Barnard President Sian Beilock released a statement outlining Barnard’s ongoing mission addressing inequality and racism at the school.
In an effort to fight against racism and inequality within Barnard as an institution, President Beilock sent out an email on the afternoon of July 30 informing students of the changes that will take place to achieve such progress. In her email, President Beilock has outlined specific goals for the 2020-2021 academic year, promising that Barnard will fully commit to these changes.
The message stated that Barnard’s “ambitious, coordinated body of work underway to fight racism [will] include broad changes to our curriculum and academic support,” including “new measures to recruit diverse faculty, students, and staff,” “re-examination of campus climate and public safety practices,” and “monetary and human investments.”
In specifying how the school intended to meet these goals, President Beilock has given out a detailed proposal underlining the school’s plans to not only enhance prior and current initiatives but also to introduce new measures to further work on promoting diversity within both Barnard’s curriculum and its community.
DIVERSIFYING BARNARD’S COMMUNITY
On July 22, President Lee C. Bollinger sent an email to Columbia students declaring the university’s commitment to antiracism. His statements align in many ways to those of President Beilock’s, so provided below is a summary of the actionable items included in the email.
President Beilock’s email can be read in full below:
Dear Barnard Community,
You’ve heard me and other College leaders speak often about how equity and anti-racism are fundamental to Barnard’s mission. Now we stand at a critical moment, for our country and for Barnard. The lives lost to police violence, the systemic racism that has been unmasked as never before, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic and moral crisis we are now in mean that we must do more to center equity and anti-racism work in every aspect of our community and campus life. I have heard from so many of you these past few months: students, alums, faculty, staff, and friends of the College. I want you to know that I share your sense of urgency and determination around the progress that needs to occur, both on our campus and off.
I have been especially moved by the honest accounting of the painful experiences of many of our Black students and alumnae. You are challenging Barnard to do better. And as we look forward to the upcoming academic year, I want you to know that I am personally committed to ensuring meaningful progress at the College.
Words must translate into substantive action. It is in this spirit of action that I want to share with you an ambitious, coordinated body of work underway to fight racism and live out our commitment to equity and inclusion. This includes broad changes to our curriculum and academic support; new measures to recruit diverse faculty, students, and staff; re-examination of campus climate and public safety practices; and monetary and human investments Barnard is making to advance equity and inclusion in all of our activities. In addition to these updates, I lay out concrete goals for the 2020-2021 academic year to help ensure that our stated commitments become practice.
I recognize that this is a long letter and that students, faculty, staff, and alumnae may be interested in different aspects of what is outlined below. However, structural and systematic change requires that we all focus on the intersection of academics, campus life, and community. Our academic program, for example, benefits from the strength of a diverse faculty in all disciplines. Likewise, streamlining and increasing support for underrepresented minority and first-generation/low-income students ensures they have the cognitive and emotional resources to thrive in the classroom. Finally, reviewing and changing some of our operations impacts our entire community, as the day-to-day running of Barnard is what makes it possible for us all to come together, even in virtual modes.
At the core of Barnard is scholarship, teaching, and learning. Simply put, we cannot be an institution that refuses to allow racism a home unless we represent the histories, perspectives, teachings, and viewpoints of underrepresented groups in our classes. Our Department of Africana Studies exemplifies Barnard’s commitment to the study of Black identity and race through history, literature, politics, and culture. Additionally, the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies (CCIS) offers the opportunity for a concentration of classes in the interdisciplinary and critical study of race and ethnicity in their mutual constitution with gender, class, and nation.
While these academic offerings form a critical curricular backbone to the institution’s commitment to inclusion and combating racism, it is also important that a focus on race and equity runs through the entire arts and sciences curriculum. Faculty need the support of the institution to advance their teaching in this way. To this end, last year we launched the Center for Engaged Pedagogy (CEP) to support our faculty and students in their quest toward inclusive and innovative pedagogical practices that acknowledge diverse ways of knowing, forms of expertise, and academic pathways. In its first year, the CEP built both a faculty and a student advisory board that helped launch programs such as “Beyond Content: Restructuring Core Courses for Inclusion,” which brought in pedagogy experts to work with faculty on inclusive approaches to teaching in three different fields — the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Building on the many initiatives offered last year, this coming academic year, we commit to the following:
Enhancing a diverse community
Our conviction is that Black and other underrepresented minority scholars are part of the great tradition of critique that contributes to the collective intellectual project that Barnard embodies. The pursuit of knowledge to enhance our shared world is done best with the most diverse contributions. Curricular advancements do not happen without dedicated faculty who reflect the diversity of the student body at Barnard.
As such, increasing the numbers of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous faculty (underrepresented minorities, or URM) remains a sustained priority for me. While numbers alone do not guarantee structural change, they can reflect how we are moving toward a critical mass that will help achieve this goal. In 2019, underrepresented minority faculty made up 15% of assistant professors, 17% of associate professors, and 10% of full professors at Barnard, compared with 11%, 10%, and 6% of our Ivy+ and highly selective liberal arts and university peers (see IPEDS for data).
Even though these figures show that we compare favorably to our peers, we remain committed to increasing diversity in our faculty. In 2018, we launched the Faculty Opportunity Hiring Initiative to identify, attract, and hire faculty of color and therefore move forward in achieving real structural change. Since 2019, five out of 17 (29.4%) of our tenure-track hires across the arts and sciences have been underrepresented minorities. We are not only dedicated to doing this important work, we aspire to be a leader in this area. This coming academic year, we commit to the following:
Nationally, underrepresented minorities comprise 15% of earned doctorates. This number is too low and not commensurate with the diversity of Barnard’s undergraduates or our Ivy+ peers. In an effort to increase these numbers, since 1996, Barnard has participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program. MMUF is a national fellowship program that supports students of color in pursuit of a Ph.D. and a subsequent career in higher education. As of 2019, 15 Barnard MMUF alumnae have earned their Ph.D., and nearly as many former students are currently in graduate school. We are proud of our accomplishments in this area and will continue to build upon them.
It is not enough to focus on helping our underrepresented minority students after graduation. We must continually work to expand the diversity of our student body and the support we provide for them. Our need-blind admissions policy, coupled with meeting students’ full financial need, is part of this commitment. This coming academic year, we commit to the following:
Infrastructure and investment
The tragic killings at the hands of police of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and countless other Black individuals this year and throughout our nation’s history highlight the structural racism that exists in our society. At Barnard, we are examining our own practices to reform our public safety policies and practices, while balancing this with the need to ensure the safety of our campus community.
This past year, we have been engaged in significant changes to public safety practices, training, and communication. As part of this process, we changed the leadership of Public Safety and created the Community Safety Group. Chaired by Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ariana González Stokas, and with membership of students, faculty, Public Safety, and other staff and alumnae, the Community Safety Group spent its inaugural year focused on broad issues related to campus safety, including concerns about racial bias, accessibility, and who feels welcome in different spaces.
This is difficult work — work that our nation is grappling with — but work that is necessary if we are to build an improved public safety structure that has successful relationships with all members of our community. There is no doubt in my mind that putting in place the right inclusive leadership, along with rethinking the structure and organization of Public Safety, is necessary. The Community Safety Group has just secured a search firm for the permanent Public Safety leadership position. Isaacson Miller was chosen because they are not a traditional security/public safety firm and because they have deep credibility in their practice of racial equity. This coming academic year, we commit to the following:
As VP González Stokas completes her inaugural year, she is working to enact a more comprehensive framework to focus on and address systemic racism at Barnard and beyond. The Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that VP González Stokas chairs is one mechanism to focus across campus and bring faculty, students, and staff together. Her weekly summer assemblies for racial justice are aimed at providing initial grounding for integrating racial equity frameworks into departments (both academic and non-academic) and leadership across Barnard. I have been attending regularly, and I invite others to do so. The discussions are difficult and, at times, uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable, including rethinking one’s own points of view and perspectives, is an important part of learning. This coming academic year, we commit to the following:
Let me be clear that the difficult and urgent work needed on our campus is not just the responsibility of one person or one office; it is work we all need to do. We have some good examples to emulate across our institution: This past academic year, Beyond Barnard focused its entire slate of programming around the central theme of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Similarly, the Feel Well, Do Well initiative launched last year — which will also be a vital part of our campus community this coming academic year — frames ideas of well-being in equity. The pandemic has laid bare the impact racism has on health outcomes. We are committed to an approach to well-being that has racial equity at its core and will work to ensure support for Black- and Latinx-identifying members of our community, who we know are statistically more likely to be impacted by the effects of the pandemic.
Finally, we also have much more to do to streamline the sometimes unclear processes for our URM and first-generation/low-income (FLI) and international students to navigate the various offices at Barnard. As such, this fall we are piloting a new program, Access Barnard, that will become a one-stop shop to better support FLI (those within the Opportunity Programs and those outside) and international students. The goal is to create a clear place for FLI and international students to go — both physically and virtually — to find answers to their questions, to help navigate supplemental funds, and to acquire supplemental academic support. We are currently putting an advisory board of students together to participate in the design and launch of this program. If you are interested in participating, please email Associate Dean of Student Success Jemima Gedeon.
Access Barnard will initially encompass the following (and will be be expanded with student input):
In closing, some of our stellar faculty have helped me frame Barnard’s equity work in the context of reaction and “pro-action.” As an institution, we do and must react to incidents that call upon us to dig deeper into the policies that shape Barnard. We also have been and will continue to be proactive. The explicit points I outline above in terms of actions the College will take this year — and will be accountable for — are designed to be proactive in our goal to ensure racism has no home at Barnard.
These are critical and urgent issues on which I believe we are making progress, but we also have much more work to do. I welcome you to visit our updated website for diversity, equity, and inclusion work at Barnard, and I look forward to coming together in the fall, whether it is in person or virtually, to ensure that our stated commitments become interwoven into the fabric of our Barnard community.
Sian Leah Beilock
President Bollinger’s email can be read in full below:
Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
Ever since the killing of George Floyd, the nation and the world have been moved to a heightened state of consciousness about the destructiveness of racism, and of anti-Black racism specifically. No matter how committed one has been to challenging these deep injustices and providing remedies, whether as a person, an institution, or a society, we are all rightly being called upon to do more and to begin again, with a great sense of honesty and new purpose. I am committed to that task, but, more importantly, Columbia is committed to it. Columbia is an old institution by the standards of the United States, and it has its share of shameful periods and moments of great progress. I hope we can collectively add to the latter. Across the University, there are many people reflecting on what can be done.
Scholarship on race and racism has long been deeply embedded across the University. The Institute for Research in African-American Studies and the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department represent important centers of research, scholarship, and the University’s commitment to doing battle with racism. But this aspiration cannot be limited to these sites. It also must include faculty and students working in many subjects in many fields. Over time I expect the extraordinary creativity of the University will manifest itself in this effort. I and others will be writing, speaking, and meeting as we continue this process. For now, here are several actions of note:
These are only a few examples of steps we are and will be taking. To ensure that we are continuing to pursue new ideas, address needs, and deepen our commitment, I have asked the following individuals in our central administration to engage our entire community: Suzanne Goldberg, Executive Vice President for University Life; Dennis Mitchell, Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement; Anne Taylor, Vice Dean of Academic Affairs, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Flores Forbes, Associate Vice President for Community Affairs. Their efforts will include making recommendations for enhancing support for students, faculty, and staff, while identifying systemic issues in our own community and solutions to address them. University Life’s website has more information on how you can get involved. They will also form a working group with the leadership of our Office of Public Safety to examine existing trainings and practices, and to recommend concrete strategies for ensuring that we can have truly inclusive safety for all who are on Columbia’s campuses.
Of course, we cannot just look within our campuses. For Columbia to be a beacon of justice and fairness, it must be an exemplary neighbor, and our engagement in our extended community must be of paramount importance. I encourage you to review our Columbia Neighbors hub to learn more about our work, past and present, in both Harlem and Washington Heights. Still, it is time to strengthen these connections in three ways: (1) growing existing successful partnerships, (2) inviting new ideas for collaboration, and (3) creating a University-wide infrastructure to reflect and support the breadth and depth of our work and to facilitate engagement with neighborhood community members. I have asked our offices of Government and Community Affairs and of University Life to work with community leaders and colleagues and students across the University to propose, later this year, a plan forward.
Columbia’s students, faculty, and staff have been engaged for many decades in study, research, and action to challenge racism, its systems, and its consequences. Because contemporary work is always strengthened by an understanding of our history, we have begun the process of creating a website so that each of us who works in this area can see more directly the continuum of which we are a part and to which we contribute. I look forward to announcing its launch.
For now, I will highlight just a few areas of major research and action that involve collaborations across the University:
I will continue to find ways to communicate the various steps we are taking as an institution to do more. But it is important to underscore that the moment cannot be met simply by programs and initiatives—as important and vital as they are or may be. Somehow all of us together, in every way we can think of, must dedicate ourselves to living more truly to our intellectual, institutional, and constitutional ideals. There is no question that the great Civil Rights Movement is unfinished and that what is called for now is a New Civil Rights Movement, one primarily focused on the criminal justice system, housing, education, and economic inequalities. As the Black Lives Matter movement so powerfully underscores, there is still unfinished work from the past, but there are also new forms of discrimination that are taking root in society today. I have spent a significant part of my career dedicated to fostering diversity, supporting affirmative action, and ending invidious discrimination in education, and I can assure you, neither I nor Columbia intend to relent in this pursuit of the principles of equality and access to opportunity. It is my hope that we can leverage this moment and effect real change.
Lee C. Bollinger
Barnard gates via Bwog archives