By Vassar Quarterly

African Americans in Germany

I have just finished reading “A Breath of Freedom: African American GIs in Germany” [winter 2010], which discussed Germany’s supposed progressiveness in the area of racial equality during the 1950s and 1960s, compared to the U.S. I lived in Heidelberg, Germany, during the 1968/69 academic year and was a student at Heidelberg University at the time. I noticed that black students from various African countries who attended the university seemed to be treated as equals with the other students there. Sadly, however, the situation for African American servicemen stationed in Heidelberg was quite different. Although my Army husband and I (who are both white) were easily able to obtain rental housing in Heidelberg, the German locals refused to rent to the African Americans in his work group so they had to commute from the small towns surrounding the city. I experienced another layer of prejudice when my husband and I tried to gain entrance to a popular Heidelberg nightclub one evening; we were told by the employee at the door that I could come in but my husband could not.  When I asked why, he said it was because I was German (actually, I only look German) but my husband was obviously American and they didn't want Americans there.  

The U.S. still has work to do in bringing equality to all. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we are further along in that regard than just about any other country. I recall that during my Vassar graduation weekend there was a guest speaker in the Chapel service who said something that has stayed with me through the years. He remarked, “Some people hate bad more than they love good.” I hope that we would all use what's going right with this country as inspirational springboards for making things even better rather than complaining about past injustices.

Ann Howard Pasiuk ’70
Placerville, California

Ecology is Science

I just finished reading the fall 2010 issue of the Quarterly and find myself wishing there was more of a presence of other (non-lab) science grads at Vassar. I know that natural sciences is not what Vassar is known for, but I can't imagine I'm the only Vassar grad who has gone on to work in ecology.

Rebecca Lewison, Ph.D. ’93
San Diego, California

Editor’s note: Rebecca Lewison is a conservation ecologist at San Diego State University. Her research focuses primarily on the accidental entanglement in fishing lines of long-lived, air-breathing vertebrates, including sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals.

Memories of the Dutch

I enjoyed the “Last Page” piece on the Mug Rats by Ian Heller ’90 [winter 2010]. When I was at Vassar, the New York State drinking age was 18 and the college was not yet co-ed. Our version of the Mug was a nearby bar, the Dutch Cabin. It had a fireplace, some comfy chairs, a few tables with enough light for studying, and a bartender who was a brother to us all. Men whose attentions were not reciprocated were politely invited to take another seat. I remember one occasion when a man was less politely invited to seek another bar. One night my real brother had driven from more than an hour away to visit me for dinner. While we were chatting at the Dutch, an unexpected storm began piling on the snow. We were worried about my brother’s drive home. The bartender kindly offered the couch in his apartment. One of my many great memories of the Dutch.

Wendy Knickerbocker ’70
Castine, Maine

Access for the Disabled

I’m always very interested to read the Vassar Quarterly. As someone who has been actively involved in disability rights for years (personally and professionally since my college days) I was very excited to see the cover of the “Access” issue [winter 2010]. You can imagine my disappointment when the cover story about access and diversity failed to have any mention of persons with disabilities. Surely there must be students and faculty with disabilities who are adding to the diverse environment that is Vassar.

William D. Goren ’82
Chicago, Illinois 

Editor’s Note: There are, indeed, many students and faculty members with disabilities who are thriving at Vassar. We regret that we did not include this important constituency in our coverage. Read more about what Vassar’s Office of Disability and Support Services is doing to ensure that disabled students have equal access and opportunity to academic courses, programs, and activities of the college.