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Barnard Alumnae Support Mourning Students

In the wake of the past week’s tragic events, all of the Columbia community, but especially Barnard students, are shaken to the core. Barnard alums are aiming to provide various comforts through our time of grief.

It’s relatively common for Barnard students to decide to stay on campus over winter; whether they can’t afford to go home, their homes are in countries halfway across the world, or they just opted to stay in New York, it isn’t unheard of for students to remain at school over winter break. Because of the recent events, it may be challenging for students to be essentially alone on campus for an entire month, and the preservation of our students’ mental and physical wellbeing is at the top of the Barnard alumane’s priority lists. Sarah Kim, BC ’17, organized the Winter Break Assistance Project which connects current Barnard students (with a strong aim at first-year students) with Barnard alumnae who can provide “financial assistance, a place to stay, or meals/companions over break,” as Kim’s facebook post indicates.

Kim responded to our request for commentary on the project, and below are the quotes from our email exchange.

What inspired you to start this project?

I was a part of SGA during my time at Barnard from 2013 to 2017, and each winter, we had students come to rep council and express their hardships with making winter break arrangements. For me, personally, going home was a challenging endeavor because I didn’t have the best relationship with my family during college. I was frustrated that the admins were not willing to provide equitable solutions to the students in need. As a student, I felt like there wasn’t much I can do to alleviate the issues. But as an alumna, I can actually do things that would help the students without having to deal with institutional bureaucracy. And with such a tragic crime that happened last week, the last thing any student should be worrying about is basic needs like food and shelter.

How has the response been (either in the willingness of other alumnae or in the feedback from current students)?

This project would not have been possible with alumnae, who jumped at the opportunity to help! It’s evident that there’s a need among current students, and I am proud to say that we have the bandwidth to help every student who filled out the request form.

Any other comments/concerns you’d like to share?

Although sometimes we alumnae seem distant from the current students, we have their backs in every sense. Words cannot express how sorry we are that such a horrendous crime occurred so close to campus to one of our very own Barnard warrior. If I could take away the pain from you and your classmates, I would do so in a heartbeat. I cannot fathom what you’re going through right now. But please know that a network of thousands of Barnard alumnae has your back, and we’ll always be here for you. You might not want to believe this right now, but you WILL get through this horrific time, and you WILL come out stronger than ever before. It is an understatement to say Tessa Majors’ life was stolen from her way too early in the worst way possible. But I hope the memory and legacy of her will push you to make the most out of your Barnard experience and beyond.
The alumnae family hopes the winter break assistance project is one tangible way to give love and support to a hurting and grieving community.

To access the Winter Break Assistance Project form, use this link.

 

Another Barnard alum, Nikki Weiner, BC ’14, has organized a letter project from Barnard alumnae and for Barnard first-years, specifically, where the Barnard alumnae can digitally connect to current students, and vice versa.

Weiner responded to our request for commentary on the project, and below are the quotes from our email exchange.

What inspired you to start this project?

I’m a writer–it’s my outlet to express and process a myriad of emotions. Since I’ve graduated Barnard, I’ve found that sharing my experience through the written word has helped me and others feel less alone.

Following the tragic news of Tessa’s murder, I saw an outpour of alumnae voices on social media who yearned to be close and also felt helpless from afar. I knew that we could gather digital letters and then local alumnae could handwrite them, which would in-turn rapidly build connections when we brought the letters to campus. Alumnae close and far from campus could participate. This is important as many of our first-years do not live locally in New York City, and the voices in the letters are from Barnard alumnae across the globe. And thus, the letter-writing project was born.

Through letters, I believe we can offer younger students our hearts, strength, and boldness—a reminder that they have us in their corner in these early stages of their Barnard experience. Many alumnae provided their contact information in their letters so first-years could stay in contact, if they choose, with generations of Barnard women. Everyone’s voice matters right now and our ability to express it to anyone–and especially first-years–who choose to read letters is remarkable. I thought they might offer first-years the comfort and strength we so desperately hope to offer our first year Barnard sisters.

Our first years are younger, but they are just as bold versions of us. In these letters, it is evident that we didn’t want first-years to give up on Barnard or feel alone. As Barnard women, we take care of each other–for we have an unshakeable bond that is incredibly unique to this college. Barnard is our forever home.

And I know so many of our first years were hurting; I firsthand saw it at Tessa’s memorial, and I’ve heard it directly from them in their response to our letters. I wanted to help our first years, if they choose, to let the stronger parts of the alumnae community cradle their fragile parts. In this way, we help them gain strength again. They would and will do the same for us when we are hurting.

How has the response been (either in the willingness of other alumnae or in the feedback from current students)?

This project would not have been possible or nearly as impactful without our unbreakable alumnae community. I am amazed and proud to be a part of this network. Since the moment I posted about this on Facebook, letters from alumnae have not ceased to flood into my inbox. I’ve heard from many alumnae that these letters are also helping them process while forging the meaningful connection they desperately seek with first years. Reading them has helped us alumnae feel close too. Throughout this past weekend, I had an army of women selflessly helping me review the letters, handwrite them, and spread the message. One alumnae from Connecticut even wrote a bunch on a train and delivered them to the city. A current senior at Barnard who connected with me via social media has been unbelievably helpful in helping me communicate with students and she’s been constantly sharing how touched the first-years are!

As I read through each of the alum letters, I realized that they created a tapestry of our sisterhood and unbreakable alumni community–Tess is a part of this tapestry. It is so evident that we do stand up together when this community needs us–even if we cannot reverse the tragedy we so desperately wish to. We do rally our voices and share our support with those who need us.

Since letters continued flood[ing] in, we decided to create a blog with the letters so it could be circulated and reach more students. We hope that whenever first-years need support, they can open a letter and know they are never ever alone.

The response from current first-years has touched my heart and all of the alumnae who I’ve shared with. First-years are grateful. They are messaging me on social media to tell me how they feel supported and connected to a larger community that they didn’t know would be there for them in this massive way. A parent reached out to me to share that her daughter showed her the blog and that the letters are helping first years heal. I was particularly touched to hear from first-years on Tessa’s floor who shared their current struggle in this dark time and how the letters are a reminder that Barnard is where they want to be. It is helping to remind them why they chose Barnard. I look forward to continuing to get to know these remarkable women, alongside my fellow alumnae, as they heal and grow.

I was able to ask the first years on Tessa’s floor what they needed right now based on their outreach to me. They asked for dinner and so over the past two nights, the Barnard alumnae community has rallied once again to raise money and send yummy food to Tessa’s floor where the Barnard first years can gather for a delicious dinner the final two nights of finals. They sent us videos and smiles. Our hearts are warm. They know we are here and we are going nowhere. Our letters will continue to be added to the blog and we will handwrite more while students are on break. One thing that’s really powerful is that I know first-years have conveyed to me that they plan to read the letters over break, too, and I think that’s a powerful way to process.

To access the letters from Barnard Alumnae, use this link

Barnard Quad via Bwog Archives

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