The Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) expressed “outrage” concerning Barnard College President Rosenbury’s lack of redress for comments made by Barnard’s CARES Associate Director Rosemarie Ronde.

On March 7, the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), published a letter addressed to Barnard President Laura Rosenbury citing incidents of Islamophobic comments by Barnard CARES Associate Director Rosemarie Ronde. CARES is Barnard’s Community Accountability, Response, and Emergency Services department, which aims to respond to various safety-related elements in a time-sensitive manner.

Authored by John Samuelsen, the International President of the TWU, and Joseph Rose, the President of the TWU Local 264, the letter outlined an exchange between Ronde and two security officers who are a part of the TWU, the labor union that represents Barnard Public Safety Officers and staff in the Office of Facilities Services. 

According to the letter, on November 15, 2023, Barnard security officers were performing routine security checks to enter school grounds when Ronde, then serving as Assistant Director of Community Service, allegedly said to two of them, “If a student could remove her hijab to take her ID photo, why couldn’t she do the same when showing her ID at the main gates?” Additionally, Ronde reportedly suggested to one of the security officers that he could ask female students to remove religious head coverings “if he wanted.” 

The TWU characterized Ronde’s comments as displaying “either a startling insensitivity to Islamic [religion], complete ignorance, or an indefensible bias against [Muslims].” 

Despite the security officers reporting the incident to Barnard management in November and a subsequent follow-up by TWU Local 264 with President Rosenbury in January, no action has been taken by the Barnard Human Resources Department, according to the TWU letter. Instead, they referred the officers to the Title IX office, which the TWU believes has a “conflict of interest” with the Barnard administration. The Title IX office has not spoken with either security guard. 

The TWU argues that asking students to remove religious garments, particularly in what they describe as an “already volatile on-campus environment,” endangers the safety of its members. They assert that maintaining neutrality as peace officers would be “impossible” under such circumstances.

The TWU urged the administration to discipline Ronde and “clearly denounce” her view of officers directing Islamic students to remove their hijabs. 

Columbia University Muslim Students Association and the Columbia University Apartheid Divest coalition both strongly condemned Ronde’s comments in an Instagram post on March 8. Subsequently, on Monday, March 18, the TWU distributed informational flyers outside the Barnard gates. These flyers contained details regarding the letter addressed to Barnard President Laura Rosenbury, urging solidarity among affiliates of both Barnard and Columbia University in support of the TWU’s position. Additionally, the flier provided a QR code directing individuals to sign the letter in solidarity with the TWU.

President Rosenbury and the Barnard College administration have yet to respond to these allegations. Ronde is currently the Associate Director of Training and Outreach of CARES.

Barnard maintains an anti-discrimination policy stating that all students have the right to “exercise civil rights and practice of religion without interference by the investigative, criminal justice, or judicial or conduct process of the institution.”

Barnard College via Bwog Archives