This week, SGA learned more about the legal side of Barnard operations, including the pay freeze and the hiring freeze, and COVID resources for Barnard staff.

There were a few external announcements from representatives this week. A new senior class newsletter will be coming out this week, where there will be more information about a senior class council meet and greet coming up next week. As for juniors, follow @barnard2022 on Instagram, and nominate a classmate to be Junior of the Week. The sophomore class council is working on a newsletter and a new buddy system, as well as volunteer opportunities tutoring in east Harlem.

This week’s guests were Jomysha Delgado Stephen ‘96 and Kathleen Veteri.

 Stephen is the Vice President for Legal Affairs, General Counsel, and Chief of Staff to the President. She is a Barnard alumna, who grew up right in the neighborhood of Morningside Heights. She has served as counsel for the College for 17 years. In her current role, she oversees the Office of the President, General Counsel, and Human Resources, and serves as an advisor to the Board of Trustees. Most recently, Stephen joined the HR department this spring. 

Kathleen Veteri is the Interim Executive Director of Human Resources & Associate General Counsel. Veteri has been at the College for six years, starting in the General Counsel office and advising HR about employment matters, such as the contracts of the four unions on campus. Currently, she is the Interim Executive Director of Human Resources, which she described as a natural transition, considering she already worked closely with HR in the General Counsel office. 

Stephen discussed the varying needs of Barnard staff who have worked remotely for seven months; who are on campus; or who are on furlough or are in workshare programs. Her focus as part of HR has been to ask the staff what they need and provide it. This includes travel stipends, providing on-campus meals for staff this spring and summer, increasing childcare benefits, granting emergency funds to staff members, organizing an employee shuttle with CU, and hosting biweekly wellness seminars. “They give to Barnard”, Stephen stated. “I want to give to them.” Veteri echoed these sentiments, citing that a major concern for staff was childcare, especially with the uncertainty of whether NYC schools would open this fall. To that end, Beyond Barnard is providing student tutors for staff children, which provides students with a paid position, and assists staff with childcare. 

Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance, asked if the College was supporting furloughed staff regarding health insurance costs; if the emergency grants were available to all staff; and how Barnard was supporting staff that work on campus, but for a third party, such as the Chartwells dining staff. 

Veteri responded that the College is unable to play furloughed staff, but is continuing to pay their premiums on health and dental insurance. She noted that many of the furloughed staff were placed into workshare programs, where they are compensated for working a certain percentage of their hours, then collect unemployment for the rest.  All other benefits are still in place for furloughed staff: Stephen mentioned the college benefit for staff with children in college. Additionally, Barnard faculty have spearheaded a mutual aid fund for the furloughed staff, comprised of voluntary contributions from staff and faculty.

While furloughed employees are eligible for the emergency grant, Chartwells employees are not, as Barnard has a legal relationship with Chartwells as an employer, and does not employ the individual staff members directly. Veteri mentioned that Chartwells might have their own institutions for COVID-19 staff support.  

Audrey Pettit BC ‘22, Junior Class President, stated that Barnard’s attrition rate is 19%, which suggested a high turnover rate of staff.  She asked how the College plans to retain staff, especially during a pandemic when staff are perhaps more likely to make career changes. 

Veteri contextualized this attrition rate by saying that it is similar to other schools, and that this rate compromises the many reasons for which staff leave the College. HR always conducts exit interviews and has determined that many staff move on the higher-level positions. Veteri described Barnard as being a training ground for staff, equipping people to move on to positions that don’t exist at Barnard. As for retention of staff, Veteri mentioned that HR helps to train supervisors and managers to improve the staff experience, and noted that the pandemic has shown the tremendous support that staff members have for one another. Stephen mentioned her career path through the ranks at Barnard, and how that is a “totally Barnard” thing. She described the choice of staff to stay or leave as a double-edged sword: staying might mean forfeiting certain higher-level positions that don’t exist at Barnard, but leaving allows staff to work in other colleges and across New York City.

Solace Mensah-Narh BC ‘21, VP for Equity, asked why students were not informed about the firings of two Black senior staff members this spring, which left only one Black senior staff member. 

Stephen explained that this spring there were significant financial cutbacks across the College due to the pandemic and that it was important to the administration that any firings take place at the highest level. Thus, there was a large restructuring of the senior staff, wherein President Beilock cut six positions in Senior staff and President’s Council including VP of IT, VP of HR, VP of Communications, APP of Communications, Executive Director of Communications, and a Deputy Dean. Stephen acknowledged that there was no direct communication to the students about these firings, but that they were communicated to the rest of the staff. She further discussed diversity in Barnard’s senior staff, citing that 40% of her colleagues are women of color, mentioning administrators such as Dean Grinage or Vice President González Stokas.

Danielle Hopkins asked about the status of the pay freeze for senior staff that was implemented this spring. Stephen described how during this spring’s restructuring period for senior staff, pay for administrators was frozen. In past years, there has traditionally been an

Increase in senior staff pay, according to changing costs of living; however, this year there was no such increase. Furthermore, for a period of time after the pay freeze, senior administrators took additional pay cuts: for example, President Beilock took 20% off, and Provost Bell took 15% off. 

Jasmin Torres Pinon BC ‘22, VP for Communications further discussed firings that Solace mentioned,  asking how that changed the diversity across the staff, which is necessary to support Barnard’s diverse student body. Stephen stated that diversity is a core value of the College and that it was a core value for her as well, and in their searches for new staff, they always are looking to diversify. She cited her experience as a Puerto Rican woman:  how excited she is that there are two Puerto Rican women on Barnard’s senior staff; but that she shouldn’t have to feel excited about such small signifiers of diversity. She closed by saying that “Diversity, equity, and inclusion don’t just happen in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”, and that diversity must be built into every part of the College. 

In all, it was another educational SGA Rep Council meeting, providing much-needed information on the legal side of Barnard’s operations, and what the experience of Barnard staff has been like during the pandemic.

Diana Center via Bwog Archives