This week’s SGA meeting as all about the Benjamins, as many aspects of the discussion had to do with money. Instead of indulging in the first 2016 Presidential Debate, Staff Writer Dassi Karp attended the meeting and left with one thing on her mind: BBHMM!
Last night, a strong and smart woman took to the political stage to discuss her plans for the future. She calmly and politely presented her goals and her past accomplishments, responding to questions with poise.
That woman, of course, was the bold Barnard College president Debora Spar. And she had a lot to say at the most recent SGA meeting.
She started by describing the new program being put together by senior staff and president’s office called Barnard 101. This will be a forty-five minutes to one hour training module about how the college actually runs. It includes information about how it is funded, who makes what decisions, and how they create the processes to make these decisions. This will be helpful both to students interested in understanding “how this place operates,” and even to new trustees who are new to the ins and outs of college administration. “We’re not a business,” Spar emphasized, “but we also don’t run like your local elementary school.”
Spar also opened the floor for a discussion about promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. She explained that diversity is about having a community that includes from different socio-economic, religious, racial, and national origins. On that front, from a quantitative basis, Barnard is doing well. Spar wants the college to now focus on promoting inclusion. “We’re having a tougher time with that,” she admitted. “Just because you get together a diverse group of people doesn’t mean the have equitable experiences.” Spar explained that solving this problem is a hard thing to do. “There’s no best practice out there” that Barnard can emulate, she said. To approach this, the administration wants to hear from as many different voices as possible. They are continuing their work through the task force on diversity and inclusion, which she said is making progress and is a valuable resource. The task force’s work is slow and methodical, though, and won’t produce any results until at least the spring semester.
Until then, Barnard will be introducing a new effort: a Fund for Diversity and Inclusion. This fund, which Spar estimates to be about $20,000 for the year, will be used to support smaller student initiatives that promote inclusion. “Students have lots of ideas,” she said, “and we don’t want to have to wait.” She explained that the fund will be open to informal applications from student groups or individuals who have ideas for one-time or continuing efforts, and will reviewed by a small group that would include a member of the President’s office and someone from Student Life. If this effort works, then Spar said she could procure money to support the same effort next year, and possibly obtain an endowment for the year after that. She also mentioned the continued efforts of the Faculty Diversity and Development Committee as well as the Mellon Foundation grant for inclusive pedagogy, which Barnard received to help the faculty increase inclusivity in teaching, advising, and all interactions with students.
SGA members brought up qualms that Barnard students continue to have with options in computer science. Spar shared their frustrations, but explained that Barnard has been working on this for the past three years, and is beginning the process of finding and hiring a comp sci professor. “We will have computer science on this side of the street,” she said. “Not a dumbed down computer science, but a different type of computer science.”
Other suggestions made by SGA members to promote inclusivity included free MCAT classes, subsidized metrocards for internships and volunteering, and increasing LGBTQ support on campus.
Spar ended by reminding everyone to focus on the larger problems facing the country by encouraging everybody to vote in the upcoming national election. “Your generation is crucially important in deciding what happens in the world,” she encouraged (or possibly warned ominously). “This is a very big election.” No kidding. Good luck with that everybody.
Other SGA updates:
- Submissions are still open for Homecoming t-shirt designs
- SGA will be meeting to hear a presentation about the college’s budget and revenue in upcoming weeks, get excited for that.
- SGA is crafting this semester’s Desserts After Dark survey, working to ensure that the questions will produce statistically significant results.
- I don’t think that either Spar or SGA members referred to CU, CC, or SEAS as anything besides “across the street.” What’s up with that? Is it official policy? Too painful to say? Or maybe it just has a nice ring to it?