Monday’s SGA meeting was hands-down the most intense meeting of the school year—so intense that Barnard Bureau Chief Lauren Beltrone had to record it so she wouldn’t miss a beat. If you want to read the part about Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, skip to the fourth paragraph.
There were three distinctive chunks of Monday’s meeting, the first being a discussion of campus safety with Gail Beltrone, VP of Campus Services, and Dianna Pennetti, director of Barnard Public Safety. Yes, that’s right, VP Beltrone. Contrary to popular belief, VP Beltrone isn’t my mother or even a relative of mine (as far as I know). If you’re reading this VP Beltrone, I just want to confess to you that once I got emailed your staff holiday party invitation and didn’t forward it to you (the party seemed kind of lame, anyways) and that I’ve always wondered if we’re secretly related (we actually probably are). To the readers of this article, thank you for putting up with this digression. I’m done now (#bwogisnotlivejournal).
Now on to actual news, VP Beltrone hashed out all these cool things that she’s been working on. You know that new statue outside of Liz’s Place of Louise McCagg, BC ’59? Or that one column in LL1 that’s been wrapped to allow for better postering? What about the newly installed LED lights in the event oval (they used to be halogen *gasp*)? And the gender inclusive signs for the bathrooms around campus? Beltrone and her team are to thank for all of that.
Pennetti told us everything we’ve ever wondered about the campus safety emails. Basically, it’s federal law for Barnard to send out texts about all things classified as “imminent threats,” which include fires, police activity, building collapses, and the like. Emails cover incidents that don’t pose an imminent threat. And, maybe as you’ve already notice, Public Safety changed the format of racial descriptions in the emails due to complaints from students.
During the next chunk of the meeting, members of Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine stood in front of the room holding their Israeli Apartheid Week banner, explaining their stance on the issue and what they want going forward. As one member of the club stated:
“We have a few concerns as Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine. First of all, we were not notified when this banner was taken down, but that quite honestly is the least of our worries. We’re concerned first and foremost over the campus climate for pro-Palestinian activism as well as pro-Palestinian students. By taking down our banner, keeping it down, and not releasing a statement as to why they took down our banner, though not intentionally, they have sent the message that there’s something wrong with ‘Stand For Justice, Stand For Palestine,’ as if there’s something wrong with that message.”
The speaker went on to say:
“Finally, we’re concerned over the issue of student speech. Yes, Barnard is a private institution that does not have any obligation to respect the first amendment rights of freedom of speech, but we’d hope that the college we all attend would respect the speech of their students. Barnard is a college, and that’s a place for the exchange of ideas, a place for people to be challenged by views that are perhaps not like theirs, it’s a place for us to create dialogue about difficult topics, for us to have difficult conversations, and we are appalled that instead of starting these conversations, Barnard would choose to shy away and completely censor the issue. And we’re even more appalled in light of the fact that we’re having the head of Planned Parenthood to speak for commencement. We ask a question as to why one incidence of politically divisive speech will be sanctioned by the school, and other will be silenced. And we feel that that’s because our politically divisive issue is not supported by the school. And while that’s not necessary, we ask why they censored ours.”
What does SJP want? A public apology from Debora Spar and for the banner to be re-hung on Barnard Hall. If Barnard makes changes in their policy about displaying banners on Barnard Hall, they ask for the banner to be re-hung in an equally prominent public space. SJP went on to ask SGA to “aid [them] in calling on Barnard and the administration for keeping the spaces for dialogue and student expression.” SGA hasn’t yet released the outcome of their vote on the issue.
The last part of the meeting concerned the upcoming SGA elections. A few members of SGA proposed constitutional changes in the duties and responsibilities of their positions. Voting starts Monday, April 18th, so make sure to vote using your eBear account.