Monday, February 6, 2012

Vassar, For Shame!

My sixtieth college reunion is coming up this June.  At least, that’s what all those letters with the fancy embossed Vassar return addresses tell me.  Let me repeat:  my 60th Vassar Reunion.  
When I graduated way back then, I don’t think I ever imagined living long enough to collect Social Security, although I think I knew about such things--I majored in Political Science.  Living more than ten years beyond my 50th reunion would have been beyond my ken.
I don’t know why the reunion has been on my mind, but it has.  I didn’t make it to my 25th, my 35th, or even my 50th.  I did go to my Fifth--or was it my Tenth?  I don’t really remember exactly but I had a rather good time.  I remember talking with women I had never spoken to before because they lived in other halls or, more probably, because they had majored in things like Microbiology or Child Study. 
The only event that I remember from the reunion that I managed to attend was the outdoor gathering of all the reunioning classes.  Of course, the youngest groups paraded in first.  This is a smart move by the alumnae organizers because the younger classes have the largest number of folks who show up and the event thus has the advantage of having an ever-swelling audience to cheer each group as they march in.  As I recall, by the time the members of the older classes arrived, their welcome was thunderous, which was greatly appreciated by those ladies, largely, I’m sure, because it was the first official sounds those elderly ladies were able to hear very clearly. 
As the reunion date has crept closer, a couple of my oldest friends and I began to talk more seriously about attending the June reunion.  As we talked, even my long irritation with Vassar’s decision to admit men began to recede.  It didn’t go away, mind you, but it seemed less unforgivable.
But then, ten days ago Vassar’s Admissions Department made a truly unforgivable error.  It sent acceptance letters to a few Early Decision applicants when they should have been sent rejection letters.  As the NYTimes reported [Here], the college had incorrectly sent letters of acceptance to 122 students, but only 46 of them had actually been offered admissions and 76 had been rejected!  
A few hours later the College explained that 76 of those acceptance letters had been posted on their website “in error” and they tried backtracking.  Thus, suddenly for 76 young people who had pledged to attend Vassar if they were accepted, Friday afternoon, January 27th, would be forever a particularly bitter afternoon.  Some folks in the Admissions Office worked late that Friday to set the record straight.  However, as we all can imagine, no one could ever make the record “right” for those 76 young hopeful students.
There was an immediate flurry of media attention.  The story got its short few minutes of fame and then was lost in the national, crazed, run-up to Sunday’s SuperBowl game.  Dick Cavett, however, in his  NYTimes op-ed on Sunday [Here] remembered and wrote feelingly about the incident.  
Cavett reported Vassar’s monumental hurtful mistake along with other outrageous  events--the soccer game deaths in Egypt, for example.  He reminded us of the heartaches that those young rejected students were experiencing.  I hope that some folks in the Admissions Department share Mr. Cavett’s compassion and that someone in Vassar’s current leadership shares Mr. Cavett’s empathy.
As yet, there has been no appropriate administrative response from the college and I doubt that there will be any in the future.  How shameful!
I want to believe that the college that educated me would have had the integrity and intelligence to address its error with more honesty, directness and, yes, a measure of humanity.   
Meanwhile, I have changed my mind.  I am not planning to attend my 60th Vassar College Reunion.  My dear classmates will have to make that walk into the hordes of applauding alumnae/i without me.  
Salve, 1952!

No comments:

Post a Comment