There aren't so many organizations on campus. There is enough going on with classes. There are open mic nights every so often throughout the term, and there are bands who come to play in the student center a lot. There aren't athletics, for the most part. But people tend to play volleyball or badminton on the lawn, sometimes. The theatre department is wonderful, and for the second half of term there is usually some sort of performance every weekend. I leave the door to my room open at least 70% of the time. The dating scene on this campus is pretty lame. It's not the type of place you go for dating. The ratio throws off the campus-wide dynamic, and guys tend to acquire a bit of a god complex; women tend to get a either fed up with the dating scene or to get far too desperate. But in a way, I'm glad that I don't have to deal with dating right now; college is hard enough without it. I met half of my friends because I was placed in a house with them. The other half I met through a class last term, in which we put on an opera. A bunch of my friends were in the opera, and they all live in the same house now, so I go there a lot. I'm almost always awake at 2 AM, and you'd think it was because of work. But usually I'm just chilling in the common room, hanging out with people or writing on my laptop or whatever. One of the campus traditions is Pigstock, in which a pig is roasted over a pit for dinner, and a band is invited to campus. This year we had an awesome Balkan brass band called Slavic Soul Party! play. They basically rocked, and everyone was dancing the whole time. The picnic was great, too, and they got the pig from a local farm. it was even organic! Also, every spring term, we have sunfest. Sunfest is when a shit ton of bands come to Bennington and play all day. And it consistently rains on sunfest, but they refuse to change the name. It's a sort of traditional irony. I have yet to experience a sunfest, but it sounds like it's going to be amazing. This is a campus where you don't have to drink. I came here straight-edge. And I had a lot of friends and still went to parties and had a good time. When I started drinking, it was a personal choice, and it had not positive or negative effects on my social life. The dance parties are fun without drinking, and a lot of people have room parties. You don't have to drink to have a good time. And you don't have to do drugs either. This is a campus where a lot of people smoke both cigarettes and marijuana. I've never had any interest in either, and haven't had any trouble with my choice to stay away from it. People will be accepting of your choices as long as you are accepting of theirs. On a Saturday night, I sometimes sing at open mic night, and there's almost always a house dance party. Our dance parties are amazing. Basically, the house gets to borrow huge speakers and clears out their common room. Then everyone crams in there in the dark and dances to blaring music. It's sweaty and kind of disgusting, and always really hot; but the music is loud, and its really easy to have a good time just dancing with your friends, or a guy, or girl or whatever.
Student housing at Bennington is another unique feature. Instead of a hundred students living on one building, being policed by R.A.s, about thirty students live in one of eighteen houses. Each house has a very distinct personality and has its own traditions. There are two House Chairs elected in each house who can help with any house resident's problems, and who preside over Coffee Hour. Coffee Hour is something each house does every Sunday evening, in which students discuss campus-wide and house-wide issues, and talk about upcoming campus events. Someone always makes food for coffee hour as well, which is further reason to go to Coffee Hour. It's a good time to get to know the other people in your house. Few people lock their doors on cmapus, and there haven't been many problems with theft recently. The only athletic events that draw any sort of crowd are Pioneers soccer games, in which the Bennington Pioneers play the local high school and other local colleges, like Marlboro. Guest speakers and concerts are popular, as are several weekly film screenings and theatre performances, which happen often. The dating scene is strange. Just don't come to Bennington as one of those girls who expects to leave college with a husband. Casual sex is pretty common, but relationships are not. A friend once told me that there are three kinds of Bennington boy: the Taken, the Gay, and the Creepy. It is astonishingly accurate. Parties are common and there are a few big House parties held each month. Smaller room parties happen regularly. Drinking is very common and most parties have a drinking room, and at smaller parties, drinking is usually the primary goal of the evening. Of course, it isn't hard to find things to do that don't involve drinking. Peer pressure isn't an issue. If someone doesn't want to drink, no one questions them or pressures them into anything. Parties are just as much fun if you drink or if you don't. Bennington has several traditional event that happen over the course ofthe year, such as Sunfest, our (invariably rainy) day-long music festival in May, 24-Hour Play, where several plays are written and perfromed within 24 hours, Pigstock, the Rain Plays, Baccanal, Midnight Breakfast, Study Breaks, and several themed parties (Swan-Halloween, Cannfield's Versus etc) If someone happened to be awake at two in the morning on a tuesday, which isn't exactly a stretch, they'd probably be doing homework, practicing music, working on a project in the visual arts building VAPA, or just watching a movie and chilling on a house common room. Insomnia seems to be common at Bennington.
Always something going on at Bennington. The Campus Activities Board is responsible for bringing in bands and speakers, as well as planning big events like Sunfest, where we have a three day music festival in May. There are movie screenings in Kinoteca, our little movie theater, about three times a week. The houses, (dorms), take turns hosting parties, which usually involve themes, like Astronaut vs. Alien or Supermodel vs. Superhero. The visual art lecture series happens once a week, where visiting artists come to give presentations about their work. Because Bennington's so small, we have special Bennington traditions, like Roll-R-Rama, where the school rents out hundreds of pairs of rollerskates, and we all go rollerskating around Greenwall Auditorium. We have Bowl-R-Rama and Midnight Movies in town, where the school rents out the bowling alley and movie theater for us to go bowl or watch a movie at midnight. Midnight Breakfast is my favorite: on an unannounced night near the end of every term, when people haven't slept in a week because of final projects, they'll hear firetrucks driving through campus with their sirens going at midnight, signalling Midnight Breakfast. We all make our way to the Dining Hall, where our professors serve us food, and our librarian's band plays music. There is no Greek life at Bennington, and only one real sports team: we have a co-ed soccer team that plays area high schools and other nearby small colleges. If you don't drink or don't smoke, I think there's plenty to do on campus during the weekend. (Or if you do.) Students generally leave their doors open, and feel really safe on our little campus. Security comes through every now and then, just to check on us. Dating at Bennington is tricky; people tend to sleep with lots of people, or have a relationship like a married couple. (I believe the school is currently around 65% female.) Housing is the best part: we all live in houses with about 20 other people. Freshmen and sophomores have roommates, and juniors and seniors are guaranteed their own rooms. Each house has its own personality: some are loud and play music all the time, others are more quiet and studious. Every Sunday night at 10 we get together in our house living rooms for coffee hour, where we eat food and talk about what's going on on campus, in addition to any house issues, etc.
I was in CAB, the Community Activities Board last term. I hosted Karaoke and Open Mic. We're a community that has inside jokes and people can get Bennington famous. You will know a lot of people by name and reputation before you ever get a chance to introduction yourselves. Really, we're all just kids looking to have a good time. There's definitely a bubble that makes you forget the context of your existence after awhile. My best friends lived in the same house as me. You get to be very close with the people in your house. Each house is almost like a fraternity/sororities kind of. There are not of a lot of things going on, and you are pretty sequestered in the wilderness. CAB brought in bands and other entertaining things as well as play movies. There's always a lot of Student work and people are always supportive of it. If you go to Bennington you will know ALL about modern dance and become kind of an connosieur. The dating scene is not existent. There's a lot of hooking up, a lot of drunken ramblings. I don't drink but my friends all do. A good time at Bennington is getting trashed and singing horrible pop/rap songs. There are house parties about every weekend where they hook up big speakers and crank "AWW SKEET MOTHERFUCKAAAH OH SKEET SKEET GOD DAMN!" so that the whole campus can feel it. Sometimes your fellow students will become your entertainment because of the entanglements they get themselves into. But really, the social scene is the same as the academic scene. Bennington, like life, is what you make of it. You can go follow the stream of partiers and get trashed, or like the first time I realized that my best friend was my best friend, you can spend a minute at the Bingham porch party and instead run away from your drunk friends and go watch the stars on the abandoned basketball court and run around causing various mischief.
Bennington is a bit of a bubble, plain and simple, however it is very possible to flourish within this bubble in ways that are very difficult within the real world. Though there are no more than three bars in town and not many opportunities for fun, the large amount of things to do on campus often begs the question, why would you even want to leave? Although this is certainly not a healthy way to live your life in the long-term, for four years students have a most culturally rich, busy, and exciting microcosm on their doorstep. Said to be the birthplace of “the themed party”, there are very creative soirees hosted every weekend in the house common rooms that are almost always open to the whole school. Last year students attended parties such as, Daddy Daughter Dance, Bacchanal, Prom, Dr. Seuss, Risky Business, Outer Space Ocean, Mardi Gras, Roll-o-Rama, Ultraviolet Masquerade as well as lots of plays, gigs, and opportunities for contra dance. Drinking is something that can be hard to avoid at Bennington. It is definitely very possible and I know some people who have managed to avoid it completely however the norm is for people to drink a lot of boxed wine and then go run around the fields. I think this is partly down to the fact that people are working so hard during the week they feel they need to find an easy way to unwind on the weekends. During weeknights it is very quiet on campus and it's rare to see anyone wandering around outside after 11pm. There are also a bunch of activities and clubs that are on offer though in my own experience I get excited and sign up for a bunch and then end up never showing up -- this seems to be a fairly common experience.
There is plenty to get involved with on campus. Pretty much any type of student group you would be interested in from Student Council to the Beer Brewing Club. If you are interested in these groups, check out the Bennington Wiki at wiki.bennington.edu. There is no fraternity/sorority life, but rather, everyone lives in coed houses with about 30 people. I personally would not have it any other way as far as a living situation goes. Each house has its own personality and vibe - some smoking with no quiet hours, some non-smoking with quiet hours and any mix of the two. Some traditional events are Bowlarama (Midnight Bowling in Bennington), Rollerama (Rollerskating in Greenwall Auditorium), Midnight Movies, and Snowball (Winter Formal type thing). There are bands that play on campus almost every weekend, and every spring there is an all day music festival called Sunfest with carnival games etc. As far as partying goes, it depends where you look. Some houses party really hard and others are quiet 24 hours a day. You just have to find your niche in that sense. The dating scene is a little tricky. Because the school is very small people often refer to it as incestuous. For instance, your next door neighbor might be hooking up with the guy/girl you were hooking up with three weeks ago, and it can get a little weird. However, plenty of people have great lasting relationships as well (myself included for a year and a half.)
I'm involved in the Environmental Initiatives Comity. We started the recycle program in Spring 2007 (my first term) and have been trying to compost on and off, get the campus garden up and running again (I did a lot of work on that) planning Earth Day...etc. I never locked my door. It was usually wide open. I have had a camera stolen from me. a cheap, broken camera...it was the memory stick I miss, it had photos from FWT in Guatemala that I hadn't put onto my computer yet. some guests speakers are well attended, but often not...the theater is far more popular...and put as a top priority over guest speakers most the time...even video showings are, I think. Some people date, some don't, many think that dating is for middle schoolers...I think that dating on Bennington campus can be a recipe for disaster. I wasn't expecting as much partying as there is...though we aren't a top party school or anything...just a lot more people getting drunk and doing stupid things then I had hoped for. Drink to get drunk is a college thing and Bennington has it. I go off campus to contra dance. I do my work at the coffee shop in town. I go on hikes. It is beautiful. There are more stars visible than I ever remember seeing. The bowling alley is a must. They have carpet on the floors and the walls, it glows in the dark.
There are lots of clubs and activities at our school that I think a lot of people get involved in. I don't, and I don't really know why I guess I just don't have a huge desire to, but I think it would be a good idea to get more involved in the future. There are always trips to go hiking and camping, or horse back riding and snow shoeing; there are even trips to Six Flags. We don't have real sports teams at our school, but we do have a huge list of intramural sports which I think people get really involved in, our soccer team being the most popular. I would say that most people leave their bedroom doors unlocked at all times, and usually open if they are in the room. Guest speakers should get more attendance than they do, but most of the performances done by students usually result in all of the seats filled and overflowing. The dating scene is something to be desired... since Bennington consists of 70% girls and 30% boys, girls are often viewed as disposable and good boys are hard to come by. If you're bisexual you are probably having a good time. I met my closest friends when I was a freshman at orientation and we had peer mentor groups, but some of my friends changed and I got new friends when I started taking classes I was really interested in meeting people who like the same things I do.
At 2am on a Tuesday most Bennington students can be found working. Take a walk through VAPA at any time of night and you'll find students working in the printmaking studio, costume shop, any one of the theater/dance spaces. We're a work hard, play hard kind of campus. From Sunday to Wednesday everyone is working themselves to the bone. But Thursday to Saturday everyone lets of some steam. There isn't much to do off campus but we more than make up for it on campus. Every weekend there are a zillion different events to choose from, including concerts (past acts include: the River City Rebels, Architecture in Helsinki, the Spinto Band, Joanna Newsom, Thao Nyugen, Matt & Kim, ManMan, Xiu Xiu), plays (directed by students and faculty), art shows, readings, and lectures. We don't have fraternities/sororities but our dorms are a lot like frat houses. Our dorms are houses with kitchens and living rooms. Each house has its own personality and community. Almost no one locks their door and most people welcome visits from friends and housemates. We meet as a house every Sunday night for Coffee Hour where we discuss upcoming events, campus news, and house issues.
Parties are very popular at Bennington. The most famous is the October First party (Formerly banned as the "dress to get raped" party, later vetoed as the "dress to get laid" party), which is themed entirely on the premise that it is unacceptable for upperclassmen (though what we mean by that is a trifle unclear) to bed freshmen until October first. Or whatever friday is closest to that date. When any of the lawn houses have parties, they are loud, long, hot, dark, nearly-naked, and very drunk. The themes are usually designed to give a new twist to getting drunk and dancing, though the efficacy of this approach is questionable. Other activities include dramatic, dance, and musical productions, visiting, local, and student bands, and numerous Outing-club trips. Drama productions are well attended, as are dance performances. The music department is somewhat more isolated.