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Bard College Named Nation's No. 1 Dinner Party School

Surveys show the nonstop dinner party culture at Bard is now even more widespread than at Wesleyan.
Surveys show the nonstop dinner party culture at Bard is now even more widespread than at Wesleyan.

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY—The Princeton Review announced this week that Bard College has topped its annual ranking of the nation's biggest dinner party schools.

The liberal arts college, which is located in New York's Hudson Valley and last year placed third on the list, has long been notorious for its active dinner party scene and consistently ranks near the top in such categories as roasting pine nuts with friends while discussing summer internships, and cooking with woks.

"Whether it's an intimate gathering of friends making vegetarian lasagna or an all-out potluck for studio-art majors, Bard students like to throw dinner parties, and they like to throw dinner parties hard," an excerpt from the rankings read. "It's almost impossible to walk the campus of this 2,000-student college on a Friday night and not hear the sound of Yellow Tail Pinot Noir bottles uncorking and Brian Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets album wafting across the quad."

"Potential applicants are advised to save some room for homemade vegan snickerdoodles, because this is one dinner party school that is not for lightweights," the excerpt concluded.

In surveys conducted by the Princeton Review, more than 80 percent of the students at Bard said they attend dinner parties "frequently to quite frequently," and another 60 percent said they regularly neglect their studies in order to pick up artisanal cheeses at the market in town.

The article quotes students who described the school's rampant "seven days a week" dinner party culture and the widespread popularity of on-campus herb gardening.

"People go crazy here with the dinner parties," said freshman Michael Lee, who claimed he knew about the school's reputation for all-evening-long dinner parties when he applied for admission, but found it even more pervasive than he'd expected. "I've been to dinner parties where guys show up with baguettes under both arms and just go for hours talking about Joanna Newsom or whatever. It's nuts."

Other students on campus claimed that some dinner parties carry on into brunch the next morning, and in many cases produce leftovers that can "last all weekend."

Bard administrators said steps in recent years to curb the school's rampant dinner party culture have met with mixed results.

"The bottom line is that kids here are always going to throw dinner parties," said Mark Halsey, associate dean of Bard College. "No matter how hard we crack down, students will still find a way to get fresh produce from the local farmer's market and make a big garden salad or puree some root vegetables. Some of them may even whip out Apples to Apples after dinner and play that while sipping on some limoncello. All we can do is try to make sure it doesn't get out of hand."

Continued Halsey, "That's why we have a strict policy that any student attending a dinner party with more than four courses will be immediately suspended."

School officials said Bard has made a number of positive changes since 2005, when a student was sent to the hospital after ingesting in excess of three poached tilapia fillets in less than an hour. Steps taken to manage the dinner party scene on campus include freshman orientation classes encouraging students to eat alone in their dorm room at least three times a week; banning the use of fondue kits on campus; and contacting the parents of students found using vegetables or tofu from the school's dining hall in their homemade stir-fries.

Still, students insisted that the dinner party scene is not likely to slow down anytime soon.

"I've already got three coming up this weekend," said sophomore Marissa Booth, holding up a handmade invitation made from a cut-up black-and-white photocopy of musician Kim Gordon scrawled over in colored pencil. "Although I won't be able to attend Jane's ravioli-making party because of my gluten allergy."

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