With much pomp and circumstance, Debora L. Spar has been officially crowned Queen of Barnard.
Seriously: with this much hoopla, Spar may as well have been garbed in ermine-trimmed gown robes rather than her hot pink academic raiment. But despite the monarchical overtones, and how long it all took, Bwog enjoyed taking in the ceremony from the cheap seats. After all, it happens but once a decade, give or take.
Before getting to Spar’s actual address, those assembled—maybe not the whole student body as the school had hoped, but at least enough people to fill Riverside Church to the last pew—sat through no fewer than four musical interludes and 11 speakers. Most confined themselves to academic platitudes about the grand mission of women’s education, our nation’s dire need for critical inquiry, etc. etc. But the succession of speakers was not without its highlights; SGA president Sarah Besnoff charmingly struggling with her light-blue cap, a congenial and self-deprecating PrezBo, and the redoubtable Phyllis Ben, who started at Barnard as a housekeeper in 1962 (before DSpar was born!) and has stayed on since, now a Public Safety officer.
Spar’s own address ranged freely through the scope of women’s history, from Zora Neale Hurston to Roe v. Wade, but always returning to the trope of choice. “We’ve gone from the Feminine Mystique to the Feminine Boutique—and I’m not referring just to shoes,” she quipped in a high-pitched but strong voice. Since women now have all the options of men, Barnard has to offer them an affirmative reason to choose a women’s college, and then interrogate what that means.
To that end, she announced the launch of the “Barnard Leadership Institute,” which will study…women’s leadership. In a PrezBo-esque talking point, she outlined her goal of expanding Barnard’s reach internationally, through stronger programs abroad and a larger international student presence in Morningside. And she announced the creation of a $100,000 per year President’s Research Fund to dole out to faculty for their various projects.
Throughout the address, Bwog was reminded of how young she is—more like a sister than a nurturing mother, really (or, as Trustee Anna Quindlen called her, “a dedicated mother with a pocketful of takeout menus”). And the assembled young women seemed to approve.