A group of Vassar students, calling themselves “VC brewers hellbent on nothing but destruction,” distributed a socialist manifesto titled “Vassar College Disorientation Guide 2018-2019” to incoming freshmen to counter Vassar’s six-day New Student Orientation program in late August.
The Guide, written by a group of self-declared radicals, is a seeming call to violence against the college. It includes defamatory references to “Zionists” and vigorously supports the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel as an effective vehicle for “fighting colonialism” and supporting “liberation struggles.”
The document attacks Vassar as a “colonial institution” with a “legacy of colonial violence,” a “bastion of class power,” a corporate entity promoting “white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchal, capitalist values.” It exhorts students to struggle against capitalism by demanding power over the university.
“Your college is a corporation” designed to train students to be economic cogs in a capitalist society, exclaims the manifesto. It criticizes the college for spending huge sums to build a science center, when it should be funding racial awareness, mental health and student finances.
The Guide attacks the Vassar Board of Trustees, including Vassar’s president, as “the assortment of villains who control your life.” It highlights individual board members, accusing them of “promoting neocolonialism,” “sustaining global capitalism,” participating in “corporate exploitation” and “aestheticizing toxic consumerism,” and criticizes them for working for corporations that pursue “illegal activities,” “unethical drug testing,” “bribery,” “protecting the wealthy” and “destroying employees’ livelihoods.” One Jewish trustee is singled out for his support of Israel.
In its discussion of the failure of the 2016 student-led campaign to pass a BDS resolution at Vassar, the 50-page document blames Zionist outsiders and an administration that feared loss of alumni donations. “All specters of student power and democracy drain away when we threaten Vassar money.” In the future, “we must see ourselves as tied to their (Palestinian) resistance” and “as comrades in struggle against racism, cisheteropatriarchy, and the settler colonial state.” The Guide points out the need to resist “the overwhelmingly Zionist bloc within the alumni” and exhorts students to “slap a Zionist.”
The polemic incites these newly-arrived, impressionable students to organize, subvert, seize power and destroy Vassar as “part of the struggle for liberation, nationally and internationally.” It writes, “This MONSTER of a college deserves to be stopped NOW.”
It calls on students to “host a Molotov cocktail making workshop,” “sign (President) Bradley up for tons of spam mail,” “f**k up the Career Development Office,” hack wifi, “expropriate the Vassar farm” and “steal plants” and disrupt alumni fundraising events.
Vassar College admits an extremely diverse student body in terms of race, gender, ethnicity and sexual persuasion. It offers generous financial aid “to make a selective college experience accessible to students from all backgrounds,” according to former Vassar president Catharine Hill. And it makes concerted efforts to support them on campus.
However, in terms of its progressive curriculum and faculty, Vassar College now reaps what it has sown – a faculty that espouses a postmodern ideology that attacks traditional Western values, divides the world into the “powerful and powerless,” and radicalizes students against the supposed evils of colonialism, capitalism and white privilege. The curriculum glorifies revolution and the fight against oppression. Students are marinated in identity politics and are encouraged to become social justice warriors to fight the system in the name of the powerless. Is it any wonder that some of these students have come to the conclusion that they are the powerless, exploited by the powerful and privileged Vassar administration, and that it is their mission to fight to destroy the college?
The “VC brewers hellbent on nothing but destruction,” conclude, “As of right now, we are in a struggle for control, not of dialogue.”
It is to President Bradley’s credit that she promptly condemned the Guide. But without addressing Vassar’s curriculum and academic messaging, any disciplinary action will be just a band-aid on a festering sore.
Ziva Dahl is a senior fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. She has a Master of Arts degree in public law and government from Columbia University and an A.B. in political science from Vassar College.