On Monday night, the SGA Rep Council met for the first external meeting of the 2020-21 school year and heard from DeShaunta Johnson of the Ombuds office.

The meeting began with introductions and external announcements. Most external announcements regarded the SGA Committee Applications, and reps encouraged students to apply to serve on committees to have their voices heard in campus matters. All committee applications are due on Friday, October 16 at 11:59 pm ET.

As there were no open floor announcements, the reps proceeded to a guest presentation from DeShaunta Johnson of the Barnard Ombuds office. Dr. Johnsonis a clinical psychologist at Furman Counseling Center, but as campus ombuds, she serves as a designated neutral party. Her role is to help Barnard affiliates solve any conflict they are having on campus, whether that is with a roommate, a professor, or a campus employer. Dr. Johnson offers appointments by phone where she provides her clients with conflict resolution strategies or points them in the direction of other useful Barnard resources. Occasionally, she will broker conversations between two parties in conflict. The Ombuds office is confidential, and Dr. Johnson will only report an issue out to other offices if asked to by the client in question. Dr. Johnson clarified that she is technically the student ombuds; however, she has become the de facto faculty ombuds as that role is currently vacant. Going forward, Dr. Johnson plans to host workshops about how to have difficult conversations, especially around the stress of the upcoming presidential election. 

Dr. Johnson then took questions from the SGA Rep Council. Audrey Pettit BC ‘22, Junior Class President, asked what SGA might do to publicize this resource to students. Dr. Johnson responded that visibility was an issue in this role, toeing the line between openly annoucing her services and retaining the level of confidentiality that allows her to do her work. To educate the Barnard community about the Ombuds office, Dr. Johnson gave a talk at NSOP, and will soon give another to the faculty, as well as reach out to campus partners, such as Jennifer Rosales at the Center for Engaged Pedagogy.

Solace Mensah-Narh BC ‘21, VP for Equity, asked what the follow-up would look like for a student reporting a professor’s racially insensitive remarks. Dr. Johnson responded that many of the student concerns that she hears are about classroom climate surrounding multiple oppressions. In some of these instances, students just want to be heard and discuss all the possibilities open to them: working with the Title IX office, speaking directly to the professor, or organizing with other students. Occasionally, students wish to remain anonymous but still have the issue heard by the administration, and Dr. Johnson will speak with the professor in question, or the Provost’s or President’s Office. 

Tirzah Anderson BC ‘21, SGA President, drew on her experience as a RA, asking if the Ombuds office could provide RAs with training on conflict de-escalation. Tirzah also mentioned the new Big Problems class, where older students are facilitating conversations with first years about race, and the support that the older students in this role could use from the Ombuds office. Dr. Johnson agreed wholeheartedly to conflict resolution training with the RAs and mentioned her future plans to collaborate with Jessica Cannon of Well Woman, another peer-to-peer facilitation program. Dr. Johnson did not specifically address Tirzah’s question about Big Problems.

In all, this was a successful first external meeting, and we here at Bwog are excited to see what new projects the Rep Council will bring!

Barnard Hall via Bwog Archives