Tag: news

Image courtesy of Barnard College

In a final email to the Barnard community, President Spar wished the student body goodbye and gave updates on diversity, divestment, and the contingency faculty union contract. The full email is below:

To All Members of the Barnard Community,

Today, I had the bittersweet task of presiding over my final meeting of the Barnard Board of Trustees. It has been a great honor to work with this deeply committed Board for the past nine years, and to have been part of a community that shares a love for, and devotion to, the cause of women’s education.  Never has this goal been more relevant or more important than it is today.

Since I announced my departure three months ago, I have had the opportunity, yet again, to observe the strength, resilience, and determination of the Barnard community.  Our students have shown a re-energized commitment to engage with the world around them, and to fight for the causes and ideals they hold dear.  Our faculty have been a source of wisdom and expertise, using their scholarship to unpack the complexities of our world, and to nudge it to a better and more generous place.  Across our community of staff and alumnae and parents, Barnard women have made their voices heard.  At Women’s Marches across the country, sporting the iconic pink hats that were the brainchild of Krista Suh, Barnard ’09.  At the Athena Film Festival, celebrating the work of pioneers like Regina Scully and Eve Ensler.  And, on our own campus, digging in to such critical issues as diversity, inclusion, divestment, and adjunct faculty wages.

It’s been a busy year.  At today’s Board meeting, the trustees unanimously approved a path-breaking recommendation from our Task Force to Examine Divestment that will put Barnard at the very forefront of organizations striving to have an impact on climate change and fossil fuel use.  Thanks in large part to student activists from Divest Barnard, and backed by crucial insights from faculty members and trustees, the Task Force proposed — and the Board accepted — a decision to divest Barnard’s endowment from those companies that deny climate change.

Working with outside experts such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the College will now be able to use its endowment funds both symbolically and responsibly, setting a new standard for investment that seeks to balance the fiduciary need to manage our resources with the moral responsibility to harness science for sustainability. To read more about the Task Force’s work and recommendations, please visit: https://barnard.edu/vision-values/divestment-task-force.

At today’s meeting, the trustees also heard recommendations from the Presidential Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion and approved the College’s first contract with our newly-formed contingent faculty union, BCF-UAW.  Under the terms of the new contract, Barnard’s adjunct faculty will receive salaries and benefits, including health care, which will be among the most generous in the nation.  These provisions, settled over the course of a full year of negotiations, signify our ongoing commitment to all of the faculty who teach our students and serve as role models for them.  Meanwhile, the Board also gave its support to a wide-sweeping roster of measures designed to make our campus as diverse and inclusive as our community desires it to be.

Over the next few months, Interim President Rob Goldberg will put in place several of the Task Force’s most immediate recommendations, including the creation of a campus-wide Diversity Council and an annual report on diversity and inclusion to the Campus Life Committee of the Board of Trustees. Over the next few years, the Board and the Task Force will work with the College’s next president to implement the next tranche of recommendations.  For more on these steps, both interim and longer-term, please visit: https://barnard.edu/news/statement-president-spar-diversity-and-inclusion.

This work caps what has been, for me, a wonderful nine-year term at Barnard.   It has been a joy and a privilege to watch the College become both more diverse and more selective over this time, and to see the successive waves of classes — ever smarter, more curious, and more committed to building lives that matter.  It has been an honor to work with these young women, and to watch them forge their own paths into the future.  It has been thrilling to celebrate each ritual of passage — from move-in day to Commencement — with our students, and deeply moving to watch them support each other, and their Barnard community, during moments of stress or challenge.  I have been touched by so many members of this campus, and am grateful to each and every one of you for helping to make Barnard such a special place.

As I step through the gates of campus this evening, I am heartened to know that Barnard is in such a good and strong place.  Our endowment, for the first time in its history, has topped $300 million.  Our new Foundations curriculum is in place, and exciting.  Our new teaching and learning center — formally announced yesterday as The Milstein Center — is actively under construction, set to provide the next generations of Barnard students and faculty with the intellectual hub they desire and deserve.  And our interim president, Rob Goldberg, is fully primed to work with the Board and the senior staff to lead the College through the next few months, and then on to the service of whomever will be selected as Barnard’s eighth president.

I leave also, though, with a deep gratitude for what the College has given me, and allowed me to become.  It has been a privilege to serve an institution so deeply committed to women, to education, and to the liberal arts. It has been a joy to work with and among people who care so intently about the world they will inherit, and the legacy they leave behind.

As I venture now down Broadway, I will take and cherish all that Barnard has meant to me.  A voice for women.  A commitment to truth.  And a determination, always, to be bold.

Thank you for sharing this amazing place with me.

Sincerely,

Debora Spar

 

 

A few hours ago, President Bollinger sent an email about how the university is handling President Trump’s recent immigration executive order. The full text of his email is below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

Over the past two weeks, we have been working with several other academic institutions (sixteen, including all Ivy League universities) on an amicus brief that was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York challenging the Executive Order regarding immigrants from seven designated countries and refugees.  Among other things, the brief asserts that “safety and security concerns can be addressed in a manner that is consistent with the values America has always stood for, including the free flow of ideas and people across borders and the welcoming of immigrants to our universities.”  There will be more to say in the days ahead.  

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger

Last Wednesday, President Bollinger held one of his semesterly Fireside Chats, during which he invites Columbia students to his home and answers any questions they may have. This fireside chat seemed especially heavy with recent events like the student deaths on campus and the now-defunct presidential executive order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Students also raised questions about Columbia’s Graduate Student Union, the potential to pay tuition based on number of credit hours taken, the lack of space on Columbia’s campus, and the possibility of divesting from fossil fuels.

While President Bollinger answered every question asked of him respectfully and calmly (in some cases cracking jokes and in others, deferring to more specialized administrators), some of his answers didn’t seem to hold any weight. For example, in light of the recent student deaths on campus, he started the chat by saying that he valued mental health and encouraged students to use the resources available to them. Later, when a student asked about the potential to pay per credit hour (to lighten the financial burden for seniors who need a few more credits to complete their degree), President Bollinger responded that it’s the student’s choice to decide the number of credits to take a semester. This response seemed to ignore the fact that a lot of work and stress comes with an heavy course load, and the student might choose a lighter load because it’s what they can handle. He also shifted the conversation to one about Columbia’s financial aid, effectively dismissing the credit hours idea.

When an Iranian GS student shared her hopes to see her son in Iran after 16 years apart, only for them to be dashed after the president’s executive order, President Bollinger wasn’t able to say what would happen to the student’s student visa after her final year at Columbia. “I wanted to make the United States my home, and I have doubt about that happening now,” she said tearfully. Instead, he focused on the now and said that Columbia was offering lawyers pro bono to anyone who needed legal help.

He also outlined the reasons behind the university contesting the recent Graduate Student Union vote, citing past legal cases involving student unions and “a number of behaviors by the union that were inappropriate [that] could have affected the outcome of the election.”

As for campus space, President Bollinger said that the administration wants to keep spaces inclusive and is “looking for venues to have more space where students can get together and support each other.” He also hinted at making John Jay open for more hours, even after JJ’s Place reopens.

Lastly, President Bollinger answered questions about the endowment and fossil fuels. “In general,” he said, “the policies of all universities in the modern era have been that we’re not going to use the endowment as a means of implementing our social choices. . . Research, expanding knowledge, conveying knowledge to the next generation: that’s what we do and we’re trying to get money to support that. That’s the general view, and I think that’s the right policy.” As a counterexample to this statement, he brought up apartheid in South Africa, but said that using the endowment for social change was otherwise “pretty rare.” He said that the policy was being looked over by a committee of students, faculty, and trustees and that we’d see “decisions in the next three to six months.”

In an email sent out yesterday, Provost Linda Bell welcomed Jennifer Green as the new Dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services. You can read the full email below.

 

Dear Barnard Community,

I am delighted to announce that Jennifer Green will be joining Barnard as Dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS), beginning on Monday, March 6th. Jen comes to the College after eleven years as a data librarian at the University of Michigan Libraries, where she was the Head of Science, Engineering, and the Clark Library for Maps, Government Information and Data, as well as the Director of Research Data Services. At Michigan, she spearheaded the creation of numerous services and spaces, including a library-wide research data service and institutional data repository, and the conception and implementation of the Clark Library, Michigan’s first new library in nearly two decades.

Prior to the University of Michigan, Jen served as Public Services Librarian at Grinnell College, where she brought her skill and ingenuity to several digital initiatives. She earned her M.L.I.S. from the University of Texas, Austin in 1995 and her B.A. in Art History from Trinity University, San Antonio in 1991.

Working closely with me, Jen will oversee the relocation of the Barnard library to our new teaching and learning center in Fall 2018. She will also build on the College’s relationships with faculty, students, alumnae, and colleagues at the Columbia University Libraries to promote innovation across disciplines. Jen will be working at the forefront of advancements in the acquisition, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, and her technological experience and creativity will nourish both new and existing library resources.

I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Alexis Seeley, who served as Interim Director of BLAIS during this transition. Alexis did an extraordinary job managing the library and IMATS, and I am proud to announce her promotion to a new position, Associate Dean of BLAIS and the Digital Commons, beginning March 6th. In this role, Alexis will build on her excellent work as Interim Director, during which she coordinated a multi-stage plan for relocation and deepened the quality of the library’s contributions to campus. Before serving as Interim Director, Alexis used her extensive knowledge of educational technology to transform and expand Barnard’s media services during her years as Associate Dean for Teaching Research and Technology and Manager of Instructional Media.

I know that Jen, along with Alexis, will lead the library into a new era of innovation and growth, and we will certainly benefit from their varied skills and collective years of experience. Of course, I would also like to thank the search committee, chaired by Peter Balsam, and the entire library staff. They were all instrumental in this successful transition.

Please join me in congratulating Alexis and welcoming Jen to Barnard.

My very best,
Provost Linda Bell

In the past year as editor-in-chief of The Lion, I have had the chance to hear different voices from the student body and cover some of the events and issues impacting the Columbia community every single day. But with this, I also was exposed to a lot of the frustration and anger expressed towards the current campus publications.

Currently, there are four main publications that serve the community:

Columbia Spectator: “Offers news, arts, commentary, sports coverage, and photos from around campus and New York City, in conjunction with our blog, Spectrum, and our weekly arts and features magazine, The Eye.”

Bwog: “We post what you should have heard about as a member of the Columbia community, packaged with bad puns and coarse jokes.”

The Tab Columbia: “News Columbia students care about, in a style you actually want to read.”

The Lion: “The Lion’s goal is to create a platform to widen the circle of accepted discourse within the Columbia community.”

As publications, we have a clear goal: to help spread news to the community and to showcase the various ideas manifested by members of the Columbia community. Yet, at the same time, several publications have faced challenges doing that: either via the University or by how they’re run. As a result of unclear rules from the Activities Board at Columbia, the group tasked with approving new publications, and the desire to ensure that a publication is not forced to change content at the whim of the University, many of Columbia’s publications have chosen to stay independent.

Consequently, in order to maintain their sites and stay afloat, they resort to using a combination of clickbait titles and selectively choosing the content they choose to share — effectively shutting out voices and ideas in our community that deserve to be heard. A recent example of this was when Keenan Smith’s (CC ’18) A Seat At The Table, a piece about the experiences of Black women and Black queer folk at Columbia, was rejected by the Columbia Daily Spectator’s editorial staff for failing to be accessible to a “wider audience.” At a school where roughly 13% of student body identifies as Black/African-American, it’s concerning when publications do not deem even parts of this subgroup as wide enough to share a piece based on their experiences.

 

As a result of publications focusing on driving web traffic and getting advertisements, the entire experience is sub-par. This fixation on “What will get the most clicks?” or “What’s content that we can easily monetize?” causes many of the pieces you read from the main publications here to feel familiar — most likely because they are. And recently, some have become quite odd (looking at you, “Which Columbia Halal Cart Are You?” quiz and “My week eating just Koronet Pizza”)

And when it comes to news, publications have rushed to publish pieces in hopes of getting the web traffic for breaking news or failing to write in the correct tone for the gravity of the situation. Recently, The Lion experienced this when we initially published a report of a student death/incident in Broadway Hall and then refrained from updating the post with more information, leaving students and family members alike deeply concerned about their loved ones. While The Lion eventually rescinded the post after a board vote, we could and should have been more transparent with our readers. While we had an obligation and verified information about the incident, we should have waited until we were fully cleared to release all the details and names at once rather than leaving readers to search for information on their own.

Moreover, rather than scouting new voices, a lot of the writers we see published in Columbia’s publications are normally part of the same cohort of student writers and in many cases cover the same topic — mainly because those are the areas they have the most experience in. Case in point, in 2012, past Lion Writer, Stephen Snowder, went and compiled more than nine Spectator articles related to discourse and division. Expanding from these topics, by scrolling through past opinion pieces on all the publications, one will time and time again see posts relating to “fostering community at Columbia,” our love for the Columbia Dining and Public Safety staff (which I love and hope continues), leaked GroupMe screenshots from almost every group on campus, misquoting MLK and other leaders, and embracing change. And I will admit, these are all repeated articles that I still read and at times are good to see again. But where are the articles discussing the experiences of being a low-income student at Columbia, navigating life at this school while also working and having a family, adjusting from being a veteran to being a student, or ideas and experiences that you and I could not even begin to imagine?

But for all the flak Columbia’s publications get, they do a lot of great work. In particular, Spectator Staff Writer Larson Holt wrote an incredible piece detailing the tunnel system used by students with disabilities and many of the problems and dangers within them. Few of us think of the tunnels in our day-to-day lives let alone think of what it would be like to have to actually need to use them.

Likewise, Bwog has to be commended for its coverage on the Wrestling Team scandal that forced Columbia’s administration to hold students on the team accountable for the hateful, misogynistic speech that they shared. It also reminded us that even in our community, we need to still remind each other about being kind and respectful to one another.

The Tab during the past semester did an incredible job discussing some of the impressive students within the School of General Studies, a school that rarely is fairly represented within Columbia’s student publications. In particular, I was fascinated by writer Eugene Aiken’s interview with Leyla Martinez that discussed her life after incarceration and how she’s using her past experiences to improve the treatment of others after serving their time.

 

This semester, The Lion began a new columnist initiative. When we first started the project, we pushed for people to make their columns unique — something that mattered to them that would leave others thinking. The results were fascinating. We had columnists doing everything from analyzing Columbia’s architecture to finding parallels between life at Columbia and neuroscience  to even juxtaposing love and relationships with international relations . Each of these columnists took topics important to them and made them accessible to everyone. And each week, I loved seeing these interactions as people became enamored with topics they never even imagined they would be interested in reading. It was cool to see that happening and to see the role publications play in fostering community here at Columbia.

As publications, we need to work harder to bring new ideas into view, to expose new ideas to the Columbia community and bring ideas we have never thought of or had to consider to center stage. When I joined The Lion, these were some of the ideas I wanted to pursue. As a computer science major, I realized that while I might not be a writer by trade, it was important to understand and expose different ideas in the community. And as editor-in-chief over the last year, I tried my hardest to get those voices out. From interviewing students anonymously who were too afraid to share their views publicly to trying to bring in members new to writing, I enjoyed getting to hear those views. Moreover, through The Lion’s open-submissions policy, I got to see people email asking us to cover a topic and eventually watching them go on to write passionate articles and op-eds on their own. They got to tell their story — and it was so inspiring and beautiful to get to interact with multiple pieces like that every single week.

But even with The Lion’s open-submission policy, I know that we still did not make it possible for every voice to be heard. From the lack of funding and being unable to reserve rooms due to lack of official ABC recognition, there were many cases where students not from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering were unable to attend our meetings because they did not have swipe access to the open meetings managing board members held in their own rooms. Likewise, as a newer publication, many people had not heard about our policies and thus never knew they could submit to The Lion. Or after being turned down by another campus publication, they thought their views weren’t worthy of being published. In the future, I hope that we will see this change and that student publications focus even more on bringing in new perspectives and that the administration works with the club boards to further increase funding to support and recognize publications engaging in these endeavors.

While I have loved my time leading The Lion as its editor-in-chief over the last year, it is time for someone else to lead and work on bringing in these new ideas. Even as publications work to keep web traffic, developing new spaces and forms to allow people to express themselves to the community is something that should be considered and explored. With that, I leave The Lion with an even better board now taking the wheel lead by Arlena McClenton (BC ’19) as editor-in-chief and Veronica Roach (CC ’20) serving as the new managing editor. These two women have shown a strong dedication to bringing new ideas into the spotlight and ensuring The Lion does its part in making sure every voice in this community is heard.

With a lot of concerns from various parts of our community after the recent U.S. Elections, I know there will be a plethora of voices and perspectives to be heard and shared in the coming months. I wish best of luck to the new managing board of The Columbia Lion. Parts of our community may feel hurt and excluded, but when we come together in solidarity, I know that there will be incredible things in our future —we just have to wait for it.

Signing off,

William Essilfie

Editor Emeritus, The Columbia Lion