10 Vassar Bubble Norms That No One in the Outside World Understands

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Womp-womps, Vcards and Meryl Streep—only Vassar students understand the true significance of these terms. Squirrels are bad while groundhogs are good (except they’re not called groundhogs). And we don’t eat, we deece. Cocooned in our “Vassar Bubble,” we develop our own lingo and everyday realities that make sense to every person we interact with on a daily basis. Then every once in a while you run into a bewildered brand-new freshman or prospective student’s parent and you remember how strange we really are.

Pop that Vassar Bubble and get used to the fact that absolutely no one gets these 10 quirks.

1. STUDENT FELLOWS

What is an RA? Disciplinary watchdogs don’t roam on the halls of Vassar College. Instead we have Student Fellows. The concept of fearing your RA is foreign to us. If freshmen get in a less-than-smart situation, they’ll bang on their Stu Fel’s door instead of running from it. “Last semester I tried having one-on-one session with all of my fellowees to check in. This past weekend we all got together for brunch to catch up,” sophomore Catherine Hernandez said. It’s basically a big sib/little sib deal, college edition.

2. EXTROVERTED SQUIRRELS

Squirrels, like most small wild animals, usually run away when humans get close. That’s how it works. Vassar squirrels apparently didn’t get the memo. It’s unsettling at first, but we all got pretty used to giant squirrels invading our personal bubbles. “They say that the squirrels on campus are so aggressive because they’re the wandering souls of English majors who didn’t get good jobs. I prefer to believe that they’re the souls of English majors who have returned to frighten us so we stay indoors and do all our readings,” senior Elizabeth Dean said. Whichever one it is, no squirrel attacks at Vassar have been reported—yet.

3. LOSING YOUR V-CARD MORE THAN ONCE

Some people have lost it many more times than that. For the first couple weeks the freshman giggle like fifth graders every time “VCard” comes up in a sentence. I mean, who thought calling student ID cards “VCards” sounded like a good idea? But after the joke gets old, Vassar students soon don’t think twice about it. Sophomore Lucy Ellman said, “Over finals week I dropped my VCard down the elevator shaft. Not the place I thought I’d lose my VCard for a third time. When I went to get it replaced, they felt sorry for me so they didn’t make me pay for it. I’m sure there’s a prostitution joke in there somewhere.”

4. MERYL STREEP AND LISA KUDROW SIGHTINGS

“I was at a fancy Alumnae House reception when I thought I saw Meryl Streep make an appearance at the far end of the room,” sophomore Taylor Lodise said. “I remember being frozen in my seat, not sure what to do. Did no one else see this famous figure against the wall as I did, staying for a mere few minutes still in her coat and then proceeding to walk out? I know that it could very well have been Meryl Streep. But I also know that I could have just seen someone who looked like her.”

While Meryl Streep chilling in the Alumnae House might seem far-fetched, it’s indisputable fact that she walked out on stage in the middle of a student orchestra concert last fall and proceeded to narrate a story that accompanied their piece. So when a possible sighting surfaces, Vassar students pay attention. Because really, isn’t having Lisa Kudrow and Meryl Streep as alumnae why we’re all here anyway?

5. WE JUDGE DORMS BY THEIR BATHROOMS

Dorm pride is big thing at Vassar. In most cases, the dorm you live in as a freshman doubles as the dorm you stay in for your first three years. Because of this, we argue pretty often over who has the best dorm. One of the main pieces of evidence used? The state of the dorm’s bathrooms. For some reason, Vassar students talk about bathrooms a lot. Josselyn House’s location is less than ideal, but its expansive, modern bathrooms more than make up for it. Those who live there perhaps utilize their bathroom bragging rights a bit too much.

6. THE DEECE

The Deece on Vassar's campus

Maria Bell

If you ask a Vassar student where to find the All Campus Dining Hall, you’re pretty much guaranteed to draw a blank stare. “You can always pick out a newcomer or a non-Vassar student by listening to what they call the dining hall. Quickly, Vassar students realize that calling the dining hall anything but the Deece is a surefire way to show you’re a freshman,” sophomore Emily Laschanzky said. But the Deece isn’t just a building. It’s a verb. You’ll hear “want to deece with me tonight?” or “we’re deecing now” around campus. “Deece” is even its own aroma. “One time I went to the Deece and my friend turns to me as we are waiting in the line to swipe in and says ‘Ugh it smells like Deece,’” sophomore Olivia Hodel said.

 7. WOMP-WOMPS

Definition 3 on Urban Dictionary: “A mid-sized, adorable rodent that resides exclusively on the campus of Vassar College. When startled, these creatures womp-womp away.” No one has any idea how the name began, but at Vassar you’ll never hear the word “groundhog.” Instead, we call it a womp-womp. Period. Like our squirrels, you’ll find many abound that do not get easily intimidated. But unlike the squirrels, we actually love the womp-womps. If Vassar students got any say, the womp-womp would probably be our mascot.

8. THE PROLIFERATION OF BOOZE-HAPPY ORG NAMES

Since three-quarters of Vassar’s student population is under legal drinking age, it’s rather ironic that we refer to Vassar’s sport teams as “The Brewers.” Matthew Vassar founded both Vassar College and a brewing company. At some point the two got lumped together. The name gave rise to many beer-inspired organization names over the years, including “Iced Brew,” “Brewskis,” “Home Brewed” and “On Tap.” The orgs themselves have little to do with beer, but we can’t blame an outsider for getting confused.

9. GENDER-NEUTRAL BATHROOMS

This one will freak parents out on tours, and new students often squirm about it. But once into the swing of things, Vassar students don’t bat an eye. Many colleges are adding gender-neutral bathrooms but most are single-stall and if not, the hall takes a vote. At Vassar you won’t find a gendered community bathroom in any dorm but the one all-women’s. To us it’s bewildering how much of a big deal the world outside campus makes of it.

10. BREAKING A WORLD RECORD IS NOT A POSSIBILITY

Vassar College looks beautiful in the winter.

Maria Bell

Every Vassar student knows the story: We broke the world record for the longest unsuspended tree branch. Except it wasn’t really unsuspended. One year the Guinness representative showed up before the cable could be removed like usual, and well, we got banned from the book. The factual nature of this story is up for debate, but whether it’s myth or reality doesn’t particularly matter. We all hold a sweet appreciation for the tale and our giant controversial tree. But if you aspire to break a world record before you graduate, Vassar might not be for you.

Maria is a sophomore English major at Vassar College. She adores dark chocolate, hot tea, a good book, and any activity that permits being barefoot. She has a pet rabbit in her dorm room.

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