the University of the South, a Tennessee
liberal arts college with a handful of graduate students, known informally as Sewanee (because that’s the name of the
town). The first thing you’ll notice on visiting Sewanee is that most of the men are wearing jackets and ties, while most of
the women are wearing makeup and skirts. Forty years ago, most colleges had a similar dress code. Today, Sewanee is one of a handful. The majority of students pledge fraternities and sororities and social life revolves around a never-ending stream of “big-weekend” beer bashes. The biggest of them all is homecoming weekend, where students get a date and dress up for a huge see-and-be-seen fashion show that includes innumerable cocktail parties before and after. Conservative, well-heeled, and All-American, Sewanee is the perfect place for a carefree 1950s-style college education. In the words of one student, Sewanee has “the happiest college student body I have ever encountered.”
No one would ever say such a thing about Bard College, a school of similar size about an hour north of New York City. Though the students may find happiness there, too, it is well hidden beneath a thick veneer of liberal artistic angst. Bard students, it seems, carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. If there is an oppressed group anywhere to be found, Bard students can be counted on to buy T-shirts, sell
buttons, and organize protests on its behalf. As for clothes, you would be hard-pressed to find a Bard man who even owns a jacket and tie. Nor would the typical Bard woman be caught dead in a dress—unless it was paired with combat boots. Jewelry and makeup worn in traditional ways are nonexistent, but there is plenty of spiked hair, fluorescent hair, tattoos, and piercings protruding from every conceivable body part. As for football and fraternities? Take a wild guess. The biggest social event of the year at Bard is called Drag Race, where everyone dresses in drag and parties nonstop.