All Bard News by Date
Performances are July 14–31, on Thursday Friday, Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 5pm at the cell theatre. Book tickets and learn more here.
Watch the Interview
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Please Wait to Be Tasted: The Lil' Deb's Oasis Cookbook by Carla Perez-Gallardo ’10, Hannah Black, and Wheeler (Princeton Architectural Press, June 2022) will transport you, according to Diaz, “Much like the restaurant is more than a restaurant, the cookbook is more than a cookbook.”
Lucas Blalock ’02 is a photographer and writer whose work explores the potentials of mannerism in photography. He has been included in exhibitions at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Walker Art Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Malmo Kunsthall. He has also staged solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Museum Kurhaus in Kleve, Germany as well as in galleries in the US and in Europe, including Ramiken Crucible, White Cube, Eva Presenhuber, and Rodolphe Janssen.
Blalock’s books include, Towards a Warm Math (Hassla, 2011), Windows Mirrors Tabletops (Morel, 2013), Making Memeries (SPBH, 2016), A Grocer’s Orgy (Primary Information, 2018), Figures (Zolo Press, 2022), and Why Must the Mounted Messenger Be Mounted? (Objectiv, 2022). Oar Or Ore, an expansive survey of the artist’s work since 2013 as seen through the lens of recent exhibitions will be published by Museum Kurhaus later this year.
Blalock, originally from Asheville, North Carolina, holds a BA from Bard College (Class of ’02), attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and received his MFA from UCLA. He is represented by Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich and New York and by Rodolphe Janssen in Brussels.
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Madans asserts: “Had investments been made in maintaining and modernizing the health data infrastructure we would have had information on COVID-related deaths, hospitalizations, ambulatory care visits and symptoms along with information on the impacts of the pandemic on wellbeing. This would have allowed for immediate tracking of the pandemic at its earliest stages and the continuing monitoring of response capabilities as it changed course. Without this investment, the data that were produced were delayed and in many cases they were of limited quality, which hampered our ability to control the pandemic and meet the health and health care needs of the population.”
Read More in the New Yorker
In addition to expanding access for individuals pursuing college-in-prison, BPI hopes that this landmark decision will help further national reform. “In this new era, we look forward to many more educators and institutions joining us as we continue the work to expand college opportunity in and outside of prison that is as ambitious and optimistic as our students, and that honors the breadth and capacity of their imaginations,” said Jessica Neptune ’02, director of national engagement at the Bard Prison Initiative. “There’s never been a more crucial time to do this work.”
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Read More on the Verge, as Reported by Aude White ’12
Lazard’s work, which spans different mediums, progressed from a love of avant-garde cinema, which they first came into contact with at Bard. Recently, Lazard has experimented with providing multiple ways of presenting a single artwork, both visual and non-visual. “Access has this capacity to break through the boundaries of medium, because of the way it makes art necessarily iterative,” they say. “Through access, a single artwork might exist as a description, as a notation, as sign language, as a transcript or as a tactile object—depending on what people need.” Still, though these categories inform their work, they are resistant to the market trends which seek to define artists, especially Black artists, by a singular trait or identity. “Most museums seem committed to receiving Black art, Black aesthetics, and Black politics—provided it’s on the museum’s terms,” they say. “It’s a complex time to be a Black artist, but when has it not been?”
Read More in Frieze
Learn More about Carolyn Lazard: Long Take
Full Story in the New York Times
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Full Profile on possefoundation.org
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Judith Gura MA '99 is on the faculty at the New York School of Interior Design. Her most recent book is Postmodern Design Complete: Design, Furniture, Graphics, Architecture, Interiors, published by Thames & Hudson.
Melissa Riebe McCaffrey MA '10 has been named regional director of New York Fine Art Appraisers' newly opened New England office in Boston. Assisted by a team of appraisers and experts in a range of specialties—including jewelry, Americana, modern and contemporary art, and antique furniture—she provides onsite appraisal services to local and New England clientele.
Text (unedited) of commencement address by U.S. Representative John Lewis:
Thank you, Mr. President; members of the board of trustees; Mr. Chairman; deans; inspired faculty; proud parents, family and friends; and to you, the class of 2017. I’m honored to be here, to see each and every one of you. You look good. You look beautiful, handsome, smart and ready to take on the world. Mr. president, thank you for those kind words, thank you. To each and every one of you receiving a diploma today, I say a congratulations. This is your day. Enjoy it. Take a long deep breath, and take it all in. But tomorrow you must be prepared to roll up your sleeves because the world is waiting for talented men and women to lead it to a better place.
You heard it said that I grew up in rural Alabama. That is true. I grew up 50 miles from Montgomery, outside of a little place called Troy. My father was a sharecropper, a tenant farmer. But back in 1944 when I was four years old, and I do remember when I was four, my father had saved $300 dollars, and a man sold him 110 acres of land. My family still owns that land today. On that farm, we raised cotton, corn, peanuts, hogs, cows, and chickens. On the farm, it was my responsibility to care for the chickens. I fell in love raising chickens. Now I know as graduates, as smart, gifted students, you don’t know anything about raising chickens. Do we have anyone here that knows anything about raising chickens? Well, why don’t we compare notes? When a setting hen was set, we had to take the fresh eggs, mark ‘em with a pencil, place them under the setting hen and wait for three long weeks for the little chicks to hatch. Some of you may be saying, “Now, John Lewis, why do you mark those fresh eggs with a pencil before you place them under the setting hen?” Well, from time to time, another hen would get on that same nest, and there would be some more fresh eggs, and (we had to tear) the fresh eggs from the eggs already under the setting hen. Do you follow me? No, you don’t follow me. That’s okay. So when these little chicks were hatched, I would fool these setting hens, I would cheat on these setting hens, I would take these little chicks and give them to another hen and put them in a box with a lantern and raise them on their own, get some more fresh eggs, mark ‘em with a pencil, place them under the setting hen, and encourage the setting hen to stay on the next for another three weeks. When I look back on it, I kept on fooling these setting hens and cheating on these setting hens. It was not the right thing to do. It was not the moral thing to do, not the most loving thing to do, not the most non-violent thing to do. It was not the most democratic thing to do, but I was never quite able to save $18.98 to order the most inexpensive incubator… from the Sears Roebuck store. We used to get the Sears Roebuck catalog. As graduates, as young people, you’ve never seen one of these catalogs. It’s a big book, it’s a heavy book, it’s a thick book. We call it a wish book: “I wish I had this; I wish I had that.”
As a little boy about eight or nine years old, I wanted to be a minister. I wanted to preach the gospel. So, with help of my brothers and sisters and cousins, we would gather all of our chickens together in the chicken yard, like you are gathered here today, and we would have church. And I would start speaking or preaching, when I look back on it, some of these chickens would bow their heads. Some of these chickens would shake their heads. They never quite said amen, but I’m convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to during the forties and the fifties, tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me today in Congress. And some of those chickens were just a little more productive. At least they produced eggs. But that’s enough of that.
When we would visit the little town of Troy, visit Montgomery, visit Tuskegee, visit Birmingham, I saw these signs that said “white men,” “colored men,” “white women,” “colored women,” “white waiting,” “colored waiting.” To go down town on a Saturday afternoon to the theater, to see a movie, all of us little black children had to go upstairs to the balcony. All the little white children when downstairs to the first floor. I kept asking my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents: Why? They would say “that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.” But one day, in 1955, 15 years old, in the tenth grade, I heard about Rosa Parks, I heard the words of Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio during the Montgomery bus boycott. And the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and the actions of Rosa Park inspired me to find a way to get in the way. I got in the way, I got in trouble, but I call it good trouble, necessary trouble. I say to you, the graduates of the class of 2017, you must go out and get in trouble, necessary trouble that helps make our country and our world a better place. You must do it.
When you see something that is not right, something that in not fair, something that is not just, you have a moral obligation, a mission, and a mandate to stand up, to speak up, and speak out. Those of us who live on this little planet we call Earth, we have a right to know what is in the food we eat. We have a right to know what is in the water we drink. We have a right to know what is in the air we breathe.
So I say to you, my young friends, it is left up to you. You must do your part, and when you leave this great college, go out there, get in the way, make a little noise, be bold, be brave, be courageous. Use your education and your training to redeem the soul of our nation and maybe help make our world a better place for all human beings. Our world, our little world, our little planet is dependent on you, so, please, don’t let us down.
You know during the sixties, as (President Botstein) told you, I was arrested a few times, 40 times, beaten, left bloody, unconscious. I thought I was going to die on that bridge in Selma. Since I’ve been in Congress five more times (arrested), and I’ll probably get arrested again for something. But on that bridge, I thought I saw death, but I lived. You will live to tell the story. You can do it. As you go out there, do your work. Never become bitter or hostile. Never get lost in a sea of despair. Keep the faith, keep your eyes on the prize, and never hate. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “hate is too heavy a burden to bear.”
During the sixties, I met a man by the name A. Philip Randolph. He was the dean of black leadership who helped plan the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. This man was born in Jacksonville, Florida. He moved to New York City. He became a champion of civil rights, human rights, and labor rights. From time to time, as we were planning to march on Washington, he would say, “maybe our foremothers and our forefathers all came to this great land in different ships, but we all in the same boat now, and we must look out for each other.” So it doesn’t matter whether you black or white, Latino, Asian-American, or Native-American. We’re one people. We’re one family. We all live in the same house. Not just the American house, but the world’s house. So, we must learn to live together. And never give up, never give in, dream dreams, and make those dreams real. I wish you well. So, with faith, hope, peace, and with love, thank you very much.
PHOTO AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD AT: bard.edu/news/pressphotos/
CAPTION INFO: U.S. Rep. John Lewis
PHOTO CREDIT: Karl Rabe
ABOUT THE COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER
U.S. Representative John Lewis was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then. He is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in the House, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.
As a student at Fisk University, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons. He was beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.
During the height of the movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the movement, including sit-ins and other activities. By 1963, at the age of 23, Lewis had become a nationally recognized leader and was dubbed one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement. He was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. The following year, Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community actions during the Mississippi Freedom Summer.
On March 7, 1965, Hosea Williams, another notable civil rights leader, and Lewis led more than 600 peaceful protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” News broadcasts and photographs of the event helped hasten passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Medal of Freedom, Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, and National Education Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award. In 2001, Lewis was awarded the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” Award for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Lewis holds a B.A. in religion and philosophy from Fisk University and is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He has one son, John Miles.
Bard College Held its 157th commencement on Saturday, May 27, 2017.
Live Webcast at 2:30pm
The commencement address was given by U.S. Representative John Lewis, who received an honorary doctorate of civil law. Honorary degrees were also awarded to classicist Mary Beard, computer scientist Erik D. Demaine, West Point Dean and Brigadier General Cindy R. Jebb, artist Brice Marden, mathematician Karen Saxe ’82, and philanthropist Charles P. Stevenson Jr. At the commencement ceremony, Bard President Leon Botstein conferred 421 undergraduate degrees on the Class of 2017 and 133 graduate degrees.
A remarkable group of students and alumni/ae has played an essential role supporting Bard first-years in the labs during Citizen Science. Now celebrating its fifth year, the Citizen Science Teaching Fellows Program is having a big impact on the lives of Bardians on campus and after graduation.
Sophie Lazar ’15 has won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Ukraine for 2016–2017. Lazar is one of four ETA Fulbright recipients who will be placed in Ukraine to help teach English at the university level while serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States. Virginia Hanusik ’14 has been named an alternate recipient of the U.S. Fulbright Scholarship to the London School of Economics, where she has been accepted into the City Design and Social Science Master’s program.
Angie Del Arca ’16 has won a 2016 Humanity in Action Fellowship. Del Arca is one of 48 students selected from a nationwide pool of 513 applicants. The Humanity in Action Fellowship program brings together an international group of undergraduates and recent graduates from colleges including William and Mary, New York University, Harvard, and Duke, as well as students from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, and Ukraine, to explore past and present examples of resistance to intolerance, with a goal of encouraging future leaders to be engaged citizens and responsible decision makers. Del Arca’s fellowship will take her to Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Sarajevo, and Warsaw. An orientation workshop in Washington, D.C., will focus on American civil rights, Holocaust education, European security and political issues, as well as how to engage human rights work in innovative and artistic ways.
Kayla Adams ‘19 and Corrina Gross ‘19 have both won Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to study abroad this summer in Qingdao, China. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 toward study abroad or internship costs. The program aims to diversify the students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go. Congressman Gilman, who retired in 2002 after serving in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chairing the House Foreign Relations Committee, commented, “Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates. Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”
Dariel Vasquez ’17 was named a finalist out of a record number of 775 nominees nationwide for the prestigious Truman Scholarship. The Truman Scholarship Foundation, established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to our 33rd president, awards scholarships for students demonstrating outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, academic excellence, and a commitment to careers in government or the nonprofit sector.
Alcantara, 31, has come a long way since arriving in the United States at age 10 with her parents, neither of whom spoke English, from the Dominican Republic. From involvement in community outreach, she went on to join the press teams for Senators Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer, and the Obama presidential campaign; high-level communications positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), General Services Administration (GSA), and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and now, handling communications for a presidential candidate. She credits her remarkable rise to a combination of openness, a hunger for knowledge, good mentoring, and her Bard education. “It’s been an incredible journey and I still haven’t processed it all,” she says. “Bard taught me how to think critically, write, and be creative—three important skills for a successful career in media, politics, and communications.”
She says leaving HUD was not an easy decision. “Secretary Julián Castro is a rising star in the Democratic Party,” she says. “I went to HUD because I wanted to get back to a mission, and you can’t find a more fundamental mission than having a roof over your head.” Castro (touted as a possible running mate to Clinton) had just arrived in Washington from being mayor of San Antonio, and Alcantara wanted to help him acclimatize. But less than a year into the job, the Clinton office called her. “They saw my work at EPA, GSA, and HUD and thought I was a very creative communicator. I was flattered and torn.” She listed pros and cons: The pros—“I’m young, I don’t have children, I should do it while I can”—won.
|Betsaida Alcantara |
Alcantara has always been a community and political activist. Her father is a labor organizer who mobilized migrant farmworkers in New York State 20 years ago, and started one of the first migrant labor organizations. She chose Bard because of its political activism. “I remember U.S. News & World Report ranked Bard near the top for political activism. I knew people from Bard who were involved with migrant farm work advocacy, so it was a natural connection.”
She studied political science with Omar Encarnación, professor of political studies, as Senior Project adviser. After graduating, she worked for the Worker Justice Center of New York. When Bard’s Career Development Office called and suggested she apply for a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Fellowship in Washington D.C., she went for it, and within months, was working for both Menendez, one of the few Hispanic senators in Congress, and Schumer as a policy fellow. It was doubly gratifying that the senators were fighting for the immigration reform bill, one of her core interests. “Our family came to this country legally, but I saw the struggle of undocumented people.
In 2008, she joined the Obama campaign as deputy press secretary in Florida and bilingual spokesperson. She describes it as “communications boot camp. But I was young and hungry to learn. And I learned that elections matter.”
The following year she became deputy press secretary for the EPA, dealing with such issues as 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. “The EPA is one of the most vilified agencies, so from a communications standpoint it was extremely challenging, but also incredibly rewarding,” she says. She was promoted to press secretary, and worked on climate change, the first national program for fuel-economy standards for vehicles, and greenhouse gas emissions. “These were proposals that could change the course of a country, and that to me was incredibly exciting.” The position also offered her first crossover role, in which she was addressing the general population as well as the Hispanic audience. One task was to get out public health and environmental messages and engage more people. So she arranged for EPA Director Lisa Jackson, the first African American to head that agency, to appear in Oprah Magazine and on The Dr. Oz Show, appealing directly to moms.
In 2012, she accepted the position of communications director at GSA. It was a controversial time: the organization was embroiled in scandal following high-level firings over misspent taxpayer dollars. Friends questioned her choice. But, she points out, “We had a mandate from the president saying, ‘You are the new leadership of GSA, turn the ship around.’” It was her first management role. She was in charge of 100 people, with an annual budget of around $10 million. And she started by arranging a series of high profile interviews for the GSA director, such as with CNN and the New York Times.
To expand her career options, she applied for a six-month President’s Leadership Workshop at the White House. She was one of only 20 accepted out of thousands. As soon as she heard Castro was moving to HUD, she told the White House she wanted to be his communications director. “Two days later I was in his office talking to him. That’s how quickly it moved.” Alcantara says she had a great time at HUD, and planned to stay longer, until the Clinton campaign came calling.
For Clinton, she’s working on strategic planning, centered on the candidate herself, organizing interviews and media events. “There’s so much noise out there it’s hard to get the message out,” she says. “How do you let people know about her criminal justice reform initiative? Or that she's proposing a huge college assistance program? It’s a tough job, but I like challenges and I want to make sure Hillary wins.”
In the Bardian
By Dan Gettinger ’13 and Arthur Holland Michel ’13
As seniors, Arthur Holland Michel ’13 and Dan Gettinger ’13 created the Center for the Study of the Drone, an interdisciplinary research and arts project based at Bard. The idea was to bring together academics from a variety of disciplines to discuss, study, and learn about unmanned and autonomous systems technology and its implications for warfare, law enforcement, and other civilian applications. Their project has evolved to include seminars, lectures, debates, roundtable discussions at Bard and in New York City, a blog, and a weekly news roundup that Thomas Keenan, associate professor of comparative literature and director of Bard’s Human Rights Project, calls “one of the most authoritative sources anywhere for news about drones of all sorts.”
Gettinger’s interest in drones began in his sophomore year, when he took a seminar taught by Walter Russell Mead, James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities. Gettinger was intrigued by Thucydides’s account of the Peloponnesian War and how choices in weapons platforms affected the strategies of the ancient city-states. His Senior Project explored drones and the changing nature of modern warfare. Holland Michel, a double major in historical studies and written arts, broached the idea of a center for studying drones to Gettinger. In fall 2012, the two assembled a faculty team and helped design a course on drones that met with overwhelming student response, and the center took flight.
At the time we first talked about creating the Center for the Study of the Drone, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen were peaking. Al Jazeera and the New York Times were regularly running stories about these operations, which the CIA was refusing to acknowledge. Drones hadn’t become a media sensation yet, but a public debate on the issue had begun. Advocates claimed that drones were more precise, surgical, and humane than the alternatives, while human rights activists decried the loss of civilian life, the psychological trauma of living under drones, and the threat that drones pose to privacy. The debate seemed inarticulate, misinformed, and immobilized by its own narrowness. This, we soon figured out, was no accident. Nobody really understood the drone—nobody really even knew what a drone was.
Defining the word “drone” is an exceedingly complex challenge. In the public imagination, a drone is a weaponized, unmanned aircraft that watches, and engages, members of extremist organizations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa. But from a technological perspective, this definition is too narrow. An unmanned submarine is technically a drone, too. One of our goals was to help broaden the public definition of drones to include all kinds of unmanned vehicles, be they airborne, land borne, or aquatic. As we understand it, a drone is a machine that uses sensors to collect information about its environment, and then uses actuators to either manipulate its own location and orientation in that environment or manipulate the environment itself. Some drones require a human controller to be in the loop; others can respond to their environment autonomously, according to their programming. All drones, no matter their shape or size, are irresistible, fascinating, uncanny, and somewhat terrifying; we want to find out why, and how, the combination of appeal and fear influences the public conversation. This is becoming increasingly important, as drones are not just for foreign operations anymore.
In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration plans to create licensing procedures and air traffic rules for unmanned aerial vehicles in United States airspace. Unmanned technology is set to become an enormous industry, with some insider optimists predicting that the sector could be worth up to $400 billion in the next few years. More realistic estimates range between $13 billion and $85 billion. Whatever the dollar figure, demand for drones is expected to be extremely high. A farmer who previously operated a $3 million helicopter to survey his crops for $6,000 an hour will be able to run a $20,000 multirotor drone for a few hundred dollars per day (agriculture is expected to account for 80 percent of domestic acquisitions). Police departments will turn to unmanned aerial vehicles as a cheap and effective alternative to manned helicopters. NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) already fly military hand-me-down drones to survey animal migratory patterns and weather changes. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection bureau maintains a fleet of drones, which it lends to police departments, the FBI, and U.S. Department of Justice agencies.
The unmanned vehicle industry is growing despite the fact that the use of drones by law enforcement agencies is controversial. In this era of pervasive surveillance, the idea of government agencies acquiring yet another highly capable surveillance platform to monitor the domestic population is unpopular. Fears of an era of unbounded aerial surveillance have prompted state and local legislatures across the nation to pass bills that curtail aerial surveillance by both private citizens and government organizations. But drone technology, like the Internet, has developed far more quickly than the policies that are meant to regulate it. Driven by the promise of high profits, the industry is developing ever more sophisticated drones, from solar-powered drones that can remain airborne for up to five years to drones the size of insects. Each new drone is accompanied by a set of new ethical questions and policy challenges.
When Amazon announced in December that the company was developing a system for drones to deliver packages under five pounds to Amazon customers in 30 minutes, the prospect of large-scale domestic drone use departed from the realm of hobbyists and futurists and entered mainstream society. By putting its weight behind the controversial idea of domestic drones, Amazon thrust the drone debate into high gear, and highlighted the need for an informed policy response. Crucially, the Amazon announcement put pressure on the FAA to develop a domestic drone integration plan—an extremely complex task. The announcement mattered because it will require society to develop a framework for understanding the implications of unmanned technology beyond the current limited scope of the drone debate. What remains to be seen is whether Amazon’s drone delivery system will actually work in time for the prospective 2015 launch date. Critics note a long list of safety concerns. For example, many believe that Amazon drones can’t possibly work in crowded urban environments. Nevertheless, Amazon’s backing could help the technology and regulatory communities resolve lingering safety and privacy concerns. The question seems to be “when will this happen?”
rather than “will this ever happen?”
This past fall, Keith O’Hara, assistant professor of computer science, taught (De-)Coding the Drone. The four-credit class, which we designed with Professor O’Hara, combines hands-on training in unmanned systems programming with a humanities-based reading list and guest speakers from philosophy, the arts, history, and political science. The fall also saw a formal debate on drones (“Resolved: Drones Do More Good Than Harm”) with Bard students, cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and faculty from both institutions.
In a bid to help the public organize the mass of information and media buzz surrounding this subject, we created the Weekly Roundup, a short, accessible list of the latest news, analysis, commentary, art, and tech from the drone world. Each week, the roundup goes out to an expanding community of interested citizens, researchers, pilots, artists, journalists, and writers. The blog features news analysis, portfolios, and interviews, while the website is a platform for historical, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives on current events. The interviews on the website attempt to bring unheard voices into the conversation about drones. In late fall, for example, we interviewed Natalie Jeremijenko, an artist and engineer who uses unmanned technology to create environmental solutions, and is considered a leading voice on the intersection of art, environmentalism, and technology. In 1997 she created the first-ever piece of “drone art,” flying a small, camera-equipped drone over large tech campuses in Silicon Valley.
The center’s efforts have been praised by a number of influential people and organizations. When Dan wrote about how the German Pirate Party (a socially liberal party favoring Internet freedom and political transparency, among other issues) flew a drone toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a campaign rally, the story was distributed widely among the Pirate Party and its supporters. Our work has been quoted by Bloomberg News, and featured in Slate, USA Today, Wired, Artforum, and elsewhere. In January and February, we cosponsored two panel discussions at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. We are also providing research for the filmmaker Carl Colby’s forthcoming feature documentary on domestic weaponized drone use.
Initiatives to expand the center’s programs include concepts for tech literacy programs at Bard’s partner institutions, including the Bard High School Early Colleges, and development of an online archive for research about drones. We are confident that, through this collective enterprise, the public will be better equipped to face the social, economic, ethical, and political challenges that lie ahead.
Read the spring 2014 issue of the Bardian:
By William Stavru '87
During the past year, Gia Coppola ’09, somewhat reluctantly, has become a regular on the film festival circuit, with her feature film directorial and writing debut, Palo Alto, being screened—and lauded—at such prestigious venues as the Telluride, Venice, Toronto, and Tribeca film festivals. Coppola says, “Film festivals are scary to me, but if the cast and crew are with me, then they can be fun. We’re able to celebrate the work.” Based on the eponymous collection of stories by James Franco (Scribner’s, 2010), who also stars in the film, Palo Alto details the troubled lives of a group of high school students in Palo Alto, California, exploring the teenagers’ characters and how their exploits and relationships become searches for meaning.
Coppola, who admits that her own high school years were neither fun nor productive, says she felt a kinship to the characters and was drawn to the dialogue and sense of teen malaise conveyed in the book. “In 2010, I met James Franco and we started talking about photography and about his book. I read it and thought the language and mood were spot on for the world he was creating, so we decided to turn it into a film,” she says.
In the book, myriad characters wander in and out of interlinked stories, so Coppola had a challenge in adapting the collection. “I had to combine characters and focus on the meatier stories, letting others go. James gave me some good advice along the way,” she says. “One of my biggest surprises in writing the screenplay—aside from discovering how lonely and draining writing can be—is that the film goes through several filtrations until it becomes something very different than what you’ve started with. Over time, the script almost starts to tell you what it needs to be.”
Coppola and her small crew started filming on Halloween 2012 in Woodland Hills and other neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. She says, “The shoot was low-budget and very familial; the boys [the crew] lived in my mom’s house and I often cooked dinner for them.” They wrapped in 30 days.
With the surname Coppola, one can expect that Gia is genetically predisposed to a life behind a camera lens. She is matter of fact when discussing her large, dynastic Hollywood family. Sticking to a short list of who’s who: Her grandfather is director/writer/wine producer/hotelier Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather films, Apocalypse Now); her aunt is director/writer Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides); her cousins are accomplished actors Nicholas Cage and Jason Schwartzman. She appreciates the many talents of each, especially her aunt and grandfather. “I love my grandfather’s work—I just rewatched The Conversation—and Sofia’s films,” she says.
Although she was determined to maintain a healthy distance from her family in order to find her own voice as a writer and a filmmaker, she did seek guidance regarding the business aspects of filmmaking. “My grandpa gave me some advice in dealing with industry executives and the money people—it’s incredibly hard to find financing, and even harder to figure out distribution. Sofia, as a young, soft-spoken woman director, had dealt with the same issues I was facing. Even though I know I have great people to turn to, I didn’t want my family’s ideas to infiltrate my work too much or rely too heavily on those connections.”
Coppola maintains that, regardless of the amount of help, nothing could have equipped her for directing her first project. “There’s no way you can be prepared for your first film; you just feel like a teenager going through very teenage insecurity,” she says. “My grandpa likes to say that directing is all about problem solving and that you need to learn to love anxiety. That’s true.”
Postproduction brought the young filmmaker other important teachable moments. Coppola says, “I learned the most in the editing room. When you’re shooting, you work from a script and let the film take its course. But I didn’t fully understand how important editing is and how it can dramatically change the look and tone of the film.”
One thing Coppola did understand before directing her film is how to use a camera, which she learned as a photography major at Bard. She chose the College in order to study with Stephen Shore, Susan Weber Professor in the Arts and director of Bard’s Photography Program. “I was a fan of Stephen’s work, so I studied photography,” she says, adding that she also enjoyed working with Gregory Moynahan and Robert Culp, both associate professors of history, who taught “an interesting class on revolutions.” Shore agreed to advise Coppola; her Senior Project was an exhibition of street and diaristic photography. “I liked the idea that Bard was close to New York City, but I could have a rural college experience,” she says. “I also liked that Bard is a liberal arts college but one that has a very creative environment.”
After graduation she tried bartending (“I liked making gin martinis, served cold, cold, cold!”) and booked work as a fashion photographer. “I was just trying to find work that inspired me. Then I shot behind the scenes on the set of Twixt, my grandfather’s film that came out in 2011. That’s where I learned a lot about how a movie is made.”
Variety said Palo Alto “brings a fresh humanity” to the topic of disaffected modern youth: “Coppola’s adaptation balances the tired sensationalism of kids behaving badly with a welcome dose of sympathy. . . . Coppola cycles through a wide range of emotions, from humor to horror, as these not-quite-kids, not-quite-adults pick fights, deface public property and seek easy gratification . . . [Palo Alto] boasts a clear and confident voice of its own, and it will be exciting to see where the young Coppola goes from here.”
With her first feature film complete, Coppola is enjoying having more down time, which she spends reading books (she was in the middle of John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra at the time of this interview) and considering future projects. “I’m not sure what I will do next,” she says. “I have some original ideas, but I don’t know if they will go anywhere. A dream project would be to adapt a story by Raymond Chandler. It would be fun to modernize an old mystery the way [director Robert] Altman did with The Long Goodbye.”
Palo Alto is set for wide release in June, following a limited release in Los Angeles and New York.
Read the spring 2014 issue of the Bardian:
Cline also recently received a Small Project Assistance Program grant through USAID for his keystone Peace Corps service project. With this grant, Cline will organize and oversee the construction of an outdoor athletic complex on the school grounds, which will be open to the larger community. The project will also involve Cline's Young Volunteers' Club, and will make available healthy lifestyle education for students. Cline has recently garnered media attention in Ukraine for his varied and committed work on behalf of young people in Haisyn, including interviews published in The Tribune of Labor and the Haisyn Herald.
By William Stavru '87
Over the past decade, journalist Matt Taibbi ’92 has emerged as one of the shrewdest, most tenacious reporters of our nation’s financial system and politics. For someone with an international reputation as an agitator extraordinaire, he is disarmingly soft-spoken, affable, and polite. Taibbi began his writing career in Russia, his first destination after leaving Bard, then spent time in Uzbekistan and Mongolia, where he enjoyed a short stint as a professional basketball player. After 10 years abroad, Taibbi returned to the United States. Settling in New York City, he began writing for the New York Press, an alternative free weekly, now defunct. Taibbi’s merciless, wicked style got him a job at Rolling Stone; his long, in-depth pieces on Wall Street reform and other troubling financial policy decisions earned him a rock star’s level of notoriety that has been amplified by his frequent appearances on news and opinion shows such as the Rachel Maddow Show, Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Fox News. Whether or not one agrees with Taibbi’s point of view, his work inarguably has helped reaffirm the importance and merit of political reportage.
In his books—Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season (2005); Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire (2007); The Great Derangement (2008); and Griftopia (2010)—Taibbi takes to task the elected officials, government agencies, and financial institutions at the root of our current economic crisis. (“You win the modern financial-regulation game by filing the most motions, attending the most hearings, giving the most money to the most politicians and, above all, by keeping at it, day after day, year after fiscal year, until stealing is legal again,” he wrote in a scathing Rolling Stone article, “How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform.”) His pieces synthesize picaresque narratives and a policy-wonkish intimacy with finance and banking regulations and legislation, with the effect of making his readers’ indignation almost palpable. Bardians may remember him also for his 2011 Town and Country article—“Is Bard the New Brown?”—in which he examines his own feelings and nostalgia for Bard, which means many things to many different alumni/ae. I had the chance to chat with him right before Bard Commencement and just after his article on the LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) scandal appeared on his Rolling Stone blog. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.
Bill Stavru: Can you recall a single event that served as your political awakening?
Matt Taibbi: I was raised in a household in which both parents, especially my mother, were politically active, so I thought about politics from an early age. My mother was a social worker and she would tell me stories about what her clients were going through, so some of my point of view must have come from her experiences.
Did you study economics at Bard? You have an incredibly good understanding of how the machinations of this economy work.
I didn’t study economics. I never thought I’d be doing this type of reporting for a living, so I have absolutely no finance background. But I don’t look at what I do as really covering economics. When I’m assigned a story or somebody approaches me with an interesting angle on an issue, my job is to get up to speed as quickly as possible. With banking and finance, there’s no way to do a story without a lot of studying. It’s like crime reporting, but cloaked in camouflaging professional jargon.
Can you discuss the research you do for your books and articles? Because you have such a strong voice, people may underestimate how much research you do to make these stories credible.
The first thing I do, particularly with all the financial stories, is to narrow the scope of the story down to a single concept that I’m trying to understand and express. It can be something like, How does LIBOR work? How do they come up with that benchmark interest rate and how could you manipulate that? Then I call people until I’m satisfied that I understand that one thing. Obviously, a reporter has to call people on all sides of the issue before writing the background for the story. If you look closely at the stories I write, they have one single concept and then the rest is background. Who are these people? What led up to the event and what was its resolution? The main part of the research is just figuring out how a thing works, which requires finding somebody who can communicate that to you in terms an outsider will understand.
Do you think we’ve come too far to ever get back to a well-regulated, workable, and ethical financial/banking system?
That’s a difficult question. I feel strongly that we can’t regulate all these problems away. The solutions have to come from within; there’s no way to be on top of everybody all the time to make sure that they’re not stealing. You can’t have a policeman every five feet on a city block. It’s the same with the financial system. You have to rely on people to have ethics. That’s what’s gone wrong in this situation; I don’t think it’s a lack of regulation or even a lack of police presence— the lack of ethics has just been so widespread. Say you work for one of the megabanks and you’re going to sell a packet of crappy subprime bonds to a pension fund in Minnesota. You’re basically going to rob the life savings of state workers so you can drive a nicer car? We have to restore a sense of patriotism, or responsibility.
What political events and/or policy changes have given you more hope in the past few years, if any?
There are a lot of signs in Washington that the regulatory establishment has come around to the idea that the “too-big-to-fail” situation is not tenable, and that they have to break up these financial institutions. Legislation in the Senate sponsored by Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio] and David Vitter [R-Louisiana] to break up the banks got a fairly hysterical response from the banking industry, which to me indicated that it had a chance of going somewhere. When banking reform amendments were filed in the past, the banks would just ignore them, but now I think they’re worried. And some of the federal reserves—the Dallas Fed, St. Louis Fed, New York Fed—are talking about how “too-big-to-fail” is unsustainable. It would be revolutionary to go in and break up these companies.
It would be. These are not people who are unfriendly to big banking or business in general. Even some CEOs and ex-CEOs were saying, “Well, actually we are getting too big to manage.”
Yes. Sandy Weill, the former CEO of CitiGroup, which was the first of what they call the supermarket banks, said in 2012, “This doesn’t work.” The  repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act [the 1933 law that separated investment from commercial banking to lower the risk of financial crashes] created CitiGroup. There’s really no intellectual argument in favor of “too-big-to-fail” anymore. It would make these banks less competitive but that doesn’t have much to do with American business. A functioning American corporation will be able to get financing from somewhere. The only thing that would be different is that a few banking executives won’t make as much money, and people are slowly coming around to that realization. I think there’s hope.
You’ve been fearless in your quest for a story. Has there been any situation in which you’ve contemplated taking a certain action and then decided that you couldn’t follow through with it?
When I lived in Russia, I knew Russian reporters who faced real risks when they researched and wrote stories; some of them were shot or attacked. I didn’t have that same problem. The physical safety aspect of my work has never seriously crossed my mind, but there are people who are irrational and will respond very aggressively to even being mentioned in a story.
We have a Republican Party that seems unable to reconcile itself on many issues, including immigration reform and gay marriage. We also have a Democratic Party that’s splintering over national security and other stands. Do you think America is ready for a multiparty system?
People are ready, but it’s not going to happen, because there are so many powerful interests who want to keep things the way they are. The two-party system is an incredibly effective mechanism for political conservatism. It has managed to continually move the needle in the direction of wealth and power for 30 or 40 years. I don’t think anybody within that system has any appetite for creating a third party; so the impetus will have to come from somewhere else. Whoever tries to do it is going to end up targeted by the entire political mechanism and discredited somehow; so I just don’t see it happening. Also, where would the money come from?
How do you decompress from all the grim news that you report on?
I follow a lot of sports and over the years I’ve gotten a lot better at keeping my home life and my professional life separate. People overestimate how depressing this job can be for me. The work is a real intellectual challenge, and there are very attractively horrible characters to write about.
In 2008, you wrote in The Great Derangement, “If there’s a villain in this book, I might offer some of the congressional representatives. . . but really the best selection might actually be me. And I have no idea what that means, but it’s probably not good.” Do you have any idea what that means now?
[Laughs.] At that time, I was covering the presidential campaign and was really conflicted about what I was doing. I had a deep sense that all of the glitzy campaign coverage was a distraction from some larger, more important issue that we weren’t looking at. And that turned out to be true: the economic crisis. I don’t have any existential angst about what I do for a living anymore, because now I’m really covering the complicated reality—these finance issues—that had been hidden from me. Back then, I was flailing around trying to make this sideshow funny, or do something with it, and so I was experiencing a lack of self-confidence.
How do you feel about the profession of journalism today? Do you think it is doing what it’s supposed to do?
The Internet has radically changed the possibilities for this profession. One of the reasons people became cynical about journalism years ago is that it had become very homogenized. Everybody wrote in the same detached, faceless, third-person voice. We had that incredible period in the 1970s with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and others. But then, except for a few publications here and there, the whole concept of advocacy journalism really disappeared. Now we’re getting back to that type of investigative reporting, largely, I think, because financial interests don’t have control over the whole journalistic landscape anymore. There are people on the Internet—which isn’t under that control—who are doing really cool things. People are doing their own investigations or document dumps, so journalists have access to information that was never available before.
At the same time, the mainstream media has a lot of the problems it has always had. It’s still locked into a fake narrative about our political system; if you travel across America you’ll find 70 percent of people are still completely obsessed with this blue/red, football-game concept of how politics work. That speaks to some kind of failure, on the part of the media, that the country hasn’t gotten past that divisiveness. I think we’re going in the right direction, but there are still problems.
Another thing is that technology and the media have worked to shorten our attention span, so it’s gotten harder to do what I do for a living and have any success. There aren’t a lot of people willing to read a 6,000-word article about a serious issue unless you make it really entertaining. It’s an uphill battle for most readers. That means fewer publications are going to pay for that story because the audiences are smaller.
Would you like to comment on recent news stories about government surveillance and freedom of the press?
People are missing the larger significance of these stories. It’s much more serious than a pattern of targeting journalists. If we get used to the government approving things like extralegal drone assassinations and torture on a mass scale, then pretty soon we stop being squeamish about things like illegal surveillance, wiretapping, the use of regulatory agencies to collect data on political enemies, etc. As much as people would like to think that their leaders are smart, the reality is that politicians are often too stupid, too lazy, and too paranoid to handle that kind of power responsibly. Giving presidents the power to assassinate without real legal review, and then expecting them to not use technical tools available to them to spy on/pressure their political enemies, is just naive. The abuse of journalists that we’re facing now is the inevitable consequence of our failure to react properly to Abu Ghraib [the Baghdad prison where human rights violations occurred], Bradley Manning [U.S. soldier arrested in 2010 for passing classified material to WikiLeaks], and so on. We created this monster and now everyone, not just journalists, has to figure out a way to tame it.
You played professional basketball in Mongolia but you don’t write or talk about it much.
I did play there when I was in my mid-20s and I was only just starting in journalism. I wrote a short piece about it for the Boston Globe Magazine. It was a crazy, wild experience. I was a celebrity in Mongolia. I was known as the Mongolian version of Dennis Rodman. I dyed my hair different colors and I got into fights in almost every game. I was actually ordered by the team owner to play to the crowd. We had a player on our team who was like the Mongolian Michael Jordan; he was a great player. We would walk around town together and people would come up to us and get our autographs. But I had a really bad experience at the end—I caught pneumonia and almost died. I had to come back to the United States and I was in recovery for months, so I just never got around to writing about playing basketball.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up a book that is a compare-and-contrast exercise on how justice is served differently among rich people and poor people. I have a bunch of Wall Street crime stories in it, and stories about regular criminals in the system, and how easy it is for the non–Wall Street criminals to get arrested. There’s a lot of material in there about inner-city life and jails. It’s new territory for me.
That’s timely; the whole prison system seems to be in question. We’re spending a lot of money keeping people incarcerated when maybe they shouldn’t be.
That’s the premise of the book. Violent crimes actually decreased rapidly in the last 20 years, but we’ve doubled the prison population during that time, thanks in large measure to the increased length of sentences, drug convictions, and “three strikes” mandatory incarcerations. More than half of federal prisoners are serving time for a drug offense, but only 11 percent are being incarcerated for a violent crime. There’s a correlation between the length of sentences, race, and class. There’s something going on that has nothing to do with crime. The book is an attempt to get to the intrigue, the mystery, of what’s going on with our prison population.
Is there a TV show in your future?
I could never do a TV show. My father was a television reporter and my stepmother was a CNN anchor so I grew up around TV my whole life and I know how hard it is. It requires a skill set that I don’t have. You have to be quick on your feet and also radiate a consistently positive, cheerful presence. People underestimate how hard it is. The older I get the more I realize that I should just stick to what I do.
But it looks like everyone is having a lot of fun on Real Time with Bill Maher.
That’s because shows like his are moderated by professionals. When you’re a guest on those shows you see how people like Bill Maher or Rachel Maddow earn their money. They have to get guests, who aren’t always professional performers, to stay within the confines of a 45- second hit. It has to be light enough for the advertisers, but heavy enough to be interesting. It’s a delicate line to balance, and they’re really good at it.
You visited campus in spring 2013 to be part of a public conversation on the U.S. financial system with Sandy Lewis. [Lewis is a former broker who pleaded guilty to stock manipulation in 1989 and was later pardoned by President Clinton. He has been a formidable critic of Wall Street.] The event was packed; people couldn’t get in to the auditorium. How did it feel to come back to campus as a media star and as someone who’s an expert on some of the most serious economic policy failures in our nation’s history?
I love coming back to Bard. I spoke on campus once before as an alumnus, a long time ago at a Commencement Week event. I’m proud to have gone to Bard and to see how well it’s done. [Professor of English] Ben La Farge was really good to me. I was having a hard time, and Ben wrote letters to me, even during summer vacation. He really encouraged me in my career.
Do you have any advice for undergraduates who want to be journalists?
I have a standard line I tell young people who want to get into the business: Move overseas, learn a language, and study something else. Have expertise in something, whether it’s botany, medicine, or whatever. In my case, I spoke Russian, and became thought of as an expert in Russian politics. That enabled me to get work. In my opinion, life experience is more important than going to journalism school.
Living overseas when you’re 22 or 23 is fun. There’s so much pressure in this country to succeed and have money, and to not be a failure. I think it’s good for young people in their twenties to get away from that. Go to Southeast Asia or wherever and just live for a while. The number one thing you need as a journalist is life experience so you can develop your own point of view. Once you get older and have kids or get locked into a mortgage, your ability to pick up and move is limited. When you’re 22 or 23, life is an open canvas—go do whatever you want.
Read the fall 2013 issue of the Bardian:
By Helene Tieger ’85
“The business of an undergraduate college is to graduate not only persons who know how to make a living, but also persons who know how to live.”
—Rev. Bernard Iddings Bell, Warden of St. Stephen’s College (Lyre Tree magazine, Sept. 27, 1929)
On a foggy January day in northernmost Vermont, Justin Gallanter ’34 recounted his memories of his years at St. Stephen’s College, the precursor to Bard: “At a school with 100 students and a faculty of maybe 15, there were no secrets.” His gaze was clear, his memory sharp, and his presence, as the last known living St. Stephen’s alumnus, a bridge to the past.
Gallanter wrote in his admission application that he and his parents were first interested in St. Stephen’s after reading President Bernard Iddings Bell’s Common Sense in Education. The Gallanters were impressed by the clarity of Bell’s philosophy of education and his energetic commitment to building a rigorous residential community then sustained by four campus institutions: the curriculum, chapel, athletics, and fraternities.
Bell believed that the ideal college would be one in which students were seen as “responsible persons” and that the curriculum should be adapted to the individual student, rather than forcing undergraduates to conform to a fixed program of study.
Bell came to St. Stephen’s in 1919 as the country was regrouping from the First World War. The college was struggling; it had fewer than 30 students enrolled. By 1930, when he personally reviewed and approved Gallanter’s application for admission, B.I. (as he was known) had overseen the construction of four new buildings, including Hegeman with its brand new science labs; tripled enrollment; coordinated the merger of St. Stephen’s with Columbia University; and imprinted the community with the force of his personality and his socialist (some said radical) views.
Founded in 1860, St. Stephen’s had always provided a strong classical education for young men planning to attend Episcopal seminary, but in the 20th century the college began to expand, seeking as students “men contemplating business careers; men looking forward to lives of social service; men wishing later to enter professional schools of Medicine, Law, Education, Theology, Engineering, or Journalism . . . ” (College Catalogue, 1930).
Justin Gallanter was just 16 when he arrived at St. Stephen’s, but many of his opinions were fully formed. His admission application reads: “I am poor in mathematics and physics because they do not interest me.” He was, however, a serious student, excelling in English, Latin, French, and history. He recalled that St. Stephen’s teachers were generally excellent, though, he said, “There was a Greek professor, Harry, who . . . spoke 17 languages that all sounded like English.”
Gallanter was able to recall all of his 32 classmates. Together, the Class of 1934 participated in the rituals and ceremonies of the time, including the annual Freshman/Sophomore Tug o’ War over the Sawkill Creek and the sumptuous Boar’s Head Dinner at Christmas. In winter, they would skate on the frozen river, using their academic robes as black sails. Pranks were common: one story tells of the college horse being led into a student’s Stone Row room and left there for hours.
|Justin Gallanter ’34|
Gallanter did not belong to a fraternity, but he called himself an “honorary Sig” because his roommate was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Each society had its own house on campus for meetings and gatherings. S.A.E. was a national fraternity, while Kappa Gamma Chi and Eulexian, both of which had begun as literary societies soon after St. Stephen’s was founded, were unique to the college. Unaffiliated students were “Non-Socs” (for non-society men).
Like most things at St. Stephen’s, the pros and cons of the fraternities were intensely debated. Nevertheless, until the early 1940s when they were abandoned, fraternities structured the social life of the College. Fraternity brothers ate together at special tables in the dining hall, and each house was responsible for maintaining one of the three tennis courts then installed on Oak Lawn in front of Stone Row. Annual dance weekends saw the fraternities competing to transform the gym to best effect. These weekends also included elaborate banquets to which distinguished guests were invited. During his 2010 visit to Bard (see Spring 2011 Bardian), the Rev. John Mears ’35 recalled waiting tables at one of these banquets, attended by then Governor Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. (They would have been doubly distinguished guests, as F.D.R. was also a trustee of St. Stephen’s College. When he was inaugurated as president, Roosevelt resigned from the board of trustees.)
Gallanter boasted no athletic prowess (athletics, no doubt, did not interest him) but B.I. was determined to build strong bodies to house strong souls. In 1921, Bell had fulfilled the dreams of generations of St. Stephen’s students by constructing the Memorial Gymnasium, named to honor alumni who had died in the First World War. The College embarked on a program of intercollegiate athletics that included football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and later, lacrosse. Competing and sometimes winning against schools like Amherst, St. Lawrence, RPI, or MIT brought tiny St. Stephen’s into the national spotlight.
Despite all this progress, spring 1933 was inauspicious. Four years into the Depression, the College was running a dangerous deficit. B.I. despaired and recommended on March 4 that St. Stephen’s “be closed as of June 30th next.” The remaining board members did not close the College, but chose instead to create a budget that slashed operating expenses and halved the deficit by halving the salaries of the entire staff. Bell could not reconcile his vision for the College to these terms and submitted his resignation. Donald Tewksbury was chosen to head the College—not as president, but as dean, on leave of absence from Columbia. Tewksbury did not hesitate to effect change. He reduced mandatory chapel attendance to three times per week, and dropped the classics requirement altogether. In his Educational Program for Bard College, he placed a heavy academic emphasis on the arts, and outlined the Moderation and Senior Project requirements familiar to Bard students today. The following spring, the Board agreed to change the name of St. Stephen’s College to Bard, in the belief that more grant dollars would be given to a modern, secular school.
Bard President Leon Botstein says Bard today continues the tradition of academic excellence. “Throughout my 38 years at Bard I’ve been conscious of the ideals of my predecessors,” he said. “Like them, we require our students to take themselves seriously in college, and expect that what they learn here shapes what they do in the world. If the College today is a center for and a model of cultural creation, debate, service, and political exchange among citizens of the future, then we are doing our job, as we have always done.”
Helene Tieger ’85 is Bard College archivist.
*Correction: the print version of this article incorrectly labels this as a photo of the soccer team.
Read the fall 2013 issue of the Bardian:
Only 10 playwrights—out of nearly 600—have been accepted into the Public Theater’s prestigious 2013 Emerging Writers Group (EWG), a selective program created to nurture the work of new playwrights. Manuel Borras Oliveras ’08 is one of them. “Being accepted into the program was one of the most satisfying experiences, in terms of being acknowledged for my writing,” says Oliveras, who takes nothing for granted, having come to playwriting via an unconventional route: while incarcerated, as a student in the Bard Prison Initiative.
With EWG, Oliveras has attended writing retreats; participated in “speed-dating sessions” with agents, directors, and actors; and met established playwrights such as Suzan-Lori Parks (Venus; Topdog/Underdog) and David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly). “It’s the environment you want to be in,” says Oliveras. “It’s school for me. I tackle it like I tackled Bard College, soaking up as much knowledge and education as I can.”
Oliveras grew up in the Bronx. Conditions in his neighborhood were harsh. He made it to 11th grade before he dropped out of school. At 17, Oliveras ended up in prison. “My life drastically turned at that point. I did not really know anything about my future, other than the fact that I was going to do a lot of time,” he says.
Awaiting sentencing in the city’s detention center, Oliveras’s head raced. He realized that his only option was to make the most of his time—17 years. Once in prison, he immediately enrolled in a GED class and threw himself into the schoolwork. “I felt like I could redeem myself a little bit, instead of only bringing tears to my mother’s and family’s eyes,” he says. “When I obtained my GED, it felt monumental. I knew then that I wanted to pursue education as far as possible.”
Oliveras began applying to college-in-prison programs. Unfortunately, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act repealed federal Pell Grant funding for incarcerated students. Within months, New York State’s thriving network of postsecondary correctional higher education programs collapsed. So Oliveras began a journey of voracious independent study through books in prison libraries. “I was reading philosophy, history; I read a lot about my culture. I read Puerto Rican writers: Miguel Piñero and Julia de Burgos. My mind started expanding. I read about Pedro Albizu Campos, Che Guevara, the Black Panthers, and other influential people who had been through struggles like me.” He built friendships with older prisoners who were motivated to make the most of their time—starting and running community and educational programs on the inside.
When he was moved to Sing Sing in Ossining, New York, Oliveras enrolled in a theology program for college credit run by Mercy College. After he completed the program, he had no further opportunities for higher education until being transferred to Woodbourne Correctional Facility. “At Woodbourne, I saw a flyer for the Bard College program [the Bard Prison Initiative]. I immediately signed up. I wrote an entrance essay. Close to 200 guys applied. I thought, ‘Thank God I went through the theology program, because it taught me how to structure an essay.’ My essay got me an interview with Max Kenner ’01 [BPI executive director] and Daniel Karpowitz [BPI director of policy and academics, and lecturer in law and the humanities]. Only 11 of us were chosen. I felt so honored,” says Oliveras. “Bard came in at a time when other programs were leaving. I’m eternally grateful to Bard.”
Oliveras appreciates the quality of his Bard education, especially the focus on exploring ideas through writing. “It opened up my worldview,” he says. “It introduced me to writers like John Dewey, Plato, Shakespeare. I met professors who had written books, and I could sit down and talk to them. At those moments I felt totally free.” He was awarded an associate’s degree in 2006 and a bachelor’s degree in 2008.
During this period, Oliveras found himself taking writing very seriously. He cofounded Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) at Woodbourne, a program that uses theater as a transformative tool, and applied what he was learning at Bard to his drama projects. “I kept reading plays and seeing what others had done,” he remembers. “I mimicked what they wrote, then I eventually started telling my own unique story.” He was the lead writer for Starting Over, a group-written play that was performed at Woodbourne and Sing Sing, and is being turned into a film as well as slated for production in New York City. Through RTA, Oliveras met Arin Arbus, associate artistic director of Theater for a New Audience in New York City. She read his work and encouraged him to submit it to theaters on the outside. Arbus showed a writing sample—“Dear Friend,” which is a letter to a man being incarcerated for the first time—to Mark Plesent, producing artistic director of the Working Theater in New York City; based on that, Plesent commissioned Oliveras’s full-length play, Song to a Child Like Me. The play’s first public reading, attended by his sister and other family members, was held at the Working Theater while Oliveras was still on the inside.
In September 2010, Oliveras was released. Balancing a full-time job as a housing advocate for Common Ground (a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in New York City), he still writes every day. “In prison, I led a monastic life fully immersed in writing and studies. Out here, I need to work, pay bills, cook,” he says. “I had to relearn all this. It takes time. But I separate at least two hours a day to write. Never neglect your writing, or the work suffers.”
EWG provides playwrights with a stipend, master classes with established playwrights, a biweekly writers’ group led by members of the Public’s Literary Department, opportunities to attend rehearsals and productions at the Public, tickets to shows at other theaters, artistic and professional support, and at least one public reading of their work. Oliveras marvels at meeting with playwrights he once read in A-block. He’s aiming for a full production of one of his plays, and hopes to be able to write full time. “It takes a lot of courage sometimes, using what I’ve learned,” he says emphatically. “There were moments that were really tough. The change wasn’t overnight. It took a lot of things. I had to grow up to be a man in prison."
Read the spring 2013 issue of the Bardian:
Few of us truly appreciate how our most essential element—water—makes its way from the source, through plumbing, and out a tap. In fact, millions around the world consider basic water and sewerage systems a far-off luxury. Fortunately, people such as Christophe Chung ’06, a water supply and sanitation consultant at the World Bank, are helping to bring the life-sustaining liquid to some of the world’s most water-scarce places, North Africa and the Middle East.
The World Bank lends money for capital projects, provides infrastructure-planning expertise, and collaborates with public agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private firms to initiate projects in many developing countries. Chung is an urban water specialist working on teams that aim to upgrade and expand water infrastructure in Beirut, improve basic service delivery in slum areas of Cairo, and help implement pollution control programs in Lebanon and Egypt. He also works on a capacity-building project based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which trains public officials to better manage water resources. “I do believe the work is needed, especially now with so many transitions in the region,” says Chung. “But while I’ve developed a real love for infrastructure and utility management, I’ve come to realize that talking about it
may not be the best pick-up line to use.”
Bringing water and sewerage systems to poor urban and rural communities is critical to economic progress and social stability. Chung points out that contaminated water is the leading cause of cholera, dysentery, and typhoid—diseases that contribute to high infant and child mortality rates in some African nations. Illness decreases worker productivity, prevents children from attending school, and increases medical expenses for families already living on meager incomes. In addition, no industrial or agricultural product can be made or grown, packaged, and distributed without ample, sanitary water. Put simply, clean water saves lives.
Chung helps with the planning and preparation necessary for getting these complex projects off the ground. Says Chung, “The World Bank requires that all proposed projects go through an extensive review to ensure that the project is beneficial, realistic, and self-sustaining by the time the bank’s involvement is complete. We also make sure that social and environmental safeguards are taken into account so that the project doesn’t have an adverse impact on people and the environment. We consult with local governments and stakeholders, NGOs, community leaders, and universities to ensure that those affected by and benefiting from the project are taken into account in our project design and implementation. Also, at a very macro level, we have to evaluate the country’s existing capacity, finances and budgeting, and its ability to maintain or operate the system after it’s built.”
Chung’s interest in addressing the challenges faced by residents of the Middle East began while he was a political studies major at Bard. However, it was an art history course about war and architecture that took his political thinking in a different direction. He says, “I was initially concerned with the broader question of how peace could be brought about through political system reform, but then I came to believe that stability is also contingent upon basic considerations, like how people of different ethnicities and religions interact with each other in their day-to-day lives. That led me to examine the role of public space in postwar stability and redevelopment, which drew me to explore the political dimensions of urban planning and architecture.”
When he was a senior, Chung won a Watson Fellowship, which provides college graduates with a $25,000 stipend for international travel and independent study. Fellows are chosen from among the nation’s leading colleges and universities. Recipients stay abroad for 12 months and delve deeply into a particular issue or project. Chung traveled to rural communities in Peru, Bolivia, Vietnam, and India, where he studied terrace farms—multileveled fields built into mountains and hills and supported by various types of retaining walls.
Terraced fields reduce erosion and water runoff, making them more water efficient. Chung became particularly interested in how traditional farming techniques can be used to adapt to climate change and water scarcity. He also documented how rural residents maintain their agricultural livelihoods in the face of political difficulties, globalized food markets, and the constant pull of the city. “Rural farmers continually wrestle with the idea of leaving the farming life and moving to the city. This tension got me interested in urban migration and growth.”
Returning to the United States, Chung worked as a program assistant in New York City for the UN Development Programme’s Equator Initiative and enrolled in the master’s program in urban planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2009. “Going from Bard to MIT seemed to fit,” he says. “What I appreciated at both places were the small classes, discussion-based learning, and emphasis on innovation and critical thinking.” In his master’s program, Chung became deeply interested in studying water and sanitation infrastructure. He spent the summer of 2010 in Ethiopia working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; he conducted water-quality assessments in four refugee camps, where many children suffered from water-borne diseases. The very existence of the camps—their size and the relative spontaneity with which they appear—is exactly the type of social problem that urban planners hope to deter. Wrote Chung in his blog from Ethiopia: “The fact that a settlement of thousands—a virtual city—can form in the middle of nowhere, and a small office of individuals is made responsible for all aspects of the refugees’ lives, is challenging, to say the least.”
Chung has been working at the World Bank for more than a year, and he plans on staying put. “I like Washington, D.C.,” he says. “After traveling so much, I’m happy to be settled. I’ve even started buying stuff for myself. Like furniture.”
Read the fall 2012 issue of the Bardian:
After Bard, Yugon worked as a furniture maker while continuing his sculptural work. After a few years, he decided to go to architecture school at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. "I worked with a number of architects after graduating, most recently with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genoa, Italy where I oversaw the design and construction of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum extension for a period of six years. At the completion of this project, I co-founded IKD with a classmate from Harvard and have taught at a number area schools, now currently at the Rhode Island School of Design."
At Bard, he enjoyed the freedom to explore whatever he wanted academically. The interdisciplinary opportunities helped develop the kind of thinking that led him to found IKD. "Bard helped me identify my own voice by introducing me to a wide range of voices, both teachers and fellow students," he adds.
Yugon’s advice for current Bardians? "Do what you love. Always take full advantage of an opportunity that comes your way no matter how small. You never know how one thing can lead to another or how things organically come together."
With thanks to the Bard College Career Development Office