Have you heard? Barnard has a Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion now! Get all the latest info from Monday night’s SGA meeting all about the new role here.

Another week, another meeting with Barnard’s Student Government Association! This week’s meeting hosted Ariana González Stokas, Barnard’s brand-spanking-new Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). As the meeting kicked off, González Stokas starting by introducing herself to the committee.

González Stokas was hired by Barnard this May after the new position was created and recommended by the President’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion of the College, a decision that was enforced campus-wide. According to Barnard’s formal announcement, the creation of this new role was founded in “the sentiment was that institutional leadership at the highest levels would help Barnard coordinate and amplify efforts across campus and enable us to become the inclusive community we aspire to be.” A search advisory committee that included both faculty and students was formed and led by Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development Monica Miller in order to fill the position. Eventually, the position was awarded to González Stokas, who started in the role July 1, 2019. Since beginning, she has focused much of her time this summer in getting to know the staff and faculty better, but as the semester progresses has turned much of her attention to getting to know the student body and their concerns around DEI.

Questions started off with concerns over González Stokas’ initiatives for community development and engagement; González Stokas voiced her hopes for better involvement in all sorts of communities — those at Barnard, Columbia, Morningside Heights, and New York City at large. She views community engagement as a gateway experience building one’s intercultural consciousness, creating skill sets working across communities, and getting involved in both on-campus and citywide organizations.

Next, questions were raised about the inclusion of cultural and affinity groups in the work González Stokas aims to pursue on campus. She stated that Barnard has a very strong set of affinity groups that must be respected and utilized, but how exactly that affects the greater campus is something she must look into more. She noted that in terms of including such groups into the evolution of the Barnard curriculum (i.e. changing the authors read in First Year Seminar/Writing classes), there is more flexibility at Barnard than with Columbia’s Core, offering an advantage in crafting a more diverse and inclusive curriculum for the school. She is also currently in contact with the Miriam Neptune, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Digital Scholarship at the Center of Engaged Pedagogy in working to incorporate these cultural and affinity groups into school programming. An SGA member expressed the value of allowing cultural groups at Columbia — not just Barnard — to have a say in these discussions, as well, as there are a number of groups that only exist on Columbia’s campus but attract both Columbia and Barnard students, a point González Stokas was very receptive to.

Among some of  González Stokas’ most salient concerns with the College were that of class and socio-economic issues, especially in relation to gender and race. The newly formed Access Barnard Initiative was created as mode to change our collective view of socio-economic status and its intersections in hopes of addressing what hasn’t been funded appropriately on campus: food insecurity, pricey textbooks, lab and studio fees, study abroad expenses, and so on. This initiative will be implementing meeting groups to address these issues with students and staff to better grasp what changes should be enacted.

Lastly, the topic of trans/non-binary student inclusion was brought to the table, to which González Stokas expressed wishing to build trans/non-binary resources and clarity of resources for such students and faculty. Her aim is to make a trans/non-binary resource guide to detail the rights of these students known to themselves, professors, and faculty in order to make certain issues more transparent (i.e. what name one can put on a diploma, bathroom policies, etc.).

image via Bwog Archives