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Apr

24

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What’s cooler than being cool? Our ice cold discourse, apparently.

Last night’s Barnard Student Government Association Rep Council meeting was officially about the budget for the upcoming school year. While the gathered reps were treated to a vary detailed slideshow of budget requests, allocations, and projections, most of the action came earlier in the hour, when SGA Executive Board spoke about responses to the recently passed referendum.

First, though, kicking off their messages of support for student activist groups, President Angela Beam read a statement of support for 24/7 Columbia, which is currently staging a sit-in in Lerner Hall to advocate for accessible round-the-clock student healthcare. “We stand with them,” said Beam, and encouraged everyone to sign the group’s petition.

Members of Exec Board then took turns reading parts of a statement in response to President Beilock’s recent email to the student body about the referendum results. In the email, Beilock explained that acting on the referendum would “risk chilling campus discourse” and would be “inconsistent” with the college’s mission. She also noted that there is “clearly not a consensus across the Barnard community on whether or how to address the issue.” Because of these reasons, she does not plan on moving forward with the results of the referendum, though students and student groups are of course free to continue the discussion.

The reaction to Beilock’s email and more

Apr

17

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The other kind of open space.

Barnard Bureau Chief Dassi Karp reports on last night’s Student Government Association meeting, which might have been even more boring than usual. Intrigued? Read on.

This student guest thing has gotten out of hand. At last night’s meeting, SGA welcomed not one but ten representatives of performing arts groups to present complaints and questions about practice and performance space on campus to Anthony Otero, Associate Director, Reservations and Scheduling, for Events Management. Everybody was polite and respectful–the students asked questions, and Otero sincerely tried to give them answers. But do you know what happens when you put ten theater and music student in a room and give them a microphone? They talk. A lot. (What do you call a collective of performers? A gaggle? A murder? A cappella?) Each of the gathered students had a chance to site their problems with the lack of space on campus, and they ended up repeating each other quite a bit.

One of the main issues brought up was that reservable Barnard spaces tend to close by ten pm, making it hard for groups that want to rehearse in the evenings. Otero explained that this allows facilities to come in and ready the space for the next day–otherwise it wouldn’t get cleaned. The students also mentioned some Barnard rooms–Held Hall, James room, Ella Weed room, Weber lounge–that they say used to be much more available. This too, according to Otero, is an issue of cleaning time. The Ella Weed room (which everyone oddly kept speaking about as if it was a person, saying things like “I would like to address Ella Weed again,”) especially, he explained, must be kept clean because it is used by admissions to show prospective students. I say take them to some random seminar room on the fourth floor of Barnard hall instead, the more strange posters and peeling paint the better–show them what it is really like.

What will happen with the Milstein Center and more

Apr

11

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yum!

Student council elections are upon us! At Barnard’s SGA Candidates Forum last night, the Pinkberry was late but the candidates were not. 33 different candidates spoke about their qualifications and plans for the future. Only 10 of the 22 open positions were contested. Read on to learn some of what those candidates had to say to try to differentiate themselves, and for some hot takes about general themes of the evening.

Junior Class Vice President:

  • Tanisha Aggarwal ’20 spoke about her experience as a transfer student this year, as well as recently moving to America. She is involved in the Barnard No Aramark movement, the Athena Pre-Law society, and Sophomore Class Council. She says that she knows “what it means to act as a bride between the highly diverse student population and the admin.”
  • Celine Zhu ’20 spoke very quickly and very emphatically about her work on the class council and the financial review committee. She spoke about her recent successful laundry subsidy pilot program endowment proposal, saying “I have proved that I know how to work with the administration to get things done.” As class VP, she plans to advocate for transportations subsidies for students with unpaid internships and a comprehensive guide for transfer students.

candidates after the jump

Apr

10

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Maybe one thing we can all agree on?

At long last, Barnard’s Student Government Association’s meeting centered on a topic relevant to all students: food. Last night, our resolute representatives heard from the Food Advisory Board; the ad hoc Committee on Food Insecurity; Simone Harper-Register, Regional Aramark Manager; Lauren Scocozza, Director of Dining Services; and Gail Beltrone, Vice President for Campus Services. Questions were asked, and some were even answered. Sound enticing? Read on.

Sarah Broniscer, SGA Rep for Food and Dining Services and head of both the Food Advisory Board (FAB) and the ad hoc committee on food insecurity (AHCFI? let’s go with that), was joined by members of both of these groups to discuss what they’re working on. Gabrielle Finestone, BC’21, explained that a lot of the work done involves connecting administrative offices with students and gathering feedback. Yeliz Sezgin, BC’21, who is a member of the AHCFI as well as the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership’s (FLiP) committee on food insecurity explained that part of what AHCFI had to do was define what food insecurity looks like on Barnard’s campus. They settled on “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” She noted that this problem is compounded on Barnard’s campus, as many students are unfamiliar with how to manage eating in New York City and are unaware of what resources are available for them.

Delicious improvements after the jump

Apr

3

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What’s going to happen to this architectural wonder?

Last night’s Barnard Student Government Association meeting was remarkable in its unnoteworthiness. In contrast with the last two weeks of excitement, SGA welcomed no guests, had no votes, and had no need to enforce order. The topic of discussion was the results of the recent Desserts After Dark survey, the bi-annual survey of the student body that SGA uses to gain input on what they should work on and hows they’re doing so far. VP Campus Life Aku Acquaye presented the results with as much excitement as could possibly mustered for what was mostly dull information.

Here are some highlights:

  • 430 students responded, a significant decrease from last spring’s 642 responses. For context, Barnard has about 2,500 students, so this level of response is barely significant. At best, this survey can tell us something about the student population who already cares about SGA, or likes filling out surveys.
  • Only one-third of respondents were aware that SGA meetings are live streamed every week.
  • Respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of peer-to-peer resources such as Writing Fellows, Speaking Fellows, and the Empirical Reasoning Center.
  • 8.2% of respondents identified as food insecure.
  • Respondents were generally unhappy with the dining halls not replenishing food towards the end of mealtimes and having food ready at the beginning of mealtimes.
  • Students had many suggestions and complaints about space allocation, with requests for more space for working out, music practice, quiet study, communal hang out, theater rehearsal, and much more.

The Q&A portion of the meeting was very informal and not informative. Junior Class VP Surbhi Lohia asked something we’ve all been wondering–“what’s going to happen with LeFrak.” SGA members snapped in agreement. Nobody knows. An external reviewer is supposed to be coming in soon to analyze the college’s space needs. Maybe we’ll all just show up one day and LeFrak will no longer be Back.

Mar

27

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Such a beautiful backdrop for such a contentious discussion.

Are you a regular reader of banal SGA news? Only here for the controversial issues? Either way, Barnard Bureau Chief Dassi Karp has got you covered. Read on for a description of what went down at last night’s Rep Council meeting, and also what didn’t.

Barnard’s Student Government Association seems to have decided to spend the rest of the semester getting things done. This week, Rep Council welcomed 24/7 Columbia, voted on an endowment proposal, and heard from Aryeh: Columbia Students Association for Israel about the BDS referendum that was initiated last week. Close to a hundred students attended the meeting to ask questions about, support, or oppose Aryeh’s efforts (or maybe they just really cared about the endowment proposal).

First, 24/7 Columbia. SGA heard from representatives of this group, which advocates for Columbia’s providing 24/7 medical and mental health care for all students. This includes in-person counseling, emergency medical services that are separate from public safety, and on-campus places for students to feel safe and receive crisis support. The presenters described frustrations with Columbia administration’s response to these requests. 24/7 thinks that funding for this care is easily within CU’s reach, and cited peer institutions as well as much smaller schools who offer 24/7 support. The group asked for SGA’s support when approaching the administration with these requests.

Next: endowment proposal. Rep for for Sustainable Initiatives Sylvie Rosen and Rep for Seven Sisters Relations Julia Pickel presented plans for an expanded Give and Go Green collection and sale. The current collection allows students to drop off unwanted items at the end of the school year, to be donated to local organizations or re-sold at the beginning of the next semester. The proposal hopes to provide funds to expand the sale and divert more donated goods to Barnard students by covering the cost of transporting the items to storage, launder donated bedding, and provide a stipend for student workers. A deal has already been worked out with Manhattan Mini Storage, who agreed to store the items in an empty basement space for free in exchange for advertising. In an unusual move, SGA’s financial review committee did not put its full support behind this proposal, saying that paying members and volunteers of student groups sets a bad precedent, and suggested paying for student volunteer’s food and snacks while working instead of a stipend. Despite this stipulation, SGA voted to fund the project for $5,165, the complete requested amount.

What went down with Aryeh?

Mar

20

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If Barnard puts money in it, people will be watching.

Almost every week this semester, Barnard’s Student Government Association has welcomed student groups or members of the administration to talk about what they do and how SGA can help them better further their goals. This week, representatives of Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) were the main presenters. The two groups joined to form Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) in 2016 to jointly advocate for the University’s divestment from companies that the group considers to contribute to Palestinian oppression by Israel. This advocacy is driven by the international Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, which informs and encourages aligned student groups, among other campaigns.

This type of proposal–both its political assumptions and its methodology–is heavily debated, both around the world and on campus, and more than a hundred students showed up to support or question the guests. “We are super psyched to have such a crowd, this never happens,” said SGA President Angela Beam, who enforced strict time rules throughout the meeting, using a very jarring timer to make sure question and answers lasted no more than two minutes and direct responses no more than one.

Audience comments and more after the jump

Mar

6

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The concept of “Beyond Barnard” conjures up way more majestic images than it should.

Didn’t catch last night’s meeting of Barnard’s Student Government Association last night? We can’t imagine what you were doing that was more important. In any case, Barnard Bureau Chief Dassi Karp was there, and she reports back about Beyond Barnard and other initiatives that just might work.

Barnard’s SGA meetings have fallen into a consistent pattern in the past months: administrative or student guests, time for questions, then vote on an endowment fund proposal. This week, the guests were Nikki Youngblood Giles and A-J Aronstein, Associate Deans of Beyond Barnard. The two spoke about, you guessed it, Beyond Barnard, the school’s new initiative/department that combines certain student services. The meeting ended up being a whirlwind of assurances of quality and organization with illustrations of how things might not actually get better. Sound fascinating? I actually learned some things–read on and you can too.

Beyond Barnard combines Barnard career development, student employment, internships, and fellowship programs into one space and one integrated team of seventeen full time staff. Career development and student employment reorganized themselves last year as well (I spent such a long time in the wrong office once, before I realized), but hopefully this time it will stick. “We had all these great services,”said Youngblood Giles, “and we wanted to bring them all together in a way that will target resources from the very beginning.” This involves creating intentional activities and programs under a “single and unified entity.” This is a big promise, as the reorganization hopes to create a clear and helpful system instead of the mess of services that have existed until now. A common complaint among Barnard students is the need be savvy about using employment and advising services, instead of them being readily accessible to all.

Beyond Beyond Barnard after the jump

Feb

27

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Barnard’s got a new housing lottery system, and everyone is shivering with antici…pation. SGA Bureau Chief Dassi Karp visited last night’s meeting to find out more – as in, what even is it? 

Last night, Barnard’s Student Government Association welcomed Matt Kingston, Associate Director for Housing Operations, to talk about the college’s new housing lottery system and answer questions. Kingston spoke kindly, confidently, and assuredly. He also seemed genuinely happy to be there and just as happy to help pass the SGA microphone around the room.

Unfortunately, not this kind of lottery.

This year, Barnard Res Life was able to purchase access to StarRez software, an “industry leader” in housing lotteries. This particular software is used by many other colleges across the country, including CC and SEAS . Yup, that’s right–Barnard has decided to do something the same way Columbia does. A wonderful move, Res Life–how about we apply the same philosophy to guest sign ins? Kingston praised the system for using a process that people can understand that is flexible enough for last minute changes and adjustments to housing groups.

“There was no housing software company that would run the housing lottery the way we were before,” he explained, so the new process is a bit different than the one used previously.

Some highlights of the changes after the jump

Feb

20

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If you check out Well Woman, this could be you.

Sometimes Barnard SGA meetings are pretty pointless—nothing gets learned, and nothing gets done. Last night was surprisingly different: Barnard Bureau Chief Dassi Karp reports on the good work of Nightline and Well Woman, as well as an exciting endowment proposal which hopes to increase the number of vegetables on campus.

Lena Denbro BC’19 and Albert Kohn GS/JTS’18, co-directors of Nightline, spoke about what Nightline’s purpose and how SGA can help. Nightline is an anonymous peer listening students run by Columbia undergraduates for Columbia undergraduates. They accept calls about any topic, every night. Listeners come from all four schools, and undergo a semester-long training and certification process. Denbro and Kohn are the only public figures of Nightline, and serve as the public ambassadors for their anonymous staff. Since they are public, they no longer answer the phones. Part of their presentation included addressing some common misconceptions about Nightline, one being that Nightline is mainly a type of suicide hotline. While listeners are prepared and have taken calls from suicidal students, these are only a small fraction of the calls they take. Usually, the co-directors explained, calls are about more everyday stressors, such as schoolwork and relationships. “There is truly no problem too big or too small,” Denbro emphasized. Additionally, Nightline Listeners do more than just listen. Kohn explained that callers can expect to have a genuine conversation. He acknowledged that “it is hard to pick up the phone, especially in those moments you’re feeling weak and unstable,” but encouraged students to do so anyway. Callers do not have to talk about anything they don’t want to, and can end the call whenever they want, “but sometimes just talking it out can really make a big difference.”

The Nightline directors asked SGA for help advertising. Unlike other clubs, most Nightline members cannot spread awareness of the service they offer, because they are anonymous. They also wanted support in becoming a more normalized resource on campus and getting included on lists of resources that are sent out by the administration. “I think that most students aren’t ready to call the Clinician On-Call,” said Kohn, adding that Nightline may be a good option for students, especially in difficult times, who don’t think they are in crisis but still need to talk. Denbro and Kohn also spoke about how there are all sorts of resources available for students who need them, both on-campus and off, and that sometimes students just need guidance about how to find those resources and make them work for them. They also had what I found to be a really insightful warning for those who have criticisms of health services on campus. Students should work to make these services better, they said, but must be careful to criticize in ways that are productive and does not discourage students from using these resources. Sure, people have problems with Furman—but people should still go. We have to be careful that in our efforts to make these services better, we don’t dissuade people from getting the help they need.

Learn more about SGA after the jump

Feb

13

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Once again, Barnard Bureau Chief Dassi Karp sat in on Barnard’s Student Government Association meeting. This week, she reports on University Senate updates, endowment proposals, and the ever-present technological difficulties.

We all know how to use these, so please do so.

The main focus of the evening was a presentation by Barnard University Senator Kira Dennis, joined by one of Columbia College’s University Senators, Josh Schenk CC’19. They were there, according to Kira, because “a lot of the time my job seems a little sketchy,” and they wanted to fill in the non-Senator plebeians. The University Senate is made of 108 representatives of students, faculty, administration, and staff from across the University. Barnard has three representatives: one student, Kira, and two faculty: Lisa Northrop, Chair of the Physical Education Department, and Professor Mignon Moore of the Sociology Department. The representatives sit on various committees to discuss University-wide decisions and policies. The committees cover a wide range of issues. Kira sits on the student affairs committee and the committee on diversity.

Schenk described some of the Senate’s recent initiatives, which include discussions about mental health, disabilities, and grad student unionization; a reorganization of space in Lerner Hall to provide more casual spaces for students to build community; and the recent vote to affirm the University’s current policy on academic freedom. Fascinatingly, the Senate has also been considering changes to the University’s relationship policy. Currently, all students are permitted to have romantic relationships with professors, as long as they are not their direct supervisors. Of peer institutions, only Cornell and Penn have similar policies. Students have proposed a policy which bars undergraduates from these romantic relationships but, as Schenck explains, “it’s still very controversial. Not all faculty members support the change.”

Kira apologized for the amount detail provided, because “that was a lot of Columbia lingo for us Barnard students,” but our brilliant representatives were familiar with concepts like “Lerner Hall” and “academic freedom” despite their insular Barnard ways. It’s almost like the University Senate discusses University wide issues and Barnard is a college in the University.

Laundry, Mealshare, and more votes

Feb

6

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Last night’s Barnard Student Government Association meeting had everything. An (in my opinion) unwanted visitor, student guests, administrative guests, and even a vote. Somehow, though, the main focus of the night was on microphones. Intrigued? Read on!

First, the visitor. Georgette Fleischer, disgruntled former-adjunct and union member, who was fired last May, following the the instillation of a new contract for adjunct faculty. Fleischer believes she was let go in retaliation for her work in the union (Barnard has tried to fire Fleischer before, siting negative student feedback, but she won a lawsuit against the College in 2015 and was reinstated). Fleischer, SGA’s most frequent open floor visitor, was there to ask students join her in protesting at President Sian Beilock’s official inauguration this Friday. If this keeps up, I might start protesting open floor.

New reps, mics, and votes, oh my!

Jan

30

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Sometimes, Barnard’s Student Government Association gets things done in a way that we can all be proud of. Last night’s Rep Council meeting was not one of those times. This week, our Reps heard a presentation on the Board of Trustees and finally selected a new Representative for Academic Affairs. It was kind of frustrating, and boring enough that I tried to take up creative writing in the margins of my notebook. Lucky for you, I soon remembered that I’m not good at creative writing, and have decided to stick with vaguely disgruntled reporting. So read on to find out what happened and wonder with me why we even do this at all.

We all learned how to do this, correct?

But first, before the meeting even started, an interruption. Press was told that this was “Barnard College business” and not “SGA business,” and anyway, it was for a surprise. It is not an interesting surprise, reader, so I won’t ruin it. But it was a waste of our collective time, and caused the meeting to start a good fifteen minutes late. I’ll just say this, SGA: finger-guns are never a good idea. Following the delay, President Angela Beam reminded everyone to be “mindful” when making announcements, because we were running late. I did not find them to be particularly mindful.

The main focus of the evening was a presentation by Jessica Reich and Tamar Dayanim, the student Representatives to the Board of Trustees, about what that board does and what part they serve in it. Jess and Tamar explained how the Board focuses on big-picture items, and has a good number of secret meetings. The trustees have a diversity of experience and knowledge, which they employ to oversee the goings-on of the administration and faculty. The student representatives make two presentations a year to update the board on what’s happening in the student body, and are also available to answer questions when relevant. A fine explanation, but I feel like we also could have managed without it.

Fumbled election procedures and more…

Jan

23

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Barnard SGA’s Rep Council re-convened for the semester last night for a meeting that was somewhat informative but also probably a waste of time. This week, SGA was joined by Provost Linda Bell and Jen Green, Dean of Barnard Library and Academic Information Services, to discuss plans for the new Milstein Center library building that is slated for opening this coming fall.

Accurate representation of the LeFrak Center.

Bell did most of the talking, with Green chiming in to confirm a few points. The Milstein Center (are we really sticking with that name?), as anyone who has tried to walk through Barnard’s campus knows, is made of two parts: to the South, a lower rectangular building, which will house the library and related services, and to the North, a tower that will host academic departments in the social science–economics, urban studies, political science, and history. This means that students in these departments will no longer have to spend time lost in the maze that is the temporary LeFrak offices in order to find their professors.

 

More on the library after the jump

Jan

17

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SGA <3 vegans

Our SGA Bureau Chief Dassi Karp summarizes what happened last semester in SGA to start a fresh new semester. 

I’m excited for a new semester of Barnard SGA meetings, because who doesn’t love sitting through hours of administrative guests, policy arguments, pointless votes, and occasional discussions of the work that’s actually getting done behind the scenes? Alas, Rep Council has not reconvened yet, so there’s no meeting to cover this week. But that can’t stop us from checking in with our revolutionary Reps! At the end of last semester, SGA released a mid-year report about what they’ve accomplished, and what work they hope to continue this spring. Here are the highlights:

Under the keen guidance of President Angela Beam, SGA greatly improved its meeting structure this semester. Instead of inviting guests at seemingly random intervals to have unproductive discussions, as they have in past years, many Rep Council meetings have centered on bringing together student leaders and administrators to start meaningful discussions that produce actionable items (there were exceptions, of course).

Rep for Food and Dining Services Sarah Broniscer, along with Beam, worked to establish an ad hoc committee on food insecurity. The committee will start its work in the coming weeks, and hopes to find “tangible solutions to combating food insecurities on campus.” This semester, Broniscer was also successful in increasing Barnard dining’s Halal, Kosher, vegan, and allergen-friendly options. That’s a lot of options!

In a move that increased transparency with astonishingly few technical malfunctions, VP Communications Rhea Nagpal spearheaded the decision to livestream all SGA meetings on Facebook. SGA reports an average of 320 views per meeting, which is impressive. I doubt the representativeness of that number (someone needs to only tune in for a few seconds for Facebook to count it as a view), but still. If you combine that number with the number of people who read Bwog’s reporting on meetings, that’s about 322 people who know what’s happening in their student government!

The student academic advisory community, under the brilliant guidance of former Rep for Academic Affairs Shoshana Edelman, worked to increase communication between administration and students about course offerings, major options, and academic diversity. Because of their bizarre handling of appointments at the end of last semester, there is currently no one filling this position. My prediction: SGA will try to spend another few hours of meeting time trying to pull this off at the beginning of next semester. By the time whoever they pick joins the council, the semester will be too far over for any meaningful work to get done. Prove me wrong, SGA–do something reasonable for once.

The Seven Sisters Committee, led by Rep for Seven Sisters Relations Julia Pickel, has a really detailed and complex subcommittee structure. There are almost as many committees as there are Sisters, which is just an impressive feat of bureaucracy.

The class councils did all of the normal class council stuff. There’s been an interesting trend of the first-year class representatives tending to focus on programming and discussions that explicitly center on diversity and inclusion of under-represented groups. This is true to the platforms of both FY President Sara Morales and Vice President Tina Gao, who won their positions in elections with a record-breaking turnout this fall.

To summarize this summary: the SGA did some things, and didn’t do others. Overall, meeting structure and timeliness has improved, though actual results seem similar to past years. So far, I’m generally impressed with our student leaders, who all seem to genuinely want to make Barnard a Better place to Be. Here’s to another semester, SGA. I’ll be watching you.

Check out the report here to learn more about what SGA did last semester.

Vegetables via Bwog Archives

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