A Survivor’s Account of the Stuyvesant Civil War

A documentary retelling the story of the Stuyvesant Civil War, a fight over a new gym uniform design.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

BBC Interviewer: Could you please introduce yourself to the camera?

*The camera pans to a ragged 17-year-old blankly staring into the distance outside a vandalized TriBeCa Bridge.*

Juliuseses Grant: Hi, my name Juliuseses Grant, and I am a survivor of the Stuyvesant Civil War.

*Insert a montage of ruins and piles of school equipment all over the Stuyvesant building: shattered windows, smeared ketchup packets, textbooks without covers, broken desks, and ripped-up papers.*

Juliuseses Grant: It all started with the morning announcement on March 29th. It was a Friday…

*Cue flashback*

Juliuseses Grant: The day, as always, started with the morning announcement: “Gooood morning Stuyvesant! We are your student announcers, Liesel Wong and Cyrus Cursetjee, and here are your morning announcements! Do your keys keep disappearing after you leave the house each morning? Well, it turns out that the Stuyvesant Key Club has had them all along and is asking you to come pick them up next Monday at 4:00 p.m. in Room 231, where it will coincidentally be holding its interest meeting. Additionally, the Physical Education Department will be accepting submissions for next year’s design of Stuyvesant’s Gym Uniform! Submissions are due at 11:59 p.m. on April 29th. Designs can be submitted to The winner will be decided based on a democratic vote by the student body.

Liesel Wong: “And now, for the morning joke: Cyrus, does February like March?”

Cyrus Cursetjee: “I don’t know, but April May.”

Liesel Wong: “Hahaha.”

Cyrus Cursetjee: “Ha.”

*The speaker is abruptly cut off.*

Juliuseses Grant: I couldn't stop thinking about the gym uniform submissions. No more bright orange cursive? No more shorts that add 10 pounds? I looked around. Everybody in the classroom was whispering. I think everyone knew what I knew—that this was our chance to have my club dominate the school. I was part of the Stuyvesant Anti-Club Club. Immediately after class, we assembled to discuss our design for the uniform competition. We needed a shirt that would best push our anti-club agenda. We decided on a truly revolutionary design: the word clubs with a large, red “X” over it. I sent the submission to immediately after.

Club Member 1: It’s perfect. A guaranteed win.

BBC Interviewer: You really forgot the name of your club members?

Juliuseses Grant: Yes. Names are a construct.

*Juliuseses turns away and drips a splotch of red ink on his bald head.*

“Also, I got shot during the war and lost my memory.”

*The interviewer eyes the ink jar in Juliuseses’s hand.*

BBC Interviewer: Sure!

Juliuseses Grant: Anyway, the situation quickly escalated. The Physical Education Department received over 200 submissions for the uniform design. Because there was one month left before the election date, a lot of clubs took this as an opportunity to promote their designs. Students came up with all sorts of methods to get as many votes as possible: they handed out stickers, cookies, flyers, cash, sushi, puppies—nothing was off-limits.

Teachers started picking sides in an effort to boost their favorite uniform. The Spanish Teachers formed a coalition and offered large amounts of extra credit to students who voted for the “Día de Los Muertos” uniform, which included a skeleton mariachi band, a sombrero, and shorts made of papel picado. Economics teachers lowered test scores and equaled the Spanish Department’s extra credit, thereby forcing students to support their inflatable “inflation shirts” for the sake of their grades. History teachers, claiming the bribery of other departments resembled the strategies of political machines, promptly shored up support for a t-shirt with Cornell Notes on “How to Do History Homework during PE.”

The tension over the chosen uniform divided everyone and split the school into factions. Teachers, students, custodians, and even the Principal would do anything just for a vote for the design of their choice. Friendships were broken, pencils were lost. The atmosphere was uneasy. Stuyvesant was getting ready for war.

*Documentary cuts to a scene of students yelling in the hallways. Crushed food litters the ground. Almost every square footage of space is covered in ripped posters. It smells distinctly of expired milk.*

BBC Interviewer: But what was the last straw? Who was the Archduke Ferdinand?

Juliuseses Grant: Well, the Student Union wanted to take out its biggest competitor. They decided to cut off funding for the STC, accusing them of “not meeting the requirement of monthly meetings scheduled on StuyActivities.” STC was outraged, and they united with SING! members to write a play protesting the Student Union. During the final performance of the play, a member of the SU shouted “What is that mysterious ticking noise?” in a voice like that of Severus Snape and promptly threw a glitter bomb onto the stage. The Stuyvesant Civil War had started.

After the glitter explosion and the ensuing havoc, STC and SING! (now the Drama Club), slept in shifts to maintain their control of the now sparkly auditorium, their new base of operations. The Music Department occupied the band room. The robotics team drove around the second floor in scrappy, malfunctioning cars. Other clubs soon populated the remaining real estate.

Once every region in the building was occupied, a frenzy of unique battles commenced. The first notable battle was between the Chess Club and the Board Games Club. The Chess Club developed a war tactic that involved sacrificing “pawns” to capture its opposition’s members and hold them hostage. Their battle received a short feature on NBC before the Chess Club offered a draw. The Swim Team attempted to expand into the weight room, which was a part of Track Team territory. They launched the attack by using one of the hallway benches as a battering ram, breaking through the door to expose the thoroughly shocked Track Team. Both battalions fought inside the weight room using hula hoops and flip flops. The battle ended in a substantial amount of property damage and a victory for the Track Team, who enjoyed what was left of their weight room. This haphazard battle caught the attention of the NYPD, which sent police officers to monitor the escalating situation. However, they quickly lost control when the Communist Club imported guns and artillery from “The Motherland” and decided to distribute them evenly amongst all the competing clubs. As for the Anti-Club Club, we fell into a verbal altercation with the Debate Club when we accused them of pushing their radical clubist agenda to gain votes. However, we fell into internal conflict after the Debate Club pointed out that we ourselves are also a club. Despite all the violence, the war was at a stalemate. Hardly any faction of the school managed to dominate a large area for an extended period of time.

The war came to an end when Kung Fu Tea, after hearing of this long-drawn conflict, reopened their old location and proposed a bubble tea gym uniform design of their own. Juniors and Seniors, who had been suffering from withdrawal symptoms ever since the Kung Fu Tea’s closing two years ago, all flocked to the store. The rest of the school stopped fighting, and the Kung Fu T-Shirt won by a massive margin. They even said one lucky student would receive a free bubble tea coupon with their gym uniform. How could anyone pass up something like that?

BBC Interviewer: What happened after?

Juliuseses Grant: Under the judgment of the DOE, Stuy siphoned much of the club funding into repairing the damages done to the building. All the students were forced to disband their factions and return to normalcy. Sadly, the administration decided that the bubble tea uniform wasn’t representative of our school, so we were subjected to the ultimate punishment: the original gym uniform. On the bright side, Kung Fu Tea returned and we are actually grateful for the delicious nectar of the gods. We’re ensuring that the store never closes down again.

BBC Interviewer: It sounds like a dream.

Juliuseses Grant: It’s not…

*Juliuseses Grant presents some bubble tea to the camera.*