SGA Bureau Chief Ria Vasishtha covered Boss and Mujeres’ conversation with Barnard College’s Student Government Association (SGA).

Barnard’s SGA recently welcomed representatives from two student organizations to hear about pressing concerns from Black and Brown students. One of the groups, the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters, also known as BOSS, was formed in 1969 and supports Black students at Barnard. BOSS was last invited to an SGA meeting over five years ago. They were joined by Mujeres, a newer organization focused on creating a space for Latinx voices within the campus community. 

BOSS described the discomfort among Black students on campus. The New York Police Department has increased its presence over the past few months during protests. A large number of students come from overpoliced neighborhoods and the NYPD’s growing role on campus has created anxiety. 

This is compounded by the unpredictability of campus security. Students are not made aware of the days the gates will be closed and the NYPD will be monitoring campus happenings. Students are afraid of being racially profiled. One member of BOSS reported being the only student asked to swipe into campus, while their white counterparts were allowed in.

This extends to the concerning trend of repealing and rewriting policies within the span of days. The policies are passed swiftly, creating uncertainty: students do not know who to contact for further information and struggle to understand the subtext of the policy, including the disciplinary consequences. BOSS referenced the 14-day events rule and the new policy demanding students to remove dorm door decorations as examples. BOSS parallels the college’s recent actions to censorship—students cannot voice their political opinions. Students pay the college thousands in tuition and are not guaranteed rights and freedoms in the campus environment. 

Mujeres expanded on this, explaining how the climate of fear-mongering has instilled fear in students. With their enrollment and housing at stake, students are afraid to be outspoken members of the community. This fear has made it difficult for student organizations to continue their regular programming because students of color feel unsafe. 

For months, the college was radio silent toward student groups like BOSS and Mujeres. During the inauguration, however, administrators reached out to groups to invite them to participate. A member of BOSS received a disciplinary notice for attending an unauthorized protest in this same period. BOSS declined the invitation and does not want to collaborate with administrators until their voices are heard. BOSS described the struggle to maintain the group’s liberation tradition while continuing as an accredited club on campus.

Last semester, Mujeres scheduled a meeting with the deans to discuss concerns. However, they did not feel heard during the conversation. To Mujeres, the meeting merely appeared as a checkbox for the administration to show they made contact with student identity groups. No notes were taken, nor was there a follow-up scheduled afterward. 

Both groups encourage the college to live by the DEI statement it projects to the public, rather than using Black and Brown students as diversity tokens.

In the near future, the SGA is planning a Town Hall and will make adjustments based on their conversation with BOSS and Mujeres. The Town Hall is an opportunity for students to freely express their thoughts to critical members of the administration. Although the SGA is often viewed as the college’s student ‘arm,’ the SGA clarifies that it is not an apolitical entity and students are welcome to express their opinions. 

Concerning student safety at the Town Hall, there will be anonymous note taking and a disclaimer will be mailed out before the meeting. The SGA wants members of the Barnard community to feel heard, valued, and supported in their time on campus.

Image via Bwog Archives