Join SGA for another week of upsetting decisions regarding the school we love and care for so much!

Hi. Happy finals week, kings and queens. This Monday evening we had a chance to talk with the Board of Trustees. Starting as always with external announcements:

Emily Ndiokho (BC ‘22): DAD survey, no SGA office hours this week, read the newsletter for exciting updates this week! 

Emily Lan (BC ‘24): Get your COVID-19 booster shot if you can! 

Tiffany Vo (BC ‘23): Doing an SGA Spotify wrapped moment so look out for that! 

Summer Jones (BC ‘25): Best of luck on exams and take care of yourselves during finals season! 

Alicia Benis (BC ‘22): Good luck on finals, and support the grad students in their strike! 

Parker Watts (BC ‘22): While entering the seventh week of bargaining, our grad students need our support to get through this time! 

Audrey Pettit (BC ‘22): Putting out a form to place orders for bucket hats, sweatshirts, and sweatpants! SGA will be collecting funds in the spring! Email if you have any suggestions for events to hold at the end of this year! 

Catlin Michael Wojktkowski (advisor): Get excited about the Midnight Breakfast! The lineup starts at 10:30 and breakfast starts at 11! 

Now our Presenters: 

  • Jyoti Menon: Menon served as SGA president during her time at Barnard, and now is involved with the Athena Center and Beyond Barnard. At Barnard, she majored in economics and political science. 
  • Amy Veltman: Veltman graduated in the class of 1989 and was an English major at Barnard. She is now president of the alumni association at Barnard College (AABC). When you graduate from college, you are automatically part of this organization, where you can enjoy the lifelong benefits of attending Barnard! Veltman is serving a three-year term as the president of the AABC while concurrently serving a four-year term to the board of trustees.
  • Marcia Sells: Sells was a history major, and she now works as the Chief Diversity Officer at the Metropolitan Opera in addition to being part of the board. 

Because many board members were past participants of SGA, it was interesting to hear that the Macintosh/James Room/Altschul Atrium were where past SGA meetings were! 


Emily Ndiokho (BC ‘22): Students are confused regarding what the board of trustees does. How do you all see your roles, and what is the role of a trustee at Barnard?

  • Menon: The board has a lot of fiduciary duties regarding the reputational health of the college. The board is also a sounding board to President Beilock and her senior staff, as well as a group that shares the strategic ideologies of the college. 
  • Veltman: There are many committee assignments (ex: academic affairs, campus life, investments, nominations, finance investments, buildings, technology), however all of these have subject matter experts, and people who have deep and high-level experience in those areas to give good advice for the college. Additionally, there is an unofficial charge to gain an in-depth understanding of what’s happening at Barnard—as well as be advocates and cheerleaders for the college.
  • Sells: Finally, the board ensures the school is doing everything they need to do, plus the development and fundraising of alumni to show participation and support of the college. 

Audrey Pettit (BC ‘22): How does the board as a whole make itself accessible to students?

  • The campus life committee brings student concerns to the board to discuss.
  • Asks questions to the administration to find answers, including regarding first-gen students who had questions who came to the campus life committee.
  • Board has mentors, parents, and more to hear a lot of what’s going on on campus! 

Parker Watts (BC ‘22): How often does the campus life committee meet? Can the board have more meetings and be more communicative?

  • The board meets four times a year, but if more is needed then they need to have them. The board also works on long-term, big-picture things (more than four years into the future), so additional meetings aren’t always helpful. 
  • Menon: Before COVID-19, the board had monthly dinners to engage with students and was always very involved with Beyond Barnard and through Barnard Connect (a way to communicate with faculty). Now because of COVID-19, it has become really hard to spend as much time in person. However, the day-to-day running is via the president and the administration, and the board isn’t too informed regarding that.  

Mariame Sissko (BC ‘24): As a historically women’s college, it’s fair to need to hold on to that identity (of a historically women’s college), but that identity, inclusive space, and community of care is not exclusive of nonbinary students. Mount Holyoke, for example, isn’t changing the language completely but rather tells the story more accurately to support gender minorities. Mariame mentors nonbinary students and applying to Barnard is always confusing for trans and nonbinary students. 

  • The board does not see a change in language happening any time soon to change the wording to support trans and nonbinary students. Barnard is still a historically women’s college—in the ’80s Barnard was almost exhumed by Columbia, but people in this generation understand that women deserve all their positions of leadership and conversations that are important. 
  • Sells: Barnard has changed a lot of its language already from ‘students’ to include not only women but everyone. While we are trying to stay gender-inclusive, we are a historically women’s college. There was a period of discussion that has taken over two years to understand and make decisions about the wording of Barnard’s inclusion. This included every single group of people on campus to share their thoughts. These developments require deep-dive conversations because there are so many generations of alumni along with current students that are essential to understanding what a historically women’s college is. 
  • For much of the board that graduated in the ’80s, it was assumed that the biggest issue would be related to Columbia’s absorption of Barnard. However, since then, the use of ‘women-only’ language has fended off many of the fears regarding the individuality of Barnard compared to Columbia.

Mariame Sissko (BC ‘24), who is the representative of inclusion and identifies as nonbinary, expressed frustration regarding these answers along with many other SGA members. As there are a growing number of trans and nonbinary students and alumni, it is clear that there will be a huge number of conversations regarding gender inclusion going forward. They wanted to express once again the goal is not to change Barnard but instead to make sure what Barnard is known as from the outside is actually what is happening within. 

Drawing via Ava Morouse