This week, Rep Council sat down with Provost Linda A. Bell, Dean Christina Kuan Tsu, and Dean Wendy Garay to discuss hybrid and hy-flex classes, the experiences of first-years and transfer students, and the status of Barnard’s commitment to fighting anti-Black racism.

Hello and welcome back to another week in SGA!

To begin the meeting, the representatives shared some external announcements. Anandita Das, Representative for Sustainability, announced that the second Climate Conversation would be taking place this Wednesday from 6-7 pm ET, and more info about this event can be found in the SGA newsletter. Solace Mensah-Narh, VP for Equity, and Danielle Hopkins, VP for Finance, both encouraged students to fill out SGA’s Desserts After Dark survey. Chelsea Sinclair, Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees shared that a Zoom memorial service was held for Dean Alicia Lawrence on Sunday and that this service was part of a semester-long healing initiative. She encouraged students to seek more information at Jasmin Torres Piñón, VP for Communications, announced that a town hall about the College’s COVID-19 response will be this Thursday, from 7:30-9:30 ET.

 Provost Linda A. Bell, Dean Christina Kuan Tsu, and Dean Wendy Garay each introduced themselves before fielding questions from the SGA reps. Note: Vice Provost Saskia Hamilton was scheduled to attend yesterday’s meeting but was not able to be there. 

Provost Linda A. Bell e oversees the College’s academic program. She is an economist and has been an economics faculty member at several institutions over the past 20 years, and has been at Barnard for eight years. 

Dean Christina Kuan Tsu currently serves as the interim Dean of Studies, Sophomore Class Dean, as well as Transfer Dean. She has been a dean at Barnard in a variety of roles for 27 years. She highlighted an important role of the Dean of Studies office, which is to oversee pre-major advisors.

Dean Wendy Garay is the senior associate Dean of STudies, as well as the Dean for International Students, and the First-Year Dean. She said that depending on the time of year, one of these roles becomes more pressing than the others. For example, she is currently preparing to support international students facing immigration issues for return in the spring semester.

Vivian Todd, University Senator inquired into the College’s expansion of STEM classes, and how Barnard planned to make these accessible for all students considering the lab fees and course access codes that can make STEM courses expensive. Provost Bell cited the recent creation of Access Barnard as a “one-stop-shop” for international students, FGLI students, and OP students to receive support during their time at Barnard. The provost also explained that class costs are not unique to STEM classes, citing fees for art materials and museum trips required in design courses. The provost’s office has surveyed faculty and students across departments about class costs and is further working to alleviate these costs.

Solace Mensah-Narh, VP for Equity, asked what the provost’s office is doing in response to the demands made by Black alums this summer, regarding the creation of a course about anti-Black racism in each major as well as anti-Black racism training for faculty members. Provost Bell mentioned this summer’s Launch Week, where each department highlighted their new courses, particularly courses that addressed the sentiments of alienation, loss, and anger that many felt over the summer. 22 departments offered courses on race or racism, some of these for the first time. Provost Bell mentioned the past role of students in changing the curriculum, such as advocating for the Thinking Technologically requirement, and said that perhaps students, faculty, and the administration could work together to change academic requirements and curricula to more fully address the extent anti-Black racism in each field of study. With regard to faculty training, Provost Bell cited this summer’s weeklong faculty workshop about racism in the classroom, hosted by Jofennifer Rosales, Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Pedagogy. Additionally, Dr. Rosales and Dean Monica Miller will host a faculty workshop this week about how to discuss the outcome of the presidential election in class. 

Carmela Casaburi, Representative for Student Health Services, asked Dean Garay about the obstacles international students might face in returning to campus in the spring, and how the College planned to support them. Dean Garay said that she received yesterday’s email regarding the plan for the Spring 2021 semester at the same time as the students, so she has not had time to fully plan. However, her office has prepared for different situations, and in general, plans to equip international students with whatever necessary support (including specific forms) to expedite their return to campus. She stated that this process is very individualized, depending on each student’s particular citizenship or immigration status. Additionally, she stressed the importance of the continued availability of fully remote classes through the spring semester, particularly if international students face delays in acquiring visas. 

Audrey Pettit, Junior Class President, asked how professors are being trained to handle hybrid classes, with both in-person and remote students, to ensure that remote students are not at a disadvantage. Provost Bell clarified that “hy-flex” instruction is when a professor teaches to some students in the room, and some students attending via Zoom. Hybrid instruction is when a professor elects to teach one class per week in person, and one class on Zoom. Before the move to all-remote learning this fall, professors received training in hy-flex instruction. To this end, all classrooms have been retrofitted with ceiling microphones and a 360-degree camera, to ensure that students learning remotely can still hear and see everything in the classroom and participate equally. A student worker, such as a preceptor, will be tasked with controlling this technology. Provost Bell further mentioned some of the perks of remote learning, such as the ability to have guest lecturers easily attend a Zoom class, and she expressed the hope that the College can retain some of these new pedagogical developments, regardless of the format of classes. 

Avalon Fenster, First Year Class President, mentioned the unprecedented experience of her fellow first-years who are adjusting to college coursework while feeling socially isolated. In an informal poll Avalon conducted, she found that one half of the first-year class had at least one professor who was not empathetic (she cited issues like overly harsh grading, inappropriate comments in class about student participation, and inflexible attendance policies). With this, Avalon asked Provost Bell what directives faculty are currently receiving about expectations for students. Provost Bell stated that the faculty have been advised to be flexible. To this end, there have been faculty meetings discussing student stress levels as well as students’ feelings of isolation, facilitated by healthcare professionals. Provost Bell also mentioned that faculty cannot force students to have their cameras on and that the faculty have been given language to express this on their syllabi. Provost Bell expressed a desire to meet with Avalon to further discuss these issues, saying that as provost, she doesn’t want to hear about these issues after the fact in an end-of-semester course evaluation. 

Futter Field via Bwog Archives