This week, Barnard’s Student Government Association heard from students from the Roosevelt Institute about Barn and from Emy Cardoza, Associate Dean for Student Life, about her work planning NSOP.

Monday’s SGA meeting began with external announcements from several representatives. Lena Harris, Representative for Food and Dining Service, and Grace El Fishawy, Representative for Inclusive Initiatives, announced a food fair that will take place this Saturday, March 7. They seek to raise awareness about food insecurity here on campus and educate students about resources like the Barnard Food Pantry. The fair will take place from 1 to 3 pm, in the James Room (on the fourth floor of Barnard Hall). Additionally, SGA will be holding a Town Hall on the Foundations curriculum on Wednesday, March 4 from 6 to 8 pm in the Diana Event Oval. This is an opportunity for students to share their feedback about the Foundations curriculum and is particularly timely as Barnard is undergoing the reaccreditation process. There will be food and refreshments served.

Students from Columbia University Roosevelt Institute’s Healthcare Center presented during the open floor portion of the meeting. Doran Sakaran (CC ‘23) presented the Center’s project to change Barnard’s housing policy in order to guarantee housing to students returning from a leave of absence. Although students returning from medical leave do get priority in the housing selection process, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the matter, and many returnees don’t hear if they get housing until two to three weeks before the semester begins. Sakaran noted that with Barnard’s acquisition of the new residence hall at 537 West 121st St, there could now be space to house returning students. The Roosevelt Insitute has collected student testimonies and is working with Emily Ndiokho, Representative for Campus Affairs, to further pursue this matter with Barnard administrators. 

The representatives then heard from Emy Cardoza, Associate Dean for Student Life, about Barnard’s New Student Orientation Program (NSOP). Cardoza is a regular presence at SGA meetings, but usually in her role as advisor to SGA. She began her presentation by explaining what the office of Student Life does, including identity education, advising student clubs, and overseeing arts education based out of the Glicker-Milstein Theatre. However, her goal on Monday evening was to discuss NSOP: what it should ideally accomplish, and what changes Barnard may need to make

Cardoza started by explaining the structure of NSOP leadership. It is largely a program by students for students, with older students in roles such as the chair who organizes events like the First-Year President’s Welcome, CU gLow, and Family Welcome, to Crew Captains and Orientation Leaders, who work directly with new students during NSOP programming and downtime. Cardoza proceeded to describe some of the events which occur during NSOP. Some are mandatory (either at the college or state level), such as academic planning sessions with the First-Year Class Dean and workshops about bystander intervention and healthy relationships with Being Barnard. Others are designed to build community on campus: identity-based mixers or roundtable introductions to artistic or athletic opportunities. Cardoza then welcomed questions and feedback from the representatives about their NSOP experiences.

Chelsea Sinclair, Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees, asked Cardoza how the NSOP team plans on addressing recent news stories about Barnard (referencing the assault on Alexander McNab), and whether the NSOP team will offer a streamlined response to the questions of new students. Cardoza thanked Sinclair for her question and said that there is not yet a finalized plan for a cohesive, NSOP-wide response. Cardoza hopes to collaborate with Ariana González Stokas, Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion on ways that the college can “name our history” and foster open discussions with new and returning students about what has occurred here.

Jess Cruz, Senior Representative to the Board, drew on her experience as an RA to ask Cardoza about the relationship between RA’s and OL’s during NSOP. Cruz voiced concerns about a lack of communication about what falls into the jurisdiction of RA’s as compared to OL’s. Tirzah Anderson, Vice President for Equity, underscored this, adding that it was very confusing on move-in day when RA’s and OL’s would both be moving new students into the dorms but would have different information about this process. Cardoza replied by saying that RA’s should have access to the NSOP schedule so they can answer their residents’ questions regarding the logistics of programming. She also mentioned the difficulty that comes with combining RA and OL training, as the two roles have different expectations. The OL training is shorter but more intense, OL’s to spend an intense week with new students, whereas RA training comprises many different fields, like safety training and disciplinary practices, with the aim of a longer-term relationship with the students. 

Rachel Ellis asked what the process would look like for re-evaluating required NSOP programming. Cardoza said that over the three years that she has been at Barnard, they send a survey to new students after NSOP asking for feedback on all parts of the program. This survey has about a 30% response rate, which Cardoz implied was high. She explained some of the difficulties with determining which programming is required: for example, New York State requires the type of consent education offered in the Being Barnard workshops. However, Cardoza mentioned that she wanted to respect the student feedback which claimed there was too much required programming. To that end, she said that the NSOP team is looking into the possibility of conducting required programming in online workshops taking place over the summer.

Barnard gates via Flickr