Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Vladimir Lenin, Oh My: A Tour of the Novack Posters

Stephanie Sowa ’25 provides a humorous look into the fliers posted in Novack.

by Stephanie Sowa | 11/17/21 2:10am

by Emil Liden / The Dartmouth

As I walk through Baker-Berry, I see fellow students studying and socializing in FFB. It’s a comforting scene and a warm oasis as the weather grows colder each day. I make my way towards Novack Cafe with friends and see the daunting line, but the friendly Novack workers, buttery croissants and up-beat music make the wait worth it. Because the line is often long, it is very probable that you will see someone you know — a great opportunity to catch up and maybe even meet some new faces. In a way, the line is actually a blessing (that is, unless you are running from your 11 to 12 on a time crunch.) Regardless, while you wait, several posters pinned up on the wall are bound to catch the corner of your eye.

“Is that… Nicki Minaj looking straight at me?” you think to yourself as you decide what pastry your lunch swipe will cover. Dog posters. Flyers for clubs. QR codes for websites. Back to Nicki Minaj: This iconic woman is plastered across the Novack walls. And honestly, why shouldn’t she be? The images range from simple photos showcasing fabulous red carpet looks to memes with Britney Spears. In this particular meme, Minaj is equated to Karl Marx and Spears is said to be Vladimir Lenin: perhaps this is a commentary on communism? Most definitely food for thought before purchasing your actual food.

Not only are the posters fun to look at, but there are humorous ones that poke fun at the stress Dartmouth students encounter during the rigorous and fast-paced quarter system. Minaj looks simultaneously distressed and glamorous as she laughs in the poster photoshopped to say, “So there’s this profound emptiness.” This sign attempts to encapsulate the emotions of many students at the end of this term, with assignments piling up and final exams barring entry to winterim. 

Let us not forget the powerful and physically large poster of Minaj and Beyoncé performing: It empowers one to confidently approach their day and the daunting obstacles that may come up. I find myself feeling more inspired to excel after seeing these women thriving on the wall — and perhaps also wanting to up my sense of style? All that seems to matter now is staying warm, regardless of clothing choices. 

Lady Gaga sits upon the wall with these words above her head: I SAID, there can be a hundred people in a room. Thankfully Dartmouth has felt incredibly normal after ending high school with a hybrid program due to the pandemic. While masks are necessary in certain spaces, many students agree that it has truly been refreshing to engage with peers inside classrooms and socialize again. If Lady Gaga said so… 

You also hear about these posters inspiring people to pursue new passions. The poster that asks if you “have a passion for voice acting” most definitely attracts attention. I’m sure several people have found that sending voice memos of animal noises to the listed phone number is their dream. Unfortunately, I do not believe that animal voice acting is an official major here at Dartmouth. This reminds me of the beginning of the term, when I bonded with fellow ’25s about the Backyardigans poster we saw with this exact message, which brought us back to a favorite childhood show. In all seriousness, these posters inspire hypothetical realities that people discuss in the Novack line and create a fun space for laughter and comedy. 

While it is an incredibly fun space, the Novack posters also mention important topics. Circling back to Ms. Minaj, there is a poster of her which says “So there’s this: they/them” — acknowledging the importance of being aware of people’s pronouns and how crucial it is to respect people’s identities in a diverse space such as Dartmouth. On another note, there is a poster advertising Teach for America — a nonprofit organization which works to combat the education crisis that accompanies wealth disparity across the nation. It helps children in low-income communities recognize their potential and work toward their goals (though it has attracted criticism for putting unprepared teachers into under-resourced classrooms, potentially exacerbating educational inequity). Nearby, in bold red words, another poster says, “No human being is illegal.” These are important messages that exist alongside the light-hearted images described above. 

Posters also notify students of fun campus events — with QR codes plastered on the wall to encourage students to find out more. One small and understated poster simply asks, “Curious about Italian?”. Since, of course, I am, all I have to do is hold up my phone and have my camera assess the code. From there, I am taken to the French and Italian department website, where I can explore language classes and potential study abroad programs. 

Once I get to the front of the line, my brain is buzzing with new information and ideas provoked by these Novack posters. I walk away with a warm drink and pastry, probably laughing with friends about the absurdity of some of the things we see on the wall. I’ll definitely be texting some of the memes to my brother. Novack posters: fostering strong relationships through hilarity and realness. 

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