This week, SGA Rep Council met with Ariana González Stokas, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and Cammie Jones, Executive Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion, to discuss how Barnard can become more inclusive.
Welcome back to another week of SGA coverage! As always, last Monday’s meeting began with announcements from many of the representatives.
Tirzah Anderson BC ‘21, SGA President announced that SGA elections for the 2021-2022 academic year will be starting soon. Interested students should attend info sessions, and Zoom links for those meetings can be found in the SGA newsletter. Other questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jasmin Torres Piñón BC ‘22, VP for Communications announced a Town Hall Meeting which took place on Tuesday from 7 to 9 pm, about the transition from Barnard Public Safety to CARES.
Cindy Espinosa BC ‘22, Representative for Information and Technology, and Audrey Pettit BC ‘22, Junior Class President encouraged sophomores and juniors to attend the Senior Thesis Panel, which took place on Wednesday at 6 pm.
Emily Ndiokho BC ‘22, VP for Policy invited students to watch the Q&A with Dr. Elizabeth Scott-Francis, the new Director for Nondiscrimination and Title IX. the Q&A is available on Instagram, on @sgapolicy.
Solace Mensah-Narh BC ‘21, VP for Equity, and Parker Watts, BC ‘22, Representative for Inclusive Initiatives encouraged students to apply to be Speaking Fellows and Writing Fellows. Solace also encouraged students to reach out to her with any questions or concerns about the summer semester.
Carmela Casaburi BC ‘23, Representative for Wellness, shared that therapy resources, beyond Furman Counseling Center, are now available on Instagram, on @barnardwellness.
Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance, shared that Jennifer Fondiller BC ‘88, Vice President for Enrollment and Communications had emailed students to participate in financial aid focus groups, which will take place between March 15 and March 22.
Flosha Liyana BC ‘21, VP for Campus Life, shared that this semester’s Desserts After Dark survey is now open, and encouraged students to share their thoughts about Barnard’s operations this semester.
Myesha Choudhury BC ‘23, First Year Class President invited students to attend the Majors Fair, which took place on Thursday at 3 pm.
Ariana González Stokas, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) first thanked the representatives for inviting her to the meeting, and for their thoughtful questions about the aims and outcomes of the Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Barnard. She noted that this office undertakes the college as a system, in order for equality and inclusion to permeate and become the responsibility of all community members. Her approach is based on systems change theory, which maintains that inequities lie in the way an institution organizes itself and behaves. People at the institutions, particularly faculty and staff, act out these inequities. Their consciousness of their actions varies, as many people have been socialized into these systems of inequities.
González Stokas’ methodology is also based on the Six Core Strategies for DEI Work, created by the Center for Social Inclusion. The first strategy is to operate with emergency and build collective will among all community members, so that everyone is committed to equity. The second strategy is to develop a shared analysis and shared language, so discussions of racial equity are normalized across the Barnard community. This occurs through programming like the Monday assemblies for faculty and staff to learn about anti-racism, as well as the Center for Engaged Pedagogy’s Anti-Racist Pedagogy Institute. The third strategy is to build internal capacity with focused infrastructure (such as grants or other incentives) that will foster equity. The fourth strategy is to develop and implement tools for faculty and staff to promote inclusion. The fifth strategy is to develop partnerships such as those with Access Barnard or CARES, or with external organizations when Barnard doesn’t have the internal capacity for a specific facet of equity work. The final strategy is to utilize data and metrics to assess Barnard’s DEI practices. González Stokas noted that many institutions, like Brown and Cornell, have robust data visualizations of diversity within the university’s community, and that Barnard lacks this kind of resource. Collecting data from the Campus Climate Survey, the Middle States Re-accreditation survey, or the Desserts After Dark Survey, will help Barnard effect change.
González Stokas proceeded to discuss some specific initiatives by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The Food Pantry opened last year, but the Barnard Hall location had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gonzalez Stokas stated that she hoped to reopen it by summer.
González Stokas has also studied Barnard’s history in order to inform her work today, by analyzing Barnard’s archives with SGA President Tirzah Anderson. A series of events entitled “Evenings with the Archives” examines such topics as Barnard’s shifting criteria for admission, policing and gentrification at Barnard, and Frederick P. Barnard as a slave owner.
The Office for DEI also seeks to support students with initiatives like the Supplemental Academic Support Application, which is under the domain of Access Barnard and provides students with necessary funding or supplies.
The Community Safety Working Group will serve as a consultancy and an advisory and will collect data on whether the new CARES program is serving students.
González Stokas also expressed the importance of students’ sense of belonging. This is measured through the Climate Survey, which is part of a regular cycle of surveys on student wellbeing. Additionally, Dylan Kapit BC ‘16 and González Stokas will be leading Trans* @ Barnard, a focus group about transgender inclusion work.
Finally, González Stokas wants to center engagement as a form of inclusion, with the advent of programs like Third Space, which helps students add capacity to existing social change groups.
Cammie Jones is new to Barnard College in her role as Executive Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion, and she previously served as Associate Dean of Experiential Learning and Civic Engagement at Bard College. She discussed her work in civic engagement, leadership development, and academic advising, and her work in projects such as Dutchess County Outreach and Thrive on Kingston by saying, “This role isn’t just a job for me, it’s my life’s purpose.”
She explained the importance of collective impact work, as opposed to individual work. With the Office of DEI, Jones plans to foster community engagement through authentic engagement Opportunities within Barnard, as well as with Columbia and with the larger Harlem community. Jones also expressed the need to build trust across these communities for the most effective community engagement.
Jones then discussed the roles she sees for students in building community engagement. First, she is seeking student input in developing a civic action plan, which will serve as a roadmap identifying better ways to support and practice community engagement. Additionally, she shared the George Van Amson Fellowship, which grants a $3000 stipend and summer housing to Barnard and Columbia students working in unpaid nonprofit internships. The deadline for this Fellowship is March 19, and three spots are reserved for Barnard students, so Jones encouraged Barnard students to apply.
González Stokas and Jones then took questions from the representatives.
Bex Allen BC ‘21, Representative for Academic Affairs asked for more details on the Office for DEI’s work with CARES about what public safety means to Barnard students, as well as more information on the office’s work with professors to restructure their curricula to center equity. About the latter, González Stokas responded that alongside Dean Monica Miller and Jennifer Rosales, she wrote a call to professors for proposals about addressing anti-racism within their disciplines. González Stokas noted that faculty need time and resources to build knowledge about anti-racism in their field, which might include partnering with a colleague to learn more. Additionally, the coming review of the Foundation curriculum will particularly examine the Social Difference distributional requirement, and whether it is accomplishing what it was intended to do.
Bex expanded on their question about CARES by noting that when students place a call to the CARES hub, they can choose whether a CARES team member or a more traditional Community Safety officer, would respond –– Bex voiced concerns about white students weaponizing the presence of traditional Public Safety officers against students of color. González Stokas clarified that officers and supervisors have engaged in anti-racism training. González Stokas also noted that dispatchers, not callers, determine who responds to a situation, and that it is necessary to train these dispatchers in yielding responses. Furthermore, the CARES team plans to follow up with students after the fact and determine how they could improve in the future.
Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance asked for specific ways in which the Office for DEI is engaging with the petition from Black Barnard alumnae that was developed this summer. She noted that she had not seen much engagement with this from administrators or senior staff and that many of the demands on the petition would align with DEI work.
González Stokas responded to a number of the petition’s demands: Barnard has begun the process of restructuring Public Safety as part of CARES, and although anti-racism training is not mandatory for faculty, the Monday assemblies have been helpful. Additionally, González Stokas’ proposed diversity dashboard would provide transparency about the demographics of the faculty, senior staff, and the college as a whole. She addressed the difficulties of privileging ceratin groups in the hiring process, and mentioned the Faculty Opportunity Hiring Pathway, which was created three years ago to prioritize hiring underrepresented scholars. Regarding hiring from Harlem specifically, González Stokas stated that the College will prioritize hiring Harlem vendors.
Myesha Choudhury BC ‘23, Sophomore Class President asked what conversations the College has about avoiding white saviorism when making commitments to support Harlem residents. González Stokas noted that this is a common issue with private, historically white institutions (such as Yale or Brown) that located in historically Black neighborhoods. Students, faculty, and staff come to Branard with certain ideas about Harlem and Barnard’s relationship to Harlem, based on media representations and assumptions. González Stokas explained that the idea that Barnard is here to “rescue” the community is a settler-colonial framework, and wants to undo this idea by having Barnard community members interrogate who they are, what they have to provide, and what legacies they are entangled in, through projects like ThirdSpace.
Jones responded that one of the pillars of her work is listening to the community. She has already met with Harlem community stakeholders and discussed their history of connecting with Barnard students. She also has met with students about their needs and past blindspots in community engagement. Additionally, she underlined the significant loss and change that the Harlem community has faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she seeks to provide students with the necessary resources to connect with a community in recovery. Relatedly, members of the Harlem and Morningside Height communities expressed concerns about students returning to campus, and the effect on community transmission rates. These concerns were taken into account with the creation of Barnard’s contact tracing and testing programs.
Avalon Fenster BC ‘24, First-Year Class President, asked why the Big Problems curriculum would be continuing, especially after many Black first-years complained about the lack of professor training about anti-racism. González Stokas responded that both the Center for Engaged Pedagogy and the directors of the First-Year Experience program conducted thorough assessments of the Big Problems curriculum, where they learned, for example, that many students felt that the Big Problems Lecture Series was worthwhile. A working group has been formed to restructure the program to address the issues brought up in these assessments. González Stokas stressed that education is an iterative process and that the Big Problems curriculum was an institutional attempt to address current social issues. She plans to implement anti-racism training for discussion fellows in Big Problems classes.
Barnard Hall via Bwog Archives