grew up on the east coast and I’ve just been here all my life. So I went over there, and I was pursuing television and film. But I really missed the outlet of singing, because I’ve been a singer my whole life. Quite honestly, I didn’t found the band as much as I started singing in an existing band that then dissolved and re-founded with me as lead singer. It was just the ideal outlet for me. I have to say that out of all the experiences with Velvet Chain, we were signed for a while with an indie label and we did the college tour circuit across the country, it did more my ability on stage just owning your own body and owning your own presence then quite honestly anything I did in theater in school. Even though Vassar gave me an incomparable education in the drama department, there’s something about having to basically carry an entire hour of a rock-and-roll show by yourself as a lead singer that’s basically an experience like trial by fire. It’s stuff that you just can’t learn in class. But back to Buffy, that was just a serendipitous situation where we had been playing in town for a while in L.A., and the music supervisor just happened to be a fan of our band and had seen us a few times and had our demo CD at the time. And asked us if I wanted to do it, and since it was the very first season they had a lot more liberty to use unknown, unsigned, up-and-coming indie bands…That was fantastic. We sang two songs on the show, “Strong” and Treason,” and “Song” was the one that ended up on the soundtrack album a few years later. It was really a fantastic thing for us.
MN: Has the band since dissolved, or is it still active?
EA: It’s still active in writing and recording. We haven’t put out a full-length album in about four years now, but we’re still working on stuff. Jeff, who is the base-player and also my husband, is the primary sort of guru behind the band…We definitely do want to put out another album. But we don’t play live as much especially since I got back into doing theater.
MN: You also wrote the music for those songs. You’ve been singing your entire life, but where did you get the training to write music? Was that at Vassar, or did you gain that skill earlier?
EA: I was the kind of kid that used to sit down by the piano in my parents’ house and play by ear when I was about three or four years old and just sort of clank out melodies and stuff. So my parents put me into piano lessons around age five, maybe six. I was lucky enough to go to an all girls private school in New Jersey that was really liberal-minded about arts education, and by the time you were in high school your junior and senior year you could do independent studies in things that you were interested in, so I actually took music theory. But I did not do much in the music department at Vassar. I was actually part of Madrigals my freshman year, which is part of the music department. Other than that, I didn’t take any courses in the music department. You just get real world experience. You hear things in your head and know how to put them on paper or tell people how to play them.
MN: How would you describe your character in “Triumph of Love,” Hesione? She’s a philosopher; she’s the aunt of the protagonist’s love interest—she’s very traditional, conservative and almost strident. What is it like playing a character like that? Is it similar to your personality or different?
EA: It’s actually not at all similar to my personality, but I get cast as that role all the time because of my look: I stand, and I’m angular, people say that I look like a younger version of Angelica Houston. I just have that very severe look about me. So I’ve gotten quite good at playing that part because it’s what people seem to want me to do. My own personality is a little bit goofier than that, but I’ve had a lot of experience playing roles like that even at Vassar. I played in Blithe Spirit, and I played Ruth, who of the two wives is the very uptight, proper English lady…It’s so much fun though to play those roles because they’re so specific and you can just have so much fun with them because you can’t really be too over-the-top with them because the more ridiculously severe they are, the funnier they are. It’s a joy to play those kinds of parts. Ingénues are fun, but think character roles are just, you can’t really beat them for having a good time as an actor.
MN: How would you compare your singing style that you cultivated through Velvet Chain with the singing style that you’re going to use for this musical?
EA: With Velvet Chain, depending on the style of the song, whether it was more of a ballad or a rock kind of thing, I would sing in an almost unsupported style where you’re pushing a lot of air through so you kind of have that sort of whispy sound, and then the belty stuff. It’s really funny with rock-and-roll, there’s like a rock-and-roll pronunciation. If you over-enunciate, you don’t sound rock-and-roll; you have to sound cool. There’s just a way to sing rock-and-roll where yeah you want people to understand the words, but you cannot sing it the way you sing musical theater or jazz or anything classical. Particularly with this show, it’s much more of a traditional Broadway sound, where it’s very far forward, I don’t want to say nasal, and definitely enunciating to the moon. We’re doing it in a small space where no one is wearing mics, so you definitely need to be projecting and enunciating if anyone is going to understand anything that you’re singing. So yeah, they’re incredibly different…Going back to Vassar, that’s something that gave me incredible training; I don’t know if it’s the same situation there, but when we used to do those shows in Avery, like a 400-seat house with no amplification whatsoever, so you really had to learn how to fill a large space without amplification, and a lot of people don’t know how to do that anymore. So it’s great when I do these smaller shows where there’s no micing whatsoever to know that I do have the background and the training to know how to do it without hurting yourself.
MN: What is your appraisal of Vassar and the drama department? I know that you graduated with both departmental and general honors, so it seems like you really threw yourself into your studies while you were an undergraduate.
EA: Well, yes and no. I definitely did, but I definitely had a lot of fun because I was quite the Mug rat. I was one of those people who worked hard and played hard. I adored the drama department there. I thought it was beyond excellent…I really wanted to go somewhere where the focus was slightly more on dramaturgy and history and really understanding the full scope of what you were studying rather than just the mechanics of it. I think it served me incredibly well to have gone to a school where they cared as much about whether you could write a cogent paper about what Strindberg was trying to say and being able to make pretty sounds on stage. There are two completely different schools of thought on that: there are people who went to conservatory schools and said they served them incredibly well and they were really happy with what they got out of it; I just think Vassar does an excellent job of balancing the two. You get a lot of stage experience, but in addition to that you get to really concentrate on the academic side…It has served me incredibly well. When I’m working on a new piece, I tend to get along very well with the playwright and the director because I’m coming at things from a slightly different angle than perhaps other actors that they’ve worked with in the past may because I do come at it sometimes from an intellectual angle. It’s just a lot of fun being able to see all the aspects of it and to know where you’re coming from, historically. Like just showing up for “Triumph of Love” and knowing where it comes from in the long his story of theater, rather than just looking at it as a musical. It’s actually such an interesting piece in that way because it’s a musical that’s based on a French farce from the 18th century but is telling a story from ancient Greece.
MN: You clearly understand each of these temporal periods. How would you say that they’re interacting in “Triumph of Love”? How does this interaction complicate the play?
EA: I think for the audience it may a little bit confusing to see characters in full 18th-century costuming with tricorner hats and the whole thing, but they’re talking about Sparta and everyone’s name is Hermocrates and Hesione and then the lead character’s name is Leonide and her friend is named Corine, which are French names. It’s definitely complicated. We need to focus on just telling the story so that all of the other elements are like frosting on the cake, so that if some people get it, great, and if they don’t then it won’t take away from the experience of the show…The supporting characters they call the botanicals, which is very much like the botanicals in Shakespeare; they actually speak quite often in anachronistic, modern day English, which is kind of fun. So Hermocrates and my character, Hesione, and Agis, who is the love interest, he is the male protagonist, speak 99 percent of the time in very sort of traditional, classic language, and then everyone around them is speaking in this sort of anachronistic jargon, saying things like, “Yeah that sucks, but you go on,” which I think will help the audience to understand that we’re not just playing with class but we’re also playing with all these different time periods…I think if you just don’t get it, you don’t get it. It’s not “Anything Goes.” It’s asking the audience to pay a little bit more attention.
MN: How did you find your way back to theater after moving to L.A. and pursuing film and television?
EA: I had done a couple, I want to say three or four, very small sort of pieces while I was still pursuing television and film. I never completely left theater…Honestly, when you’re trying to pursue TV and film, unless you really hit it well, you always need a survival job. So I had my survival job, and there I was: out in L.A. working at Bloomingdales and waiting for the phone to ring for my next commercial audition or whatever it was going to be and doing Velvet Chain, which was all great. What happened was, when Sept. 11 happened, my dad happened to work down in that area, he worked at 1 Liberty Plaza, and he would take the Path train in every morning. So it was just a really hard day where we weren’t sure if he was alive or dead for a couple of hours before we were finally able to get through, and it was just a really cathartic day, and that day made me sort of take a look at what I was doing with my life, and I thought, “You know what, life is really short, I don’t know that I want to have working in retail be my survival job right now.” And really I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere with the TV and film thing, and I knew I was a singer and I knew I had always done the musical theater thing. I had done “theater” theater forever, and that was what my degree was in. I just quit and auditioned for a show and got it, and just went from there…And I’ve been very fortunate to have been working on stage ever since. It’s just something where I felt like I came home where I knew that was where everyone had always told me I should be, and I’d sort of been resisting it, and I decided to finally go with the flow. And it looks like that’s probably what I should have been doing, but I’m glad that I took the path that I took. Because like I said before, if I hadn’t decided to do the film and TV thing, I never would have done Velvet Chain because I wouldn’t have been in L.A. in the first place. I’m so happy to have done that; I met so many people doing that. I learned an entirely different way of singing, which has helped me a lot even in musical theater because there are so many pop rock musicals now, and I get called in a lot for those.”

Weekly Calendar 5/2-5/8
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“FRIDAY, 5/2
3 p.m. Tea. Yeah, yeah, I’m totally sad to be graduating. Rose Parlor
3 p.m. CHOICE Open House. Stock up for summer and seniors stock up for life after graduation. Come on, haven’t you seen the NYC free condom program? They’re at Steve Madden in SoHo. Jewett, Basement
p.m. Lecture. Kenji Yoshino will speak about “covering.” A cappella, make up your own damn songs. Rocky, 200
5 p.m. Goodbye Davison Dinner. One last dorm dinner for Davison residents before parting ways for a year! Hey prospies, Davison isn’t closing, it’s just going to live on your grandparents’ farm. Field, Joss Beach
7 p.m. “Waiting For Godot.” I once hid drugs in this event’s locale when running away from Security. Ah, the collegiate stories we’ll tell our grandchildren…Stone wall between Sanders Classroom and Sanders Physics (not a joke)
8 p.m. “Tea.” Idlewild Theatre Ensemble presents “Tea” by Velina Hasu Houston. You know, same as at 3 p.m., but “ironic.” Susan Finkelstein Shiva Theater
Midnight. Carifest Mug Night. This party will have you thinking you’re in the Caribbean during Carnival. Hot like the Caribbean, sweaty like the Mug. The Mug
8 a.m. Rent-a-Soccer Player Fundraiser. Hire one or more athletes from the Women’s Soccer Team to do various jobs around your house. Oh, but I wanted Ben Fox to fold my laundry…wearing a sexy maid outfit.
9 a.m. Founder's Day! You’re only allowed to cry once in life, and I’ve been saving mine for this day. Ballantine Field
2 p.m. Real ID Act Forum. Organizers from the New York Civil Liberties Union will discuss the Real ID act. And, you know, how to not get caught with a fake. Rocky 200
3 p.m. Tea. I’ll miss all the times I’ve had here. Rose Parlor
3 p.m. Tea. The Backpage, tea jokes, mocking my peers, hatin’ on everyone. Rose Parlor
5 p.m. Davison vs. Joss: Freshman Water Balloon Fight. Ew, gross. Don’t exploit CHOICE’s free condom generosity like that! Joss Beach
5 p.m. ViCE Cream Social. Double scoop of Sam Bloch’s balls with Evan Altshuler sprinkles, please! Chapel Lawn
6 p.m. Contrast Release Party. Freshman wannabe Dov Charneys: Please supply your own lube. Sock required. Faculty Commons
9 p.m. Narrative Writing Reading. Ooh, I’d love some “fiction” about someone kicking her ex in the balls. CDF, 106
3 p.m. Tea. But I just wanna say, I’m really sorry for any pain I’ve caused or feelings I’ve hurt. Rose Parlor
5 p.m. Helicon English Department Faculty Reading. Featuring M. Mark and Michael Joyce. Note: 3D glasses and an Apple computer from circa 1988 will be provided for this hypertext fiesta. Class of ’51 Reading Room
6 p.m. Club Sports Banquet. I hope there’s a “Mildly Annoying, Lying Homogenous Blob” award. Ballantine Field
8 p.m. Soiree ’68. Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the May 1968 uprisings in Paris with a talk from David Schalk and Barbarella projected onto Ferry House. Jane Fonda as she spent her time here, plastered up against a wall. FDF Quad
3 p.m. Tea. Psych! P.S. Everything I’ve ever written on this page is true. Bye! Rose Parlor
5 p.m. Annual Senior Composition Reading. Have you ever wanted to read the theses of your peers? Have you ever wanted to hear them read aloud from their theses? Join me, as I laugh at Molly and mock her academic “achievements.” Sanders Hall, 212
7 p.m. 2010 Showcase. A gathering of the sophomore class, featuring student reflections on the achievements and challenges of our year. Congratulations, you kind of kicked your drug habit and made some friends! FDF Quad
9 p.m. Night Owls Final Concert. Okay, fine, senior confession: I secretly love a cappella. Specifically, the Penn Six a cappella version of Gangsta’s Paradise. I’m sorry. I’ve been living a lie. Aula”

(showing 10) Show All
Vassar College
Vassar College
Compare VassarSave Vassar

StudentsReview Advice!

• What is a good school?
• Statistical Significance
• How to choose a Major
• How to choose your Career
• What you make of it?
• How Ivy League Admissions works
• On the Student/Faculty Ratio

• FAFSA: Who is a Parent?
• FAFSA: Parent Contribution
• FAFSA: Dream out of reach

• College Financial Planning
• Survive College and Graduate
• Sniffing Out Commuter Schools
• Preparing for College: A HS Roadmap
• Talking to Your Parents about College.
• Is a top college worth it?
• Why is college hard?
• Why Kids Aren't Happy in Traditional Schools
• Essential College Tips
Ah, college. Considered by many to be the time of a young person's lif... more→
• Cost of College Increasing Faster Than Inflation
According to NPR, the cost of college... more→
• For parents filling out the FAFSA and PROFILE (from a veteran paper slinger)
Just so you know, filling out these forms is a lot more than penciling... more→
• How to choose the right college?
My name is Esteban Correa. I am currently a second year INTERNATIONAL ... more→
• Create The Right Career Habits Now
Getting ahead in your career can be easier if you make the choice to b... more→

• Senior Year (Tips and experience)
It's the end of junior year and everyone is anticipating the arrival o... more→
• Informational Overload! What Should I Look For in a College or University?
We are in an instant information age, where you can find almost anythi... more→
• Personality Type and College Choice
Personality type is something very important to consider when deciding... more→
• A Free Application is a Good Application
As a senior finishing her scholastic year, I feel that it is my duty ... more→

• College Academic Survival Guide
The leap from high school to college academics is not an insignificant... more→
• Getting Involved: The Key to College Happiness
As a tour guide, the absolute, most frequently asked question I got wa... more→
• Choose a Path, Not a Major
Unless you're one of the fortunate souls who's already found their cal... more→
• The Scoop on State Schools
A recent college graduate, I vividly remember touring campuses as a p... more→

• The Purpose of a Higher Education
You are one of the millions of people this year applying for admission... more→
• The Importance of Choosing the Right College Major (2012)
One of the most important academic choices you'll make while in colleg... more→
• How to choose a college major
I was not sure what college major to choose. When you are in your late... more→
• How to guarantee your acceptance to many colleges
Are your grades are not what you think they should be from high school... more→

• Nailing the College Application Process
College applications seem to always be put on top of students procrast... more→
• What to do for a Successful Interview
Interviews seem to become more commonplace in every facet of life as o... more→
• I Don't Know Where to Start (General College Advice)
Preparing for college is a difficult time for every student and it?s o... more→
• Attitude and Dress Code for an Interview (General College Advice)
An interview is something we all have to go through when we get a job... more→

• Starting College (General College Advice)
College is a huge milestone in your life. You?ve seen the castle like ... more→
• Boston Apartment lease: Watch out!

Are you a student and about to sign the very first lease in your li... more→

• What college is right for you?
When thinking about their choices for colleges, many students and pare... more→