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What Every Girl Should Know

On the Shelf

By Richard N. Levy

So You're Coming to Vassar, Vassar College Government Association, Free with payment of tuition deposit.

The untried, young sub-freshman at Vassar is being treated this year (and, we suspect, every year) to a little booklet which tells in a chatty down-Poughkeepsie sort of way what the little tyke has in store for her. She is warned, before the book is four pages done, that Vassar offers no course in writing poetry: the book opens with the verselet, "Letters, pamphlets, luncheons, teas--/Until the Freshman thinks she sees/Just what Vassar has in store. /But the following year will tell the score."

And so it does. According to the booklet, the most important problem in the young thing's life will be "How to Set Up Housekeeping at Vassar," and is thus the subject of Chapter 1. Warning the freshman that when she first arrives "the room looks BARE," it counsels that she "use one doorknob for support and think ahead to the close of the first few weeks when your room will assume its own personality, look homelike, and be the place in which you will live."

After the Vassar freshman has settled down in her NO LONGER BARE room, she will next be bothered by "Main Attractions" (presumably to be found in the principal building) and "The Jangle of Silver," found in Chapters II and III. Her next major interest will be, no doubt, "Extra-Curricular Activities," of which the most important will be the Athletic Association. Her first meeting with this body will be Freshman Play Day, designed for those who "enjoy pushing a ping pong ball along the ground with your nose or jumping across the finish line in a paper sack." If she is so inclined, this event is just for her since "you have the fun, and the upperclassmen cheer you on." Another "AA" surprise is the Yacht Club, which urges the seagoing tykes to "throw up your masts and join."

Despite all this, the Vassar girl will study hard--(according to the booklet), and she thus needs something to "clear the cobwebs out of her brains." The solution, of course, is WAA (Weekend Activities Association). This tasteless group (it plans freshman dances with Yale, Princeton, and Williams) adds "the fun of new faces and new places" to the overworked child's "week-end curriculum."

For the young freshman who just loves to burrow through a dictionary, So You're Coming to Vassar offers "Definitions" of the "Senate" (The joint student-faculty executive body of CGA"), the "Legislative Assembly" ("'The eyes and ears' of the students"), and a "Big Five" of which FDR himself would be proud (AA, CRA, WAA, Phil, and Polit). There are also the North Winds and Do-Ray-Mis ("Vassar's only 'house' groups that. . . perform in anything from pajamas to evening gowns.")

Pursuing this lexicography, the booklet reveals that "Dear Robert Louis Stevenson" does not mean Dear Robert Louis Stevenson at all, but is instead "an efficient method of remembering the Quad houses, "which are conveniently named Davison, Raymond, Lathrop, and Strong. "Stacks" are also defined.

The Vassar student also learns about "Fundies" (The Physical Education Department's attempt to correct Freshman protrusions"), a rather arbitrary though somewhat meaningless definition for Circle ("The symmetrical botanical garden located in front of Students"), and, most important of all, the reason for avoiding "Pro (academic):" "It means less overnights."

Lest one might think from this that the Vassar girl's life is a mere round of spineless play, one is presented with a solemn full page of "Traditions:" "Salve" (a Latin greeting, not an ointment), which sings the praises of Seniors, vi-vo-vi-vo-vum; Tree Day, on which the Class of '61 must pounce upon a helpless and diseased elm and claim it as its own, thus "leaving its name with Vassar forever;" and such other unique traditions as Convocation and Matriculation.

Alleviating the pain of prowling through 23 pages of such high prose are little illustrations by a mysterious MCR, which draw the hearts of young males toward the lovely women whom she ostensibly pictures. The pages teem with agonized girls burning button-down shirts they are trying to iron; with fearful owls who have VC emblazoned on their chests; with dungareed, odd-shaped beauties whanging guitars; and with mink-coated so-phisticates dreaming of palm trees and sun (apparently there is little of the latter in "the Pough.")

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