Hot Political Issues on Vassar’s Campus

Vassar Students

By Ellen Butler

By Ellen Butler
Unigo Campus Rep at Vassar College

Although it is a relatively new presence on campus, ACT OUT has fast made an indelible mark on Vassar. Founded three years ago by a group of students recognizing the need for an organization that would contribute to GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer) equality, ACT OUT first made strides in its campaign to protest the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Clare Ciervo, the group’s current president, was among six members of about fifty ACT OUT participants to be arrested for peacefully protesting against the policy at the Times Square recruitment center in New York City. Since then, Clare says, the group has engaged in a variety of other activities, including meeting with legislators to discuss the Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act as well as helping to create the Right to Marry campaign.

In this election year, ACT OUT has been focusing primarily on Proposition 8, legislation proposed in California that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry legally in the state. The organization is not equally concerned with this issue at a national level, since, as Clare notes, of the Presidential candidates nor have their respective running mates openly endorsed marriage equality. Next up for ACT OUT is a rally in New York City to continue raising awareness for this issue and to promote the necessity of equal rights.

Bob Brigham, a much-loved professor of History on campus at Vassar, has literally a laundry list of credentials, teaching awards, and fellowships that somehow fit onto what must be an extensive resume. But one of the great things about this campus is that even with all of those things—which certainly can seem intimidating—it is easy to schedule a time to sit down to talk with him about the election this year and how his students are looking at it.

For him, not only has he noticed a definite increase in campaign awareness and involvement across the board, but he’s also found that his students are eager to find connections between the current Presidential candidates and past candidates and policymakers. They are looking at strategies and tactics of past campaigns and the present campaign to see what parallels emerge.

In regard to a hot issue on campus, the economic crisis, Brigham has noticed a palpable desire among his students to understand better the economic crises in the past century as a means to make sense of what is happening today. As Brigham puts it, “The past doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme,” and it seems that his students are curious to find out just how often it does.