On Monday night, SGA Rep Council had their first open meeting of 2021 (!), where they heard from candidates for SGA appointments.

The meeting began with external announcements from each of the representatives. Many reps encouraged students to apply for SGA committees. More information about application deadlines can be found in the SGA weekly email and Facebook page. 

During the open floor section of the meeting, a student who formerly acted as Representative for Health Services shared her experiences coming back to campus, expressing that Barnard had done “a terrible job” of explaining what life would look like back on campus. The student relayed that she had recently had a medical and psychological emergency, and had left “screaming voicemails” at Primary Care Health Services and Furman Counseling Center. She received a call back from Furman two hours later, informing her that they had no psychiatrists available. As of Monday night’s meeting, she had yet to receive a call back from PCHS or MJ Murphy, Executive Director of Student Health and Wellness Programs. “This is how students” die, the student said, particularly during a pandemic. 

She also mentioned how it is “impossible” for students to be paid for the work they do for the school. She described a recent situation where she had emailed an unnamed Barnard entity, asking for compensation for work she had done. She did not receive a response for 10 days, and when she did, she was informed that payment wasn’t an option, but that her suggestion would be bumped up to administrators. The student pointed out the disrespect inherent in the College not paying students for their work. As a past representative, she said she wanted something done, and that she doesn’t want anyone to have to ask for this kind of help ever again. 

Carmela Casaburi BC ‘23, the current Representative for Health Services, expressed sympathy for the student’s experiences and promised to discuss these matters further with her. Additionally, Carmela also promised to bring this matter up with MJ Murphy, as well as the heads of Furman, Well Woman, and other health offices. Tirzah Anderson BC ‘21, SGA President, promised to advocate for change with Dean Grinage and other administrators. She offered to keep the student in the loop on this process, and she more generally shared that any student with something to share is welcome to email SGA, or share during open floor, as they feel comfortable. 

The main topic on the agenda was SGA appointments. When there are empty SGA positions midyear, they are filled via appointment by SGA Rep Council. There are three positions open: Representative for Seven Sisters, Representative for Campus Affairs, and Representative for Food and Dining Services. Candidates for each of these positions gave short speeches, then took questions from the representatives. 

Hailey Dobin BC ‘21 and Hilda Gitchell BC ‘23 are both candidates for Representative for Seven Sisters. Hailey spoke first and discussed her past work with the Junior Class Council to support her classmates when the pandemic first hit, as well as her other work with women’s empowerment organizations. She has spearheaded plans to connect Seven Sisters students beyond the annual conference, with programs like book clubs, business development training, alumnae mentoring, and pen-pals. Hailey has already been in contact with the other colleges about this and has planned a program for an inaugural Zoom. In this position, she seeks to have transparency and to represent the diversity of Barnard. Hilda then spoke and shared her past experience with Matriculate and the University Relations Committee, and shared her desire to see more inclusivity across the Seven Sisters consortium. Before coming to Barnard, she had expected the College to have more substantial relationships with its Seven Sisters peers, and she noted that improving these relationships would be particularly beneficial during the pandemic. She plans to create spaces where Seven Sisters can engage in casual discussion as well as discussion of gender and gendered spaces at historically women’s colleges.  

Hailey and Hilda then took questions from the reps. Chelsea Sinclair BC ‘21, Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees noted that the past two Representatives for Seven Sisters have worked with Barnard to use more gender-inclusive language, and to generally create a more gender-inclusive culture. Chelsea asked the candidates what programs they had in mind for this goal. Hailey stated that it would not be appropriate for her to decide on the College’s response, as she identifies as a woman. However, she would seek to have more students on the Seven Sisters Committee, as well as at the Seven Sisters Conference. Hilda responded that she wants to bring people together to discuss gendered spaces at historically women’s colleges, both at Barnard and in the consortium as a whole.

Vivian Todd BC ‘21, University Senator, stated that the 7 Sisters colleges are all private, predominantly white institutions, and asked the candidates how they would connect with historically black, historically women’s colleges. Hailey plans to host events with other schools such as speaking panels. Hilda stressed that conversations around gender inclusivity cannot just take place among the 7 Sisters, but must include HBCU’s in order to have the most accurate solutions. 

Erika Chan BC ‘23 and Halli Fein BC ‘23 are both candidates for Representative for Campus Affairs. Erika, an economics and math major, emphasized students’ need for extra support this semester, as many are transitioning back to campus. She shared that one of her roommates is a transfer student, and has gotten poor communication from the administration in this regard. Erika hopes to work with the McIntosh Activities Council (McAC) to hold virtual events, as well as increase accessibility for support systems like counseling and advising. Halli shared her past experience on the Disabilities of America Leadership Council, which developed her “unique sensitivity to people”. She also discussed the tight-knit community of first-years living on the second floor of Sulzberger Hall last school year, who became particularly close after the death of Tessa Majors BC ‘23, who lived on their floor. Halli stressed the importance of this community in her own life, and hopes to implement social programming such as Zoom cooking classes, or life skills classes, particularly as so much is closed in the city.

The candidates then took questions from the representatives. 

Solace Mensah-Narh BC ‘21, VP for Equity asked the candidates about the revamp of Public Safety to Community Safety, and how the candidates would plan to work with Dr. Elizabeth Scott-Francis, the new Director of Nondiscrimination and Title IX. Erika answered that she is not very familiar with Public Safety but considering Barnard’s past with Public Safety, she will seek feedback from the student body about their experiences. Halli responded that she was also not familiar with the new Public Safety changes, but will reach out to the different councils for feedback, as well as communicate directly with Public Safety.

Audrey Pettit, BC ‘22, Junior Class President noted that the spring semester is shorter and that it is more difficult to accomplish goals when working remotely. To this end, she asked the candidates what their top priority is. Erika responded that she would like to increase accessibility to resources, both for students living on campus and off-campus, citing the experience that Christina had shared earlier in the meeting. Halli answered that she wants to host Res Life programming, either by Zoom or by socially distant in-person meetings. She shared that her floor and RA programming changed her life and that having a community, especially during the pandemic, is crucial. 

Avalon Fenster, BC ‘24 asked how the candidates would help first-years, as many of them adjust to their first semester on campus. Erika plans to popularize different programs, such as Beyond Barnard or the 4+1 pathways, on the Barnard 2024 Facebook and Instagram pages, as she herself didn’t know about programs like these until her sophomore year. Halli will implement an older sibling program to pair first-years with an older student in a similar field or who shares a similar interest, to provide first-years with a person to ask questions or vent to. 

Myesha Choudhury BC ‘23, Sophomore Class President, asked how the candidates would enforce social distancing at the proposed in-person activities. Erika responded that Barnard Health Ambassadors and other health committees are already working on this and that she would stress the Barnard health guidelines in order to keep the community safe. Halli answered that she would work with health committees to plan any event and that they would not only social distance but take other measures of caution to ensure that people are comfortable going to events. 

Bannon Beall BC ‘22 is the sole candidate for Representative for Food and Dining Services. She is a junior majoring in history, and she expressed a desire to make Barnard a better place for all students. Although there is an awareness of dietary restrictions, she noted that this could be improved. She also discussed the importance of the social aspect of dining, especially for first years, and she plans on hosting special events and adjusting physical dining environments. She also stated that she wants to make dining safer for students with disordered eating, particularly in Hewitt where there are small plates and visible calorie counts for menu items, and have nutritional information available, but not to the detriment of students.

Tirzah Anderson BC ‘21 asked Bannon how she will advocate for Muslim students during Ramadan and with Halal food in particular. Bannon responded that she will regularly contact and meet with the administrators of Barnard Dining and that she will connect with Muslim students to hear their feedback on how well their dietary restrictions have been accommodated.

Audrey Pettit BC ‘22, Junior Class President brought up food waste during quarantine, as Barnard Dining delivers meals to students completing quarantine periods. She inquired about the possibility of partnering with the Columbia Food Pantry or to the Harlem Community Fridge to donate food. Bannon responded that she would be interested in coordinating donations, and also said that students should be able to customize the meals they receive, especially as there are limitations on what foods can be donated. 

Chelsea Sinclair BC ‘21, Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees, asked what ideas Bannon had for fostering community as campus opens up. Bannon responded with plans to host more outdoor dining events as the weather gets warmer, and COVID-19 vaccination is more widespread. 

Editor’s Note: Staff Writer Bannon Beall, candidate for Representative for Food and Dining Services was not involved in this coverage.

Diana Center via Bwog Archives