Once again, Barnard Bureau Chief Dassi Karp sat in on Barnard’s Student Government Association meeting. This week, she reports on University Senate updates, endowment proposals, and the ever-present technological difficulties.
The main focus of the evening was a presentation by Barnard University Senator Kira Dennis, joined by one of Columbia College’s University Senators, Josh Schenk CC’19. They were there, according to Kira, because “a lot of the time my job seems a little sketchy,” and they wanted to fill in the non-Senator plebeians. The University Senate is made of 108 representatives of students, faculty, administration, and staff from across the University. Barnard has three representatives: one student, Kira, and two faculty: Lisa Northrop, Chair of the Physical Education Department, and Professor Mignon Moore of the Sociology Department. The representatives sit on various committees to discuss University-wide decisions and policies. The committees cover a wide range of issues. Kira sits on the student affairs committee and the committee on diversity.
Schenk described some of the Senate’s recent initiatives, which include discussions about mental health, disabilities, and grad student unionization; a reorganization of space in Lerner Hall to provide more casual spaces for students to build community; and the recent vote to affirm the University’s current policy on academic freedom. Fascinatingly, the Senate has also been considering changes to the University’s relationship policy. Currently, all students are permitted to have romantic relationships with professors, as long as they are not their direct supervisors. Of peer institutions, only Cornell and Penn have similar policies. Students have proposed a policy which bars undergraduates from these romantic relationships but, as Schenck explains, “it’s still very controversial. Not all faculty members support the change.”
Kira apologized for the amount detail provided, because “that was a lot of Columbia lingo for us Barnard students,” but our brilliant representatives were familiar with concepts like “Lerner Hall” and “academic freedom” despite their insular Barnard ways. It’s almost like the University Senate discusses University wide issues and Barnard is a college in the University.
VP Finance Evie McCorkle and Junior Class President Aashna Singh pushed Kira and Josh to explain how the USenate picks policies to focus on and how they actually get anything done. They especially wondered about the point re-affirmation of the academic freedom policies, which seems to have made no difference to anything. Schenk agreed that “it affects nothing,” but explained that it represents a return to the discussion of what academic freedom means at CU. As far as how priorities are made, Schenk demurred, saying “it’s a little complicated.” Maybe one day we will be able to understand such complex subjects. Maybe taking LitHum will help. Another interesting question was raised by Seven Sisters Rep Julia Pickel, who asked why Barnard does not have a representative sitting on the USenate Commission on the Status of Women. Great question. Josh and Kira do not know.
At the end of the meeting, SGA heard about a presentation for another endowment fund proposal. In an impassioned speech, a member of the the finance committee explained that paying for laundry can present a real financial burden to low-income students. Some students haul their laundry over to friend’s Columbia dorms to use the machines for free. “If you do that,” she said, “bold, brave, cool.” But not everybody’s going to do that (and it’s probably not allowed). The proposed program would purchase two-hundred laundry cards to be divided between the classes for students who need them to use for the rest of the semester. The proposal passed unanimously, agreeing to fund the program up to $5,500.
Here’s a fun new segment:
Last week, SGA introduced two microphones to their meeting, to counter the constant stream of “what”s and “please speak up”s. As a result, this week’s meeting had a lot of microphone related discussion. I’m not sure that all of our representatives have had te experience of amplified sound before. Some key moments: