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All that dwells in a drop of water. The Metten Library: a baroque gem in southern Germany. She became anorexic and just got thinner and thinner. But in the spring all the intimidation was theoretically washed away with the Wishing on the Rings ritual, in which each New Girl would ask a senior Old Girl to wish on her new school ring. The system worked for many. Having to tough it out at Farmington prepared them for the world they were entering, both academically—after Farmington, many Ancients found college to be a breeze—and on a more personal level.
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I shed that pretty rapidly. And Farmington was making it clear to us that we should learn to survive and learn to be our best selves within those strictures. By the time she got to Stanford, in , she had learned from a senior who had been involved in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, registering voters, about what was going on in the world, with the war in Vietnam and the civil-rights movement. In , under the leadership of Richard Davis, the school dipped its toe into diversity by inviting its first black student, Glenda Newell, to attend.
Davis made it clear that she was an experiment. They got into the Motown she was listening to; she started liking James Taylor. The parents were trickier. She was continually reminded of the disparity in wealth.
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But Newell-Harris, the Jackie Robinson of Farmington, toughed it out, eventually serving on the board of trustees. She saw that others were toughing it out in different ways, by quietly enduring troubles back home. But it was not the Farmington way to talk about it or let it send you off course. Still, stoicism could go too far. In , three years after Roe v. Wade, one girl suffered alone through the most unimaginable horror. In mid-November, as a former teacher tells it, the girl went to her classes, played soccer, skipped dinner, returned to her dorm, and gave birth to a boy by herself in the bathroom.
She cleaned up the mess, wrapped the baby up, stashed him under her bed, and went to study hall. She began to bleed ferociously and was taken to the infirmary. By the time they got to the baby, he had suffocated. But the trauma was also a wake-up call. In response to the obvious fact that girls might need help more than they let on, the adviser and counseling systems were ratcheted up. At the same time, the school felt the pressures of the outside world. Rules for dressing were loosened. Now girls could wear the hip fashions of the day: long, wraparound skirts, puffy blouses, and clogs.
One of the most popular, of all things, was interning with Ralph Nader. All-male schools such as Hotchkiss, Choate, Taft, and Exeter became coed, which meant that fathers who had attended them could now send their daughters to their alma maters. But in doing so it struggled to attract the same caliber of girl. Something had to change. Starting slowly, it broadened the diversity of its student body, accepting more people of color and more scholarship students. The girls seem friendly, curious about the world, and intellectually fired up.
Those I am allowed to meet on my visit there—the school handpicked five of them—bang the drum of sisterhood in a genuine and endearing way. How can you say that? I felt that maybe this was a parting gift. In spite of the warmth that permeates the community today, it seems being a member of the Oprichniki has remained for some a badge of honor.
Blair Clarke, who graduated in and who was an Oprichnik, recalls that after enduring the intimidation of the Oprichniki her freshman year—in which she and her classmates wore plastic on certain days for fear of getting pelted with tomatoes and crash-studied basic German just in case—she wanted to become one.
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But Tatum Bass, in her lawsuit, claims they are more powerful than that. An honor student from Beaufort, South Carolina, she loved the school under the leadership of Burch Ford, who was also her adviser. Bass was elected to the student-government position of student-activities coordinator. According to her, this breach of tradition prompted an onslaught of cruelty, spearheaded by the Oprichniki. They taunted her through mean text messages and on Facebook.
Bass began to fall apart. This led to the cheating, she claims, which she felt so awful about that she immediately confessed to Kate Windsor. After a three-day suspension, she stayed with her parents, Nina, a child psychiatrist, and William, the president of an insurance agency, at a local hotel. Days later, the suit claims, she returned to her dorm to find her belongings thrown into a pile in the corner with a sign that read, for rent. Tatum became fearful of being on campus. Two doctors recommended that she take a medical leave, but the school allegedly denied those requests and instructed its medical director not to communicate with any of her physicians.
A week later, the school informed the Basses that it was expelling their daughter, for alleged unexcused absences and violations of school rules. This was done, the family claims, without giving Tatum any opportunity to be heard. Not every girl who gets taunted ends up cheating.
Perhaps because Bass, according to a source close to her, still loves the school and has faith that maybe the abuse she experienced was an aberration. The family sued for damages and to void the expulsion, among other things because they believed they were given no other recourse. Windsor, 42, is a tall, rather glamorous-looking blonde who stands out from her somewhat earthier, New Englandy colleagues. Her last job was as head of the Sage School, a K—8 school in Foxboro, Massachusetts, for academically gifted children.
Her very being exudes an obsession with excellence; you might say she is a modern-day Mrs.
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