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SGA Gets Reaccredited

This week, Barnard’s Student Government Association learned about the college’s reaccreditation process, and what it means for the Barnard community.

During the open floor portion of the meeting, two representatives from the Student Worker Solidarity group announced a protest they will be having this coming Friday. Previously, the Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC), made up of teaching assistants, research assistants, and graduate instructors, were negotiating with Columbia administrators about workplace sexual harassment policies. They demonstrate this week because the Columbia administrators recently took back a proposal on sexual harassment in the workplace. The union members now ask that Columbia “bargains in good faith and gives sexual harassment victims the fair recourse they deserve.” The group will convene to protest on Friday, February 28th at 1:30 pm, at the main gates at the intersection of Broadway and 116th Street.  

SGA next heard from Chemistry department professor Dina Merrer and Associate Provost of International Initiatives and Special Projects Giorgio Dimauro, who are leading the Middle States Self-Study and Reaccreditation process. (The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools conducts accreditations of colleges and schools in the Mid-Atlantic region.) 

Merrer and DiMauro first explained the importance of self-study in the reaccreditation process: rather than have an outside accreditor survey Barnard, the college itself can take a step back and reflect on whether or not Barnard is meeting the goals prescribed in the college’s mission. They described this process as engaging and forward-looking, and one that allows all members of the Barnard community to give feedback about the college’s strengths and weaknesses over a period of two years. Traditionally self-study has occurred every ten years, but going forward it will occur every eight years. 

These two leaders were carefully chosen. DiMauro was chosen because his role in the provost’s office has given him experience interacting with faculty from an administrative perspective. Furthermore, he oversees the study abroad process and has worked with students in this regard. Merrer was formerly the chair of the chemistry department, and during her long career at Barnard has served on many committees, such as the Committee on Instruction and the Diversity Task Force. 

DiMauro and Merrer presented the timeline of the reaccreditation process. In December 2020, a self-evaluation, a lengthy report written by Barnard faculty, staff, and administrators, is due to Middle States. That self-evaluation is reviewed by a peer evaluation team, comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators at peer institutions. Then, in March and April 2021, this peer review team will visit campus to meet with members of the Barnard community, and learn more about Barnard as a school. In May 2021, the peer evaluation team send a report to Middle States with their findings. Then in June 2021, Middle States uses Barnard’s self-evaluation and the peer review report to issue a decision about the school’s accreditation.

To better facilitate the self-study, DiMauro and Merrer have divided Barnard’s priorities into four groups: Realizing Academic Excellence (including academic programs, faculty quality, and student learning), Supporting Student Success (including academic support, health and well being, and career preparation), Fostering an Inclusive Community (including development of interest groups and co and extracurricular activities, more diverse faculty, and more inclusive admissions practices), and Managing Financial and Infrastructure Challenges of NYC (including maintaining and improving existing infrastructure, tuition costs, and enrollment). Each category of goals has 4 to 5 faculty members from different academic divisions who are assigned to reflect on Barnard’s progress, as well as staff members who have particular interests in the goals in question: for example, Jennifer Rosales, Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Pedagogy, is a member of the Realizing Academic Excellence working group. The goals themselves stem from President Beilock’s inaugural initiatives. 

Both leaders highlighted the importance of student involvement in the process of self-study and reaccreditation. DiMauro and Merrer currently meet biweekly with Bex Allen (BC ‘**) who is SGA’s Vice President for Academic Affairs. Although the student body’s precise role is not yet finalized, there will potentially be positions for students in each of the working groups, and students will have a chance to offer feedback on the first draft of the self-evaluation which will be completed in fall of 2021. Additionally, Merrer and DiMauro will host a Town Hall on the Foundations curriculum on March 4, where students can give their opinions on this curriculum, which has been in place since the fall of 2016. 

DiMauro and Merrer then took questions from the representatives. Lena Harris, Representative for Food and Dining, asked how Barnard might promote increased diversity among faculty. Merrer cited the role of the Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development, Monica L. Miller, who works to promote an inclusive community of Barnard faculty. Furthermore, Merrer mentioned Barnard’s opportunity hiring program, which allows the college to hire as diverse a faculty as possible. This includes examining which fields need increased diversity and targeting those for new hires. Another issue that affects whether potential hires accept a role at Barnard is the college’s ability to provide housing or childcare, which Merrer said was a challenge the college currently faces. 

Grace El Fishawy, Representative for Inclusive Initiatives, asked what weight the report would hold in changes the college will make going forward. Merrer described the changes that had been put into place since the 2010 report, the main one being the curriculum change from 9 Ways of Knowing to Foundations. Merrer underscored the student involvement that fueled this change, and that this same degree of involvement will be required for any future changes.

Futter Field via Bwog Archives

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