On Monday night, Barnard’s Student Government Association heard from a representative of the Food Pantry at Columbia and discussed the results of this semester’s Dinner After Dark (DAD) Survey.

Hello and welcome back to SGA coverage! It was a double billing at SGA Rep Council meeting this week, with first a presentation from Mac Collins, GS senior and Vice Chair of Development for The Food Pantry; and then a presentation on the Dinner After Dark Survey Results from Flosha Liyana BC ‘21, VP for Campus Life. 

As always, the meeting began with introductions and external announcements from the representatives. Emily Ndiokho BC ‘22, VP for Policy, announced the new Instagram account @sgapolicy. She also shared her email (enn2113@barnard.edu), so people can send their feedback on the recent restructuring of Barnard Public Safety. Flosha announced this Wednesday’s virtual Tree Lighting, at 8 pm EST on YouTube Live. Parker Watts BC ‘22, Representative for Inclusive Initiatives, announced the Accessibility in the Classroom event, which will be this Thursday at 4 pm EST. Students and professors alike are welcome to register, and the event will be an investigation into making classrooms more inclusive, especially during remote learning, and finals season. Carmela Casaburi BC ‘23, Representative for Health services, shared the wellness Instagram account @sgawellness. Audrey Pettit BC ‘22, Junior Class President announced Get Fit For Finals, a beginner ballet and yoga class taught by students this Thursday from 7 pm to 8:30 pm EST. If you attend this event, you will receive a Barnard 2022 t-shirt, and there will also be raffles for t-shirts and Visa gift cards. Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance, encouraged student groups to apply for the SGA Cosponsorship Fund and Endowment Proposal, to receive SGA funding. Norah Hassan BC ‘21, Senior Class President announced a screening of Booksmart on Monday, December 14. More details about this screening can be found in the senior class newsletter. 

Mac Collins, Vice Chair of Development for the CU Food Pantry, then presented the history of the campus and changes in their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Food Pantry began as an initiative by FLIP to combat food insecurity on campus and has now grown to encompass three locations in Lerner Hall, Barnard Hall, and the Medical Center at 50 Haven Ave. The Barnard location was forced to close this fall in accordance with Barnard’s campus closure, and the Food Pantry board is working with Barnard administrators to re-open that location as soon as the campus does. The other two locations remain open and during the open hours at the Lerner and Medical Center locations, undergraduate and graduate students fill out a confidential intake form, then can take whatever items they need. Mac stressed that privacy is the number one concern for the Food Pantry and that all staff sign NDAs before starting work. 

Mac also discussed some new Food Pantry programs, including this summer’s disbursement drop-off initiative, where food pantry recipients in the five boroughs of New York City could receive weekly disbursements of 5 to 6 items. This initiative has since been scaled back and is now only available to those in mandatory quarantine periods. This scaling-back allowed for the development of the Food Pantry’s new e-commerce site, where recipients can choose specific items at a specific location, then come to pick it up. Additionally, the Food Pantry has created a farm share initiative with the Corbin Hill Farm Share, which provides food pantry recipients with fresh produce. 

Vivian Todd BC ‘22, University Senator, asked Mac how students can get involved as volunteers, in person or remotely. Mac responded that anyone is welcome to volunteer, that volunteers undergo a weekend training period, and that there is no weekly requirement for volunteer hours. AS for remote positions, Mac noted that they do all their work remotely as part of the board, and mentioned the remote work of the Tech Committee to develop the e-commerce site. 

Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance inquired about the Food Pantry’s goals for the coming years, and how SGA might help, with either fundraising or volunteering. Mac explained that the Food Pantry’s long term goal is to offer as many services as they can. During the pandemic, that means ensuring the safety of recipients as they continued to access the Food Pantry. More broadly, however, Mac discussed the importance of publicizing the Food Pantry and its locations, through outreach to student groups. 

In the second portion of the meeting, Flosha presented the results of the Dinner After Dark survey, which is created by SGA biannually to get feedback on student experiences. This year saw a record turnout of 832 responses. The survey has five sections, to address all aspects of student life at Barnard: academics, community, student services, sustainability, and SGA involvement.

Many of the questions within the academics section of the survey asked respondents whether their classes and major requirements have adequately addressed race, educated them on anti-Blackness, and prepared them to address racial inequity. Students were given statements then asked to rank their agreement with these statements following 5 options. 

38% of respondents, the largest share, said that “a few” of their classes have adequately addressed race. Similarly, 22% said that “a few” of their major requirement classes have adequately addressed race. 54% of respondents agreed that a race-related course would be a positive addition to the major requirements –– Flosha noted that first years and sophomore comprised a significant amount of this 54% which is noteworthy as this kind of curriculum change would most affect them. 45% of respondents “somewhat agree” that their classes have prepared them to address racial inequity. Additionally, 42% of respondents “somewhat agree” that the Barnard community is educated on anti-Blackness. When examined by class year, first-years and sophomores were most likely to say that they “completely agree” or “somewhat agree”. Flosha commented that first-years and sophomores lack the on-campus experience of upperclassmen, who have witnessed a number of on-campus racial incidents within the last four years. 

Additionally, some questions in the academic section addressed the challenges of remote learning. 41% of respondents said that their professors have been “somewhat” accommodating in online courses. This distribution of responses was fairly equal by class. As to this semester’s workload, 40% said that they had the same amount of work. Flosha mentioned that most respondents said that they had the same amount of work or more, and she further noted that this is not reasonable during a pandemic. Respondents also had the opportunity to type in answers for areas in which they would like more support, including housing security for FGLI students, reduced screen time, and increased flexibility in exam administration (for example, no timed exams). Furthermore, respondents also typed in their specific academic concerns, such as a universal pass/fail grading policy (which was a point of contention), anxiety around participation policies that require turning on one’s video, the rushed pace of Fall A and Fall B classes, and professors not allowing for asynchronous learning. 

The second section of questions asked about how connected students feel to the Barnard and Columbia communities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of respondents (38%) said that they felt “somewhat close” with Columbia University, with upperclassmen more likely to feel a closer relationship. During the pandemic, the majority of respondents (33%) have now said that they feel “somewhat distant” from Columbia University. When asked what types of online events they had attended, 48% of respondents said they attended academic events like lectures. Of the respondents, first-years were more likely to attend academic events. The survey asked respondents to rate their agreement with the statement “Public Safety makes me feel safe on campus”. The majority of respondents (37%) said “neutral”, but 57% of respondents said “neutral”, “somewhat disagree”, or “completely disagree”. Upperclassmen were more likely to respond “somewhat disagree” or “completely disagree”, and Flosha again explained this as a result of their time spent on campus and in witness of the racial incidents of the past four years. The survey allowed students to enter their racial identity, and Black students were more likely to respond “completely disagree” to this statement. 

As for student services, students ranked their agreement with the statement “Do you find the financial aid office easy to navigate?” The majority (41%) responded N/A, and 21% responded somewhat difficult. Students typed in responses about financial aid, stating that financial aid is more confusing this semester, that the financial aid and bursar’s offices aren’t in communication, and that tuition is the same, despite many students having to be fed and housed by their families. 

In the questions on sustainability, 67% of respondents said that they make strides to live sustainably on campus. However, they noted some difficulties in doing so, such as the expense of time and money, and the fact that other people that they live with might not be making the same efforts. Relatedly, 75% of respondents “completely agree” that students should graduate with a certain level of knowledge about sustainability. Flosha noted that in general, respondents were more likely to agree with this than with the questions about adding race-based courses. 

The final section of questions was about SGA involvement and initiatives. Respondents were asked why they didn’t run for SGA if they had wanted to. They typed in answers such as a lack of motivation around remote SGA, not believing that SGA can make change/a fear of not being heard by Barnard administrators, and the hassles of online campaigning. Additionally, respondents suggested topics for future town halls or Fireside Chats with President Beilock or Provost Bell. These topics included financial aid, mental health, performative wokeness in the classroom, anti-Semitism on campus, gentrification, racism in academia, and stress culture. The survey also asked respondents to submit topics that they would like to see in future SGA initiatives, with suggestions such as the revision of the Big Problems course, indigenous justice, elimination of student loans, discussion of the transgender policy, FGLI advocacy, and combatting classism and anti-Blackness on campus. 

In all, the survey results proved to be very informative about the Barnard student experience in the Fall 2020 semester. The representatives were particularly impressed with Flosha’s work on her clear and contextualized presentation of these results, which was prompted after Flosha herself said “If I could analyze data for 40 hours, y’all could sit through this presentation.” (Editorial note: this quote was included at the express request of Tirzah Anderson BC ‘21, SGA President.)

Retro Barnard Hall via Bwog Archives