This poem, written by an anonymous author and found in the Vassar College Archives, commemorates the faculty response to the threat of outside intervention in the Black Students’ Association’s take-over of Main Building in 1969.
‘Twas the night of the sit-in and all through the house,
All the creatures were stirring except for the mouse.
The doors by the elevator were boarded with care
In hopes that Larry Quinlan (1) would not be there.
The children were nestled (but not in their beds)
And visions of chaos reigned in their heads.
Not faculty with kerchiefs (but guards with their caps)
Had just settled down for their long evening’s naps.
When out on the circle there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their posts to see what was the matter.
Away to the windows they flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the crest of the new-fallen dorm
Gave new dimensions to ominous forms.
But what to Quinlan’s beady eyes should appear
C. Colton Johnson
–our faculty dear.
More rapid than eagles to the Dean’s office they came.
They whistled and shouted and called them by name:
“Come Bettys, come Anne, come Robert and Lynn,
Come Glen, come Jack, come Catherine and Jim!” (2)
From fourth floor to second, on each side of the hall,
Sit away, sit away, sit away–
Yes, all through the housetop the rumors did fly
With increasing belief that Quinlan was nigh.
And near the Drou’s office was heard from within
The sound of coffee spoons stirring the gin.
They picked up a phone and heard from the hall
That all on campus would be quiet and still.
As they served up the coffee and were turning around,
There stood Lynn Bartlett, his eyes red and round.
He was dressed all in civvies from his head to his toes.
Only Hevenor surpassed him in the condition of clothes.
A stack of release forms he held in his hand;
He looked like an honest-to-gosh P.R. man.
His eyes were so glazed, yet his laugh was still merry;
His cheeks were like daisies, his nose not yet cherry.
The butt of a cigar was clenched in his teeth
But spying C. Colton, it dropped in disbelief.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf;
They laughed when they saw him in spite of themselves.
He spoke not a word but went straight to his work,
Returning again when the coffee was perked.
After sixty-some hours with nary a nap,
There finally came reason for someone to clap!
The barred doors were open, the hallway was clear,
We finally got rid of our faculty dear!
Thank you very much for your concern and help,
1.) Larence Quinlan was Dutchess County Sheriff at the time of the sit-in.
2.) The administrators referred to are: Elizabeth Drouilhet, Elizabeth Daniels, Anne Constantinople, Robert Hevenor, Lynn Bartlett, Glen Johnson, Jack Duggan, Catherine Parrish and Jim Ritterskamp.