New SGA Bureau Chief Grace Novarr reports on this week’s happenings in your favorite student government, during which SGA met with representatives from the Center for Engaged Pedagogy.
Welcome back to another week of SGA coverage! As usual, today’s meeting started with introductions and external announcements by each of the representatives.
Emily Ndiokho BC ‘22, VP for Policy, reminded everyone to sign SGA’s petition for Barnard to allow students to P/D/F a major or minor requirement. The petition is almost ready to be presented to the administration. Ndiokho also reminded attendees that day, March 29th, was the deadline for applying to summer housing.
Vivian Todd BC ‘21, University Senator, shared that the voting form for SGA elections would be released on Tuesday, following technical difficulties.
Carmela Casaburi BC ‘23, Representative for Wellness, invited listeners to follow @barnardwellness and to be on the lookout for events announced in the coming week.
Parker Watts BC ‘22, Representative for Inclusive Initiatives, voiced support for the graduate students’ ongoing strike, and invited Black students at Barnard to fill out the Bold, Beautiful, Black @ Barnard form to get a care package consisting entirely of items sourced from Black-owned businesses or Black authors.
Bex Allen BC ‘21, Representative for Academic Affairs, announced that the neuroscience department is releasing a feedback form for STEM majors that asks students to report on how their experiences in their department have prepared them to confront racism in their field.
Bannon Beall BC ‘22, Representative for Food and Dining, reminded attendees that there is a survey going around asking for feedback from students who are fasting during Ramadan.
Chelsea Sinclair BC ‘21, Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees, echoed Vivian’s announcement about technical difficulties with the election form and explained that the voting deadline would be extended to accommodate these difficulties.
After a reading of the Community Guidelines, SGA heard a presentation from the Center for Engaged Pedagogy. The presenters were Jennifer Rosales, the Executive Director of the CEP, and Alex Pittman, Assistant Director for Teaching and Learning Initiatives. They opened by sharing the CEP’s mission, which is to center and strengthen Barnard’s academic engagement with support for students’ well-beings, and to cultivate and share strategies for improving and experimenting with pedagogy.
Rosales explained that the CEP views pedagogy as “an active process through which students and faculty experience mutual growth.” Through a series of events and initiatives, the CEP aims to push the frontiers of pedagogical scholarship, both at Barnard specifically and in the more general world of higher education. The CEP wants to establish itself as a central resource for teaching and learning at Barnard, and over the course of the presentation, Rosales and Pittman explained the specifics of how the CEP, in the year and a half since its inception, has been working towards these goals.
One specific initiative that the CEP took was the Curricular Design Institute, in which over 80 faculty members participated. This workshop event focused on helping faculty discover how best to adapt their courses to remote learning; attendees collaborated to share ideas and strategies for translating their pedagogical practices across mediums. Another event in a similar vein was the Summer Pedagogy Symposium, a 42-workshop series that explored topics including online student engagement, addressing racism in the classroom, and creating accessible learning experiences. Sessions were led by students as well as faculty, fostering an environment that was inclusive of perspectives across pedagogical functions.
Another project of the CEP is the Institute on Anti-Racism, a year-long interdisciplinary faculty collaboration that aims to reimagine classroom practices, course design, institutional labor, and disciplinary fields through the lens of anti-racism.
Additionally, during the 2020 election season, the CEP was home to a series of discussions in partnership with the committee on faculty diversity and development to discover the best ways to incorporate discussion of the presidential election in a classroom setting. Faculty who had been teaching at Barnard during the 2016 election were invited to share their perspectives and insights arising from this experience.
Pittman mentioned that an initiative that he was particularly proud of was the Beyond Content speaking series, in which scholars who have made contributions to new and inclusive strategies for teaching were invited to share their insights. The speaking series sought to restructure core course with an eye towards inclusion; visiting speakers included the academics Bryan Dewsbury, Maria Scharron-del Rio, and Dipti Desai.
The CEP also lent its support to the Barnard Bold conferences that took place in February and were organized around the topic of fostering a culture of care and equity in a classroom setting, focusing on compassion as a pedagogical practice.
In the past week, the CEP partnered with CARDS to create Accessibility Week, leading faculty workshops and hosting speakers such as Lydia X. Z. Brown, a leader in disability justice scholarship and activism.
The CEP is also hosting a project called Sustaining Curricula 2021, a four-session series that focuses on how to integrate sustainability into the classroom. The topics of the sessions were decarbonization, the anthropocene, theorizing the environment, and environmental justice. This series was created with the partnership of the Sustainable Practices Committee.
Pittman also presented on the CEP’s consultation practice. The CEP provides consultations to both faculty and students. For faculty, these meetings involve figuring out how to think through the pacing and structuring of assignments and how to build community in digital classrooms. For students, these meetings often focus on study strategies, time management tools, and best learning practices.
The CEP is also involved in analyzing Barnard’s controversial Fall 2020 course Big Problems, which was protested by many members of the Class of 2024. The CEP has taken steps including distributing and analyzing a survey of student discussion leaders, hiring a team of professional facilitators with expertise in the area of racism, oppression, and privilege in higher education, and developing a series for forum leaders that focused on centering identity and healing in the act of facilitation.
Current CEP projects include the time management models that have been posted on the Canvas pages of FYE classes, representing an easily accessible resource for students in need of better time management strategies. Another project is the Anti-Racist Reading Group, to which the CEP provides support and funding.
The CEP also collaborates with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and the Athena Center for ThirdSpace, a resource for Barnard students who want to take on community engagement co-curricularly.
Forthcoming projects include a collaboration with Undesign the Redline + Thinking Digitally Summer Institute, which will be a three-day virtual workshop for faculty to design assignments that engage critically with digital technologies. Faculty participants will be awarded stipends.
There is also a stipended opportunity for students this summer through the CEP: the Student Learning Community, a project which will take place during Summer B and concern the discussion of how faculty can center students of color in the classroom without burdening them with the task of educating their colleagues about their experiences of racism. The goal of this initiative is for students to be able to contribute to the culture of pedagogy at Barnard by collaboratively developing a set of pedagogically engaged strategies. Interested students should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosales and Pittman concluded their presentation and took some questions. Bex Allen BC ‘21, Representative for Academic Affairs, asked what CEP would look like in the future, noting that Rosales had mentioned that at the moment, the CEP only has two full-time staff members.
Rosales responded that, due to the pandemic, the CEP has been forced to work faster than it otherwise would have, but that this turned out to be a good thing, because it also streamlined CEP’s expansion. They expect to higher a Senior Associate Director soon and to start to replace the part-time staff members with people who are able to work full-time at the CEP.
Danielle Hopkins BC ‘21, VP for Finance, asked the CEP representatives what steps they were planning to take to ensure that the failures of Big Problems would never occur again. Pittman responded by assuring the representatives that people on all levels of administration at Barnard are taking the criticisms of Big Problems very seriously, and that CEP compiled a detailed report analyzing the flaws of Big Problems that senior administrators are currently in the process of looking over. Rosales added that, if Big Problems does indeed reappear in Barnard’s future, it will look very different than how it appeared in Fall 2020.
Parker Watts BC ‘22, Representative for Inclusive Initiatives, asked how the CEP is ensuring and reaffirming a serious commitment to anti-racist pedagogical practices, as opposed to merely treating anti-racism as a trendy curricular addition. Rosales replied that the CEP is very much centered in bell hooks’ definition of what engaged pedagogy is and uses that as their guiding principle for action. Pittman added that the CEP considers anti-racism as a grounding framework instead of a passing fixation, and that its long-term work is oriented towards aligning with other campus bodies that share similar values. The long-term goal of the CEP is to not have to be the main space on campus where issues of anti-racism and inclusion are prioritized, and it aims to use its resources to make that vision a reality.
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