Bard College, the liberal arts school located 120 miles north in Annandale-on-Hudson, "puts the 'liberal' in 'liberal arts,'" according to the 'Princeton Review.' It has a 600-acre campus and nearly 1500 undergrads. This is their story—as told by a student who would like to be known as Stephan K. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.
There aren't a lot of people coming out of the closet at Bard College. Coming out, as anyone who has attended a liberal arts college will remember, is a laborious process involving several stages—not just a split and run revolution of hair-dying and nail-painting (or the lack thereof in some of the more lesbian cases).
The early part of the coming-out process is often awkward and lonely and internet-based; it progresses into a stage made acceptable by the rise of metrosexuality, wherein the subject clings to the new nonconformist effeminate straight male image, carrying purses and wearing ballet flats in the name of "individuality."
Needless to say early Autumn is not the season to be having your moment upstate.
But the other day, while seated in a large circle and huddled in thick jackets, as we drank from bright red plastic cups, my friends and I were witness to a neighbor's beautiful decision to admit to himself, and to the world, who he really was.
We'll call him Mr. Swiss. A tall kid from the Upper West Side, we knew him for his favorite things: Cheeseburgers, Red Bull and vodka, and pot. He was funny, he was smart, but he was keeping something inside.
"Guys," he said. "I have something to tell you...."
"I'm a Republican."
There was a short silence.
"We know, we know," someone said.
"Well," he said, "actually, I'm more like a conservative Democrat, or a Centralist, or, I don't know.... Well, I guess, I'm a Republican."
Bard is a place where people regularly recite the funny facts and candid observations found on Michael Moore Box Calendars. I've heard kids call themselves Liberals, Democrats, Independents, and, naturally, Libertarians. I've met Anarchists, I've met Communists—but the Republican population of the school was lacking.
The first day my friends and I arrived at our dorm, we discovered in the ramshackle kitchen: A menorah; a nearly empty bottle of gin (in the freezer); and a well-used copy of "The Official 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Reader." Halloween festivities last week at Bard included a Democratic Presidential Debate Watch Party, which advertised itself as having pizza, cookies, and a Dennis Kucinich look-a-like contest.
The top Facebook group among Bard students is "1,000,000 Strong for Stephen Colbert."
More often, I've heard students say they just don't care.
Bard is far from a political place. Josefine Kühl, a German student and a friend of mine, had a lot to say about the hypocrisy amongst the Bard liberal set. She cooks all her food in her dorm's kitchen, storing ingredients and leftovers in the common refrigerator. One day, however—even though she'd labeled all her food—she found that she'd been raided.
"All these kids talk about is how they are so sad about people starving in Whatchumacallit or wherever, and then, they go and just take other people's food from the refrigerator!" she said, and shook her fists with anger.
So the little liberals are also the disenchanted. They see voting as a waste of their time, and, with Election day coming up, the Bard Democrats group and representatives from the Democratic party of Duchess County were in the main cafeteria for weeks attempting to register the "too cool." Probably that did not go well.
The vegans as well have their hypocritical tendencies. While some lust after Theory jackets with rabbit-fur collars, and will surely soon enough falter from the path, others go too far—such as the vegans who hate the bees.
And the vegans who are addicted to Vicodin.
All of this puts Bard's lone Republican in a very good light. He's the only one who will actually say something about anything. When I asked him his battle plan for trying to maintain a social life, he told me he had gone through three phases.
First he had tried as hard as possible to be different. (I had noticed: Khakis and monogrammed Oxford shirts.) Then he had tried to assimilate. And then he stopped caring. In the pit of self-victimized mirror-junkies, that seems like the right choice.