Hey girlfriend!

Mark Hay is a boy. Here’s his dispatch from DSpar’s Fireside Chat.

Last night in Barnard Hall’s Sulzberger Parlor, Barnard President Debora Spar gathered with some odd twenty-five students to rehash a topic that has figured prominently in her thoughts and actions over the past year – how do Barnard girls engage with life in a big city? But where past fireside chats have seen Spar focusing on the student-life side of the equation, this time Spar sought to learn more through conversation about the work and internships students hold outside of the College. If that seems like a vague topic for discussion, it was. Spar knew it, claiming that although she wants to understand the motivations, struggles and benefits behind student engagement with the city, she had “no big comments and no agenda, so we’re winging it tonight.”

And so after a few requisite plugs for upcoming Women’s History Month events, Spar kicked off the conversation by asking all students present to go around in a circle and talk about their experiences working and interning in the city. Needless to say, listening to these women rattle off massive lists of professional experiences (even the freshmen and visiting students, much to the shock of Spar), one must suspect that all Barnard girls are issued a time-turner a-la Hermione Granger.

After a little chitter and chatter, Spar and company teased out a few trends from the massive heap of experiences: 1) Those who become hopelessly entangled in Barnard student life, to quote SGA President Katie Palillo, “can’t have an internship because [they] like to sleep.” 2) All the assembled students believe that, although internships do de facto detract from student life engagement, a balance can be reached between student life and intern/city life. One student suggested Spar institute a mentoring program for upperclassmen to help freshmen develop the balancing skills vital to sanity. 3) Barnard students, they agreed, tend to idolize the impossibly active and busy and view stress as a badge of honor. Spar noted that she and the staff tend to agree with this view and asked the students, “are you all trying too hard to be Wonder Women?” And casting one of not a few sideways glances across the room to your correspondent, she added, “… Or Wonder Men.” And 4) well, I will let Spar’s doe-eyed query speak for this common point: “Is there anyone here who doesn’t do babysitting!?”

But lest one should think this our messy’n’stressy lives are common to all colleges, Spar was sure to include several visiting students from China and South Korea to share their thoughts on the work habits of Barnardians. The attitude of the visiting students towards the Barnard mindset was mainly one of disbelief. A student visiting from South Korea noted her struggles with the massive workload, mentioning that at home she held down six classes and an internship, but here she struggled to manage four classes. Given the study obligations of Barnard women, she asked, “how do [they] do this and still go to class?” Spar attempted to draw out further insights and solutions to the Barnard work ethic from the visiting students, but they seemed to be too thick in the shock of it all to offer clear alternatives.

The evening ended with a question. “Is it true that you can speak backwards?” asked one attendee, to which Spar replied, “How the hell did you find that out?” The answer, if one cannot guess, was yes, and Spar proceeded to demonstrate her skill, not just reversing the word order, but the letter order of sentences within seconds of hearing the original. She claims this to be an inherent skill and that she does it by mentally reversing the phonetics of the sentence, and mentioning that she was once known for her ability to sing backwards. Before more could be said on the matter, though, Spar hustled off. But your correspondent believes he speaks for Barnard and Columbia alike when he begs Spar to share more if this talent with the student body. We would certainly break out the rah-rah school spirit for that display.