May

1

SGA Ends The Semester With Business As Usual

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Free at last.

Missed the last SGA meeting of the semester last night? No fear! Barnard Bureau Chief Dassi Karp was there. She reports back on college budget changes, meal plans, and what will almost certainly not be the last advancement in the CUAD divestment discussion. Also, zines.

Last night’s Barnard Student Government Association meeting was the last of the semester, but that didn’t stop Rep Council from getting stuff done. Chief Operating Officer Robert Goldberg, VP Finance Eileen DiBenedetto, and VP Campus Services Gail Beltrone joined SGA to talk about the budget for the upcoming year.

If you’d like to understand how Barnard’s budget works, you can read about the last time SGA had this discussion. Or the time before that. Surprisingly, though, the presentation was actually pretty informative.

  • Tuition is being raised next year. No surprise there.
  • The meal plan is changing for the better! Starting next semester, all Barnard meal plans will have unlimited guest swipes, to be used however and whenever a student wants. This will make it possible for students to eat meals with their families and friends, for underclassmen with large meal plans to share with upperclassmen, and for swipes to be shared and distributed with students facing food insecurity. This is an amazing development, and is so reasonable and logical that I’m surprised its happening at Barnard. This might just be the start of a new era (but probably not, let’s be real).
  • Meal plans will also have some more flexible options, with the ability to add 5 or 10 meals or 25 points to a plan in the middle of the semester.
  • Barnard students will now be allowed to swipe into JJ’s place all night. This is crazy–people might start considering Barnard students actual members of an undergraduate school of Columbia University.
  • The proposal to include laundry in tuition–which would allow it to be at least partly covered by financial aid for those who need it–is still being considered, and depends on discussions being held with vendors. We should know what will happen soon.
  • Nicola Kirkpatrick, incoming SGA President, asked the gathered administrative members about plans to designate space in the LeFrak center, once the library moves to the Milstein center over the summer. Nobody knows yet, apparently. It’ll be exciting (tedious? dull? frustrating?) to continue that conversation next year.

In other news:

  • Instead of the really fun report released last semester, SGA made a zine discussing all of their accomplishments this spring. These little booklets recount successes in Inclusion and Equity Initiatives, Academic Inclusivity (is that not an inclusion initiative, you ask? Good question), Endowment Proposals, and Food Insecurity. And its true, SGA really did do some good things this semester. And these zines look really nice. But we need to talk about this zine. First of all, what qualifies this intricately folded piece of printer paper as a zine and not, say, a small flyer or booklet? Why is half of it printed on a black background, despite every PawPrint printer warning that using a black background will CAUSE PRINTER JAMS? Who decided it was a good use of anybody’s time to fold a paper into eights? I know, Barnard is really into zines, and they’re an important part of a lot of subcultures. But is SGA a subculture now? Please explain.
  • Rep for Student Health Services Valerie Jaharis reminded everyone that there are many resources available on campus to help those experiencing stress because of finals. Lists of resources are available online. “Obviously, this doesn’t fix finals,” they said, “but take care of yourselves if you can.”
  • In what I assume was an end-of-semester gift, I momentarily grasped the microphone as it was being passed around the room. I’ve never felt so powerful.

In the internal portion of the meeting last night, SGA voted to approve the language of a letter to support CUAD’s request for Barnard to divest from eight companies that do business in Israel, and then sent the letter to the administration. President Beilock has already said that she does not plan on taking this recommendation into consideration. SGA also sent a letter of dissent, signed by a few members of Rep Council. Read the letters of support and dissent below:

Dear President Beilock, Dean Hinkson, Provost Bell, and COO Goldberg,

We are writing to state SGA Representative Council’s support for CUAD’s campaign for divestment. On March 19, 2018, students from Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine came to SGA representing Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD). The students requested that the SGA Representative Council issue a statement to the administration in support of Barnard’s divestment from eight multinational companies (Hyundai Heavy Industries, Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Elbit Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Bank Hapoalim, Mekorot) that profit from or engage with the state of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Due to the political nature of this divestment, we voted to hold a referendum to engage more broadly with the student body on this issue. We came to this decision because we, a twenty-five person council, could not in good faith issue a statement of support without this input. During SGA Elections, from April 11-18, we asked students if they supported CUAD’s divestment campaign. With 49.9 percent of the student body participating, 64.3 percent (741 students) voted in support of divestment, and 35.7 percent (412) opposed. After receiving the results of this referendum, SGA Representative Council voted to convey our support for CUAD’s divestment campaign.

SGA has the responsibility to amplify the voices of the students we represent, and bring their concerns to the administration. Barnard should reflect the values of its student body by continuing to encourage thoughtful investigation and critical analysis of the issue at hand, from a range of different perspectives. To end the conversation here would be inconsistent with the values Barnard espouses.

We call for further engagement and dialogue on this particular issue of divestment, leading to a tripartite working group tasked with holding community-wide listening sessions, and conversations on what socially responsible investment means for Barnard.

Sincerely,

Barnard Student Government Association, Representative Council

Dissenting Opinion

We, the undersigned members of SGA’s Representative Council, dissent from SGA’s statement of support for CUAD’s campaign for divestment. We do not endorse the Representative Council’s letter for two main reasons.

Firstly, we have concerns regarding the referendum’s procedure and subsequent validity. While the wording of the referendum was passed within Representative Council, we, as individuals who have a plethora of personal knowledge on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, feel that the language of the referendum was grossly biased and did not meet Barnard’s standards of open conversation and debate on difficult issues. Due to the lack of citations for the information stated in the referendum, we feel that the referendum’s language failed to reflect the complexity of the conflict.

Upon personal investigation, we have found word-for-word portions of the referendum mirroring language on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement website. Though not mentioned in the text of the referendum, Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) is undeniably connected to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, (BDS). We believe that BDS is anti-semitic, as it denies Jewish people the right to self-determination, and many of its members have used anti-semitic rhetoric freely and on social media.

The referendum’s one-sided commentary minimized the complexity of the discussion at hand and overlooked the nuanced opinions held by students regarding the conflict and region. As the language was intended to educate students before they cast votes, we feel that its biased nature could have unfairly affected the outcome of the results that are enclosed in the above letter.

Second, and most importantly, we wholeheartedly believe that sending a letter supporting CUAD’s divestment campaign goes against the mission of the college to foster civil discourse that is free from fear of disrespect or hatred. We fully believe that open dialogue on complex issues is a cornerstone of a Barnard education and support the call for further conversation on what socially responsible investment means for Barnard. It is based on this belief that we dissent from the statement of support. We feel that a letter of support continues to stifle dialogue between students of different opinions and varying backgrounds.

While we recognize that there are students at Barnard who feel discomfort on a campus that invests in companies which do business in Israel, we ultimately feel that making another group of students on campus, namely, large numbers of Jewish students, uncomfortable by divesting is not the solution. Rather, we hope that members of the Barnard community will continue to foster and encourage a space for respectful debate and dialogue. As such, we have taken this opportunity to voice our dissent from the SGA Representative Council’s letter of support.

Sincerely,

Kira Dennis, University Senator
Jessica Reich, Sr. Rep to the Board of Trustees
Tamar Dayanim, Jr. Rep to the Board of Trustees
Sarah Broniscer, Rep for Food and Dining Services

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