Renée Kraiem gives you the juicy details of last night’s SGA Town Hall.
Last night, Barnard’s Chief Operating Officer Greg Brown and its Vice President of Development Brett Silver spoke to a fuller than usual Diana Event Oval that included a conspicuous number of men (Bwog reporter Peter Sterne aside).
COO Brown and VP of Development Silver began with a presentation detailing how Barnard gets its money and how it spends its money. Barnard’s small endowment took up a large portion of the presentation (we’re seriously restraining ourselves from making a pun here). Only six percent of Barnard’s spending comes from its endowment, which, as Silver insists, is impressively well managed. “Since we’re poor,” Brown preached, the current economic climate isn’t “as bad for us as it is for some of our sister schools.” Suck on that, USNWR.
Reiterated throughout the presentation was the argument that Barnard’s financial strength lies in its human capital. “We’re a small college, we should be about people, and a lot of our money goes to paying people,” said COO Brown. It follows that the largest portion of Barnard’s operating expenses comes from salaries—$57.7 million, which comprises 37% of its budget.
The logical next step is expanding financial aid, and COO Brown made it a priority to answer to it. So did Barnard’s Board of Trustees, apparently. COO Brown reported that in the College’s forthcoming capital campaign, the Board’s “deepest concern…is doubling the financial aid.” As Brown repeated, “The core of this institution in terms of where our money goes is really financial aid. The people who interact here every day…that’s what’s most important.”
The rest of the evening was devoted to conversations with the Barnard administration—some more one-sided than others. Turns out that the fuller than usual Oval was full with Occupy CU protesters, who claimed that interaction between the students and the administration was minimal, and criticized the lack of transparency behind administrative decisions. When given the floor, Occupy CU members, though offered an electronic microphone, chose to amplify BC ’13-er Justine Lyons’ voice via the people’s mic. “Not only does Barnard disregard student input when making decisions,” argued they argued, “but it also precludes the opportunity for students to voice their opinions on such pressing issues. Barnard prides its students on being bold and strong, yet when we stand up for ourselves, objecting to its unfair policies, we are met with indifference and outright resistance…We demand that Barnard take full accountability and act immediately to accommodate all of the aggrieved student body members.”
Despite the longevity of the mic check, many aggrieved student body members felt that they, too, had grievances to air. Expectedly, one student questioned whether the recent tuition policy change would affect the College’s budget so significantly given the grand scale of the night’s financial discussion. “Our peer institutions do not have a policy like that, and ours wasn’t a policy,” responded COO Brown. “It was a practice.”
Toward the end of the evening, SGA’s Rep for Academic Affairs Malvina Kefalas asked for suggestions on how students could create a culture of giving back to Barnard in their everyday life. Silver’s response centered mostly on community building at the school and among alumnae, and reminded the audience that “giving back to Barnard is also being part of a community.”
Though the answer was clearly well-intentioned, it was not directly responsive, and therein lay the tension of the evening. Everybody there was keenly interested in Barnard affairs, but money is touchy subject. Full transparency would make it easier to discuss, said Occupy CU, but according to COO Brown, “Not everything that the College does needs a full committee discussion.” As SGA VP Rachel Ferrari put it, to general applause: “We care just as much as anybody who gets paid to care about this school. It’s about matching the mission with the practice.”
Greenbacks from Flickr/401K