Last night, SGA was joined by Barnard celebrity and president, Debora Spar. With enthusiasm, Maddie Ball was there to bask in her radiance.
Debora Spar does not merely answer questions so much as she charms everyone in her midst. After all, how could she not? The president, affectionately nicknamed DSpar, is beloved by the entire Barnard campus for her level-headedness, charismatic wit, and her dedication to the values that make Barnard one of the premier women’s colleges in the country (and the zumba doesn’t hurt either). Accordingly, Spar did not discuss one sole topic, but rather entertained a smattering of subjects, speaking as casually and as amiably as you might expect.
The biggest topic of the night, by far, was the discussion of Barnard’s potential new library, a project that has been in the works for quite some time. While no concrete plans have been made (intentional pun), Spar mentioned that Lehman Hall will, hopefully, be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up. At its completion, the building will be eleven stories tall (the same height as neighboring Altschul) and will provide the classroom space that Barnard desperately needs.
However, the building is hardly set in stone. If Barnard cannot attain the funds for construction in the upcoming massive capital campaign, construction simply won’t happen. This might be a larger hurdle than expected, as Spar conservatively estimated that the new library would cost between $150 and $160 million. Until Barnard preemptively has “the money in the bank,” plans for Lehman Hall construction will continue to be a nebulous maybe.
In other news, Spar excitedly discussed Barnard’s most recent Global Symposium. The event, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was a daylong spectacular of panelists and speakers, all discussing how women are changing Brazil. This was Barnard’s fifth annual Global Symposium, and already plans are being formed for the upcoming symposia. While next year’s symposium is tentatively scheduled to be held in Russia, the year after will be held on Barnard’s campus and is promised to be a veritable extravaganza. The cause for celebration is, of course, Barnard’s 125th birthday and will attract amazing speakers and panelist to New York for its duration. Spar promised the event will most definitely be open to campus, so get excited!
Spar also discussed the looming curriculum review, which will begin this September and aims to reform Barnard’s curriculum and general education requirements. Barnard has regularly held curriculum reviews every ten years or so, and currently, the college is overdue for an overhaul. While Spar mentioned she hoped the review will discuss methods of encouraging Barnard women to go into STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and math), she asserts she has no personal agenda. Rather, she firmly believes that this review should be faculty driven and supplemented by student and alumni input.
Additionally, Spar humorously discussed
the dismal participation in this year’s Senior Fund. One of her goals as president, she mentioned, is to establish a culture of giving back- especially in the alumni. However, she laments, Barnard has never been particularly good at asking for money. This might be problem, of course, if Barnard ever hopes to see a shiny new Lehman Hall in this lifetime. Thankfully, however, gifts have recently been given directly to Barnard’s endowment that could spell the start of good financial year.
[Update, 6 pm: Jennie Ostendorf, Co-Chair of Barnard’s Senior Fund, informs us that “this year’s Senior Fund is actually three times ahead of where the 2012 Senior Fund stood at this point last year. President Spar discussed that generally Barnard’s Senior Fund sees low participation rates;” DSpar did not say this year’s fund was seeing dismal participation, as previously reported.]
Last but not least, Spar parted with some sage advice for the newly elected rep council, hoping they will keep in contact with administration over the summer, staying proactive and vigilant even over their break. Finally, with bittersweet sadness, she gave some heartfelt advice to the graduating seniors, hoping that everyone takes time from stressing over employment to really enjoy their last weeks and savor graduation. That’s good advice for everyone! Until next week!