Something to Learn
The article by Lois Elfman on the education panel was very interesting. We certainly do need to do something to improve education in the USA! However we cannot rely on the federal government to do everything for us. Who knows what is best for the students? The school they attend, the community in which they live, and therefore the individual state in which the community is located and which is responsible for guidance and funds. Put more responsibility in the hands of the states and the voters.
With a quality education almost everyone could go to college, but should they? Nowadays it seems that the stress of educational institutions is college for everyone. From observation of many who have crossed my path, this emphasis is badly directed. Some start college and quit.Some go into business for themselves in a variety of fields because they would prefer to work outdoors or work with their hands: cabinetmakers, auto mechanics, tool makers, landscapers, building contractors, etc.
Education, yes! College, maybe. In my view educational offerings need to be broader. High school should give everyone a good basic education in reading (literature), writing (essays, reports, business documents, etc.) and math and science— preparation for any field of the student’s choice including college.
—Helen Cornell Koenig ’42
Where the Heart Is
When I read “Homecoming Dean,” I was overcome by acute nostalgia for my days at Barnard. As a recent graduate, the words “coming home to Barnard” resonated strongly with me. I am proud to be part of a college with alumnae, like Dean Hinkson, who are connected and tirelessly devoted to improving Barnard. I am thrilled Dean Hinkson has come home and I am sure she
will make Barnard stronger and more beautiful.
Barnard will always be a special place for us alumnae despite the number of years passed since we left those majestic iron gates. I hope that my fellow alumnae feel connected to Barnard each and every day as I do.
—Sonal Kumar ’11
I hope you’ve received an avalanche of notes from alumnae about the elegant, good-to-read Barnard Magazine you are now turning out. For years I thought that Barnard’s efforts in this arena were lightweight and poorly presented. I occasionally grumbled to friends, wondering why the College tolerated such an embarrassing publication. It’s always tricky, I’m sure, to showcase a school’s many and amazing strengths without sounding complacent or like a cheerleading claque. In any case, be assured that you’ve found a fine, engaging balance. I especially appreciate those happy young male philosophers on the cover of the Spring 2011 issue. There’s a gorgeous (institutional) confidence in that cover—and in the story, too, of their tight supportive friendship (a bond which feminists can enjoy in men) and of Barnard’s decision to find a way to hire the two of them....
—Doris Platzker Friedensohn ’58
Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies, New Jersey City University
More on the Military
Thank you for the article on alumnae in the military. I took “Modern Constitutional Democracy” (AKA government 1) with Professor Morrison my first year (1964–65). I remember her saying that the Pentagon had plans for the time when women would be subject to the draft. I thought she had “jumped the string bean.” I graduated in 1968 when pride in our military was zero on campus. I am so glad to have lived to see women serving as peers with men and—gasp—
being honored by our college community.
— Rosemary Jablonski Ford ’68
Chapel Hill, NC
I think the Spring 2011 issue of Barnard Magazine was one of the best. The alumnae in military piece were inspiring, uplifting, and, I daresay, riveting. The Greek Games, memories—so vivid after all these decades—were almost as good and positively delightful to read. Hopefully, the revival will generate similar future goodwill three or four score years hence.
—Christopher F. Graham, widower of Theresa Smith Graham ’75
Bedford Corners, NY
Raise Your Voice
So, Greek Games is back. Good! Now a College Song Leader should also be resurrected.
I attend meetings of Barnard in the Midwest. We meet in Minneapolis twice a year. Our get-togethers include the singing of either “Beside the Waters of the Hudson” or “Just Up the Banks of the Hudson.” (Aside: I led “Beside the Waters of the Hudson” at an assembly when Eleanor Roosevelt was the speaker.)
There’s nothing like singing a Barnard school song to mellow out a group of old grads. Undergrads need to sing these songs before they graduate! And we should sing them at Reunion too. Bring back the College Song Leader!
—Verna Beaver ’43
Saint Paul, Minn.
Over the past three years, I have come to realize that I hear the same two questions a lot: What is the relationship between Barnard and Columbia? And, Why does anyone still need a women’s college?
I have gotten quite good at answering the first query (separate institution; wonderful partnership), but the latter remains a tougher conversation. As a recent article by Tamar Lewin ’71 in The New York Times describes, single-sex education is under attack across the country, with critics suggesting that it offers no real benefits over standard coeducation. According to a report entitled “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling,” for example, “sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.” Similar criticisms are lobbed more informally across Web sites and popular blogs, stressing that, with women now accounting for more than 50 percent of the student population in colleges, universities, and graduate schools, the rationale for women’s colleges has completely disappeared. Or as one opponent recently argued online, single-sex schools are breeding grounds for “habits and mindsets that will actually render graduates MORE of a target and LESS capable of coping in the mainstream world.”
Repeatedly, and consistently, I disagree. Yes, women out-perform men in high school and outnumber them in college. Yes, women are welcome in athletic programs and dining clubs and across the Ivy League. Yet the proverbially tilted playing field for women has still not fully righted itself and young women—amazingly, astonishingly, perhaps—often experience college very differently from their male friends and counterparts. Yale was forced to confront these differences very publicly last year when the Department of Education investigated the university for a possible breach of Title IX (failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus). Duke has dealt with accusations of sexual harassment and a distinctly “macho” culture. And Princeton, to its great credit, recently released a candid and hard-hitting analysis of women’s leadership, or lack thereof, on its campus.
Princeton began admitting women in 1969, following several years of acrimonious debate among its then-all-male students and alumni. “I simply cannot conceive,” one graduate grumbled at the time, “anything like our warm friendships and manly dedication in an atmosphere thoroughly polluted by females.” Yet in the early years of coeducation, the university’s recent report notes, female students fared quite well. Women held a total of 18 major campus positions during the course of the 1980s and 22 in the 1990s; in 1975, both the valedictorian and salutatorian at Commencement were female. Over time, however, women have quietly, stunningly, begun to slip from leadership positions across campus. Only 12 women held prominent campus positions during the 2000s and only six won the Pyne Prize, the University’s highest award for general distinction. Men, by contrast, held 58 leadership positions during the 2000s and won 12 Pyne Prizes. As the report thus notes, “We had assumed … that after the pioneering years of undergraduate education at Princeton, women would have moved steadily into more and more prominence in campus leadership … [Instead] there has been a pronounced drop-off in the representation of women in these prominent posts since around 2000.” Current female students seem relatively unconcerned about their status, with several suggesting to the authors of the report that they were happy to work behind the scenes of the campus hierarchy, or to throw their energies into other, more fulfilling pursuits. Yet there was also a poignancy in some female students’remarks, and a dismaying awareness of the extent to which their gender—and sexual attractiveness—shaped their behavior on campus. And thus the report is prompted to wonder: “Can a male student who sees a first-year woman as a potential sexual conquest on Thursday night regard her as his intellectual equal in precept on Friday morning? How do the experiences of Thursday night affect that first-year woman’s idea of herself and her sense of how she is evaluated by her peers?”
I give great kudos to Princeton president Shirley Tilghman, who commissioned the study, and to Nannerl Keohane (former president of Wellesley and Duke) who chaired its steering committee. I salute their courage in tackling the thorny and unpleasant question of why, four decades after coeducation, young women at some of the world’s best universities are still having educational experiences that are subtly different from those of their male colleagues and still facing options that are shaped and squeezed by their gender. Princeton, as the report concludes, “needs to address residual stereotypes” and “recognize and celebrate the many ways in which both women and men are providing leadership.” So should Yale and Duke and every other college in the country.
But in the meantime—and perhaps for a long time—the country and the world still vitally need places like Barnard and the Sisters. Places where, for four precious years of their lives, young women inhabit a world where girls truly rule; where women lead by definition and habit, and where female role models abound. For four years, women at a single-sex college can enjoy being smart without worrying whether that means they’re not sexy. They can speak their minds without wondering if they’re meant to represent the “woman’s point of view.” They can talk about fashion rather than football without having their intelligence questioned. And then, four years later, they can leave stronger, more confident, and bound to a sisterhood that will support them forever.
Thankfully, colleges like Barnard are no longer the necessity they once were. Bright girls can go to the Ivy League, to the military academies, and to whatever careers and futures they choose to pursue.
But they can also choose an option that is increasingly rare and precious—four years of study and self-discovery, and a brief window of time when, for once, gender truly doesn’t matter.
Fran Sussner Rodgers ’67 has spent her career focused on women’s issues. Starting her own firm, Work/Family Directions, she sought methods and ideas that would transform the workplace to accommodate women’s growing presence. She also served as a consultant to dozens of Fortune 500 companies on women’s advancement in the working world. Since selling her business, she also became involved with creating progressive infrastructures such as think tanks and new media.
At one point, she was asked to teach a course at Tufts University on women’s movements. While she never taught the course, she wondered about repurposing her research to suit a new media platform that would develop and encourage contemporary conversations about changing gender roles in today’s society.
Fran sought the input of her daughter, Nicole Rodgers, a graduate of Northwestern and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania; Nicole lives in Washington, D.C., and was then a vice president at Fenton, a public-interest communications firm. “Nicole looked at what I had, which was mainly based on women’s history, and thought we should try and do something contemporary, to reach a younger generation, and try to include men in the discussion.”
Mother and daughter teamed up to begin RoleReboot.org, which they launched in early 2011. Through its content, Role/Reboot aims to explore and support the changing roles of both women and men in contemporary society. The Web site currently features articles and essays—generated by staff, regular site contributors, and guest bloggers from partner sites. With her expertise in women’s and workplace issues, Fran often contributes pieces about generational differences and concerns between second-wave feminists and younger men and women. Nicole writes about trends and issues that affect men and women in their 20s and 30s today.
Nicole, who serves as Role/Reboot’s president, says, “I’m proud of what we’ve built; we wanted to start a movement for those who are breaking out of gender norms—whether by choice or circumstances. And I believe that just asking people to tell their stories can be incredibly important for social movements, since cultural change typically proceeds political change.”
Both mother and daughter are brainstorming their next move. Currently, Nicole says, they are focused on representing and supporting “anyone ambivalent about the bill of goods they’ve been sold as a result of their gender.” This means anyone from a breadwinner wife to a stay-at-home dad to others who have chosen careers not typically associated with their gender. Role/Reboot will ultimately expand from a content site into an organization that partners with different groups and institutions to help those in underrepresented roles create a support network.
Fran serves as an advisor to Role/Reboot from her Massachusetts home. She checks in and talks with Nicole often about the site’s direction, discussing ways to expand their audience, particularly through social media. Both feel their partnership has been successful, blending Fran’s expertise with Nicole’s communication skills, not to mention her read on today’s generation.
Says Fran, “So far, it’s been wonderful. I really appreciate my daughter as a colleague. Working with her has allowed me to see the really amazing managerial and creative skills she brings to the workplace.” And, like her mother, Nicole follows a long line of entrepreneurial women in the family. While Nicole was growing up, she did not show much interest in working on the issues that preoccupied her mom but, adds Fran, “It is a great blessing and pleasure to be able to share so much with her now, and watch her take those issues to places I never imagined.”
Nicole jokes that one of her biggest fears was that she and her mother wouldn’t get along professionally. “We’ve both been surprised how easy it’s been. We do keep work and family separate; we have boundaries.” Also, very important to Nicole, “Working with her gives me the feeling that I’m continuing her legacy.”
-by Andrew Clark
For 10 years Barnard’s Reach Out program (BRO) has given incoming students a chance to experience their community firsthand by giving back. Each fall, students participate in daylong community service projects that range from bagging excess produce in Union Square to delivering Rosh Hashanah care packages to elderly Harlem residents. The program’s success has led to some exciting changes: Reach Out now occurs four times each school year instead of one, and enthusiastic students are now given the opportunity to take on leadership roles.
This year Barnard alumnae were invited to join students, faculty, and staff for the first time; their response was overwhelming. The 16 volunteer positions filled quickly; alumnae joined 150 new students in 11 projects throughout the city. “There is no better way for alumnae to get a sense of the College today than to be in conversation with current students,” says Dorothy Denburg, vice president for College Relations. “And it’s so much easier for alumnae and students to have genuine conversations when they’re doing something together that provides common ground.”
Reach Out’s organizers hope that incoming students and alumnae will benefit from working together and will share their college and post-college experiences. The program’s main purpose, however, is to instill the values of community service. “Reach Out encourages service early on, and we hope students continue to do so throughout their time at Barnard,” says Valerie Chow, Reach Out’s organizational wizard and director of the Internship and Civic Engagement Program. “Reach Out is a great opportunity for students to see parts of the city that they haven’t explored, to work with an organization with which they’re not yet familiar, and to learn the needs of the community,” says Chow. If you didn’t get to participate this year, there will be opportunities in the future. Until then, here’s a look at several of this year’s projects.
East River Park Stewardship Day
Montgomery Street to East 12th Street, FDR Drive
Thirty-one Barnard volunteers—including one faculty member, two alumnae, three student leaders, and 25 first-year students—partnered with the Lower East Side Ecology Center for a day of weeding, collecting trash, and spreading mulch in the East River Park.
“At the start of the day the park was a forest of weeds, and by the time we were finished it was quite beautiful,” said Severin Fowles, assistant professor of archaeology and the project’s faculty leader. “There is something very satisfying about that transformation.”
The group’s commitment to their task was tested when rain began to pour down in the middle of the day. Nonetheless, the group pushed ahead to finish what they had started. Their hard work did not go unnoticed. As the soaking-wet group ate lunch, a community member who visits the park frequently came by and thanked them for their service.
“I was so impressed with the caliber of incoming students,” says Hope Clements ’97. “As we were weeding, a lot of the students asked for advice. It was a nice opportunity for me to look back and think about what I wish I had known when I was entering Barnard.”
City Harvest Greenmarket
Every week New Yorkers flock to the Union Square Greenmarket to shop for fresh produce. Thirteen Barnard women worked during Reach Out to connect less fortunate New Yorkers with the excess produce left after closing time. The project involved partnering with City Harvest, a nonprofit organization that collects food donated by farmers and distributes it to shelters in all five boroughs. Together the group bagged and loaded 6,000 pounds of food.
“It made me proud to see strong, beautiful Barnard women carrying huge bags of corn, peppers, eggplant, cabbage, and tomatoes to the City Harvest truck for loading,” says Vivian Taylor, chief of staff and vice president for community development, who served as leader.
“A lot of the farmers told us how impressed they were with this group of 18-year-olds,” says Yona Corn ’08, the site’s alumna leader. “I want Barnard to be as great as I remember it. Engaging with this group of women, who were willing to take three hours out of their Saturday for no other purpose than to help others, affirmed that the Barnard legacy carries on.”
Cathedral Community Cares Soup Kitchen
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine hosts a soup kitchen every Sunday and it was bustling with activity when 16 Barnard women showed up to serve hot meals and welcome guests. That this Reach Out happened to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, made the experience more meaningful for many participants. “It was really gratifying to feed hungry people on this memorable day, and to connect with people who had lived through that event,” says Murrill Oakes ’13, student leader for the project and a Barnard Civic Engagement Fellow.
To Oakes, Reach Out is important because “it’s easy for students to come to Barnard and fall in love with the campus community,” she says. “but if you don’t branch out, you’re not experiencing New York and you’re not getting to know the people who share this city with you.”
Valerie Chow and Heather Godfrey ’01 worked with the students. “It was such a great way for me to connect with today’s Barnard, and to feel again the excitement of starting a new school year, which is something I miss every fall,” says Godfrey.
Kraft Clothing Pantry
606 West 115th Street
Ten volunteers gave back to the larger New York City community closer to home. The Kraft Clothing Pantry, which offers clothing to homeless and low-income families throughout the year, is a longtime favorite community service site for Barnard and Columbia students. Jenny Goldstein ’05, the site’s alumnae leader, was once one of those students—and she was impressed by the young women with whom she spent the day. “They had such high aspirations,” she says. “It was great to connect with this new, motivated and passionate generation of women coming through Barnard.”
The clothing pantry is university-run, so donations pile up during the summer when students and faculty are away. This left the group with an excess of clothes to sort, organize, and bag for distribution.
“At the end of the day it was really satisfying to look at everything we had done,” says Helenka Lepkowski Ostrum ’14, student leader at the project. “It made me feel good to know people who needed these clothes were actually going to use them. We knew we were helping make a social impact.”
171 West 85th Street
Another team spread across the Upper West Side and west Harlem to deliver Rosh Hashanah care packages to elderly residents’ homes. Thirty-two volunteers worked with DOROT, a nonprofit organization that aims to alleviate social isolation among the elderly and provides services to help them live independently.
Nancy J. Schneider ’74 and two first-year students brought a care package to an elderly woman in Harlem. “The woman we visited loved visitors, and we were able to do something valuable for her in that moment by providing company and distracting her from her worries,” says Schneider.
The woman’s anxiety was largely centered on her health-care situation: Her home health aide’s hours had been cut back and she was unsure how she would do her shopping. “I think it was eye-opening for the students to hear about her problems firsthand,” offers Schneider. “We all wished that we could do more, but I think this experience provided an important lesson about how government cutbacks can really hurt people.”
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo ’74 has never been afraid to take a stand for what she believes is right. As a young woman growing up in the Detroit area during the time of the 1967 riots, she showed her solidarity by volunteering at Black Panther Party-sponsored breakfast programs for children. As an undergraduate, she joined campus demonstrations against the racist apartheid government in South Africa. As a PhD candidate in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she worked with linguistics professor and part-time political critic Noam Chomsky and activist professor emeritus Willard Johnson on a controversial but ultimately successful dissertation on whether American newspapers can be used as tools of propaganda. Yet, for all of her previous experience, Coleman-Adebayo had no idea that standing up for human rights as an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency would lead to a fight that spanned more than 15 years, taking a toll on her health, her family, and her career. Then again, her battle would inspire and shape the first major piece of civil rights legislation of the twenty-first century.
In her new book, No FEAR: A Whistleblower’s Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA, Coleman-Adebayo tells the story of how she became a whistle-blower, how it led to the passing of the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act (No FEAR) of 2002, and what it means to government workers today. “Whistle-blowers are the ambassadors of democracy inside federal agencies,” she says in a telephone interview. No FEAR helps the average government employee embrace that responsibility. The book also continues to bring to light the struggles of the people who motivated her, a community of South African miners who might otherwise have been a forgotten byproduct of industrial greed.
“They came to me complaining of green tongues,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “They told me about bleeding from every orifice. [As] husbands [they] could no longer perform…. There were reports of many dead and more dying. The company Vametco, run by a U.S. multinational, would not help.” They were black South Africans mining vanadium in a small community called Brits. Coleman-Adebayo first heard their stories in 1995, during a visit to South Africa as executive secretary of the U.S.–South Africa Binational Commission Environment Working Group, sponsored by Vice President Al Gore and South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. “The goal of the Gore-Mbeki commission was to assist the Nelson Mandela government in transitioning from apartheid to democracy,” Coleman-Adebayo says. “Under the old apartheid government, ‘brown issues’—those that deal with pollution, poor water quality, substandard air quality, and waste disposal—were not addressed, particularly for the majority of the population. My job was to essentially help the South African government to work on issues that impact public health.”
The brown issue that seemed most pressing was vanadium. Element 23 on the periodic table, vanadium is primarily used to strengthen steel alloys used in things like car parts (pistons, rods, crankshafts), aircraft engines, and armor plates for military vehicles, making it very valuable to modern industry. Its properties have also been found to be highly toxic to humans, and the black South Africans who mined it were suffering without help or acknowledgement of obvious work hazards. Vametco was run by a U.S.–based company, and Coleman-Adebayo felt the country had an obligation to at least listen to the complaints of the miners. She pushed for EPA support and the agency responded, promising to fund initiatives that would study environmental issues in Brits, provide environmental education, and study the effects of vanadium. Then years passed with those promises left unfulfilled. Coleman-Adebayo continued to lobby for the miners, but the more she pushed, the more problems she faced at work.
If management had wanted someone who would stay silent for the sake of protecting U.S. business interests, they picked the wrong person for the job. Coleman-Adebayo told them as much before accepting the position. As an Africanist and political scientist, she says she knew well the sometimes ugly history of U.S. foreign policy with Africa. She also had personal ties to the continent: her husband is from Nigeria, and she has family and friends throughout Africa. “I actually told the director I wasn’t going to be a part of any policies or programs having a negative impact on Africa or its people,” she says. He worked to convince her that the agency’s intentions were in line with her own, that her passion was a plus.
From the beginning she felt a certain degree of hostility in the workplace at the EPA. Upon starting in 1990, she immediately noted disparities in the treatment of women or minority groups at every level of the organization. Early on, a coworker inviting Coleman-Adebayo to join a meeting among white male colleagues joked that she could be an “honorary white man”; when she complained, another manager referred to her as “uppity.” There was hope of change when Carol Browner was selected by Clinton to become the second female head of the EPA in 1993, but such progress did not, in Coleman-Adebayo’s view, extend to the rest of the organization. When she was ultimately removed from her position in South Africa, the harassment started to seem systemic. Not only was she being passed up for well-deserved promotions, she also started getting impossible assignments. Previously stellar performance reviews started to take a negative turn; she felt she was being set up to fail.
Eventually she filed a civil rights discrimination complaint against her employer in Coleman-Adebayo v. Browner. After a trial experience that reads in the book like a taut legal thriller, she prevailed in 2000. She calls herself a fluke—a member of the less than two percent of federal employees who have actually won cases against their employers. Being a fluke also made her a story, and her story struck a nerve. Suddenly employees from every corner of government, including the EPA, started sharing their tales. Those stories and others gave her a voice that could be used to change the system. She testified before Congress, and helped to get a whistle-blower’s protection act to pass unanimously in the House and Senate. In 2003, Good Housekeeping magazine gave her the top award for women in government.
No FEAR, signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush, does several things to make federal agencies accountable for employee complaints. New hires must be informed of their rights against retaliation and discrimination for whistle-blowing within 90 days of joining a federal agency, and reminded again annually. Every two years, employees should have training about rights and remedies. All federal agencies must openly report on data including employee complaints, court cases, and the amount of money the agency was required to reimburse for violations, and Congress must review the reports biannually. “This is huge data in terms of Congress taking a picture of the federal government,” she says. On any federal agency Web site today, visitors are one click away from this information.
There is also a new impact on the bottom line. When Coleman-Adebayo won her judgment against the EPA, the settlement came from a government slush fund. Today, such settlements come directly out of that agency’s budget. “That is not a small thing,” she says. “When I was fighting my battles, there was no concern from managers that they were going to be held accountable for anything.”
After her victory, Coleman-Adebayo continued on as a senior policy analyst at the EPA for many years. She was let go in 2008 in the administration transition from Bush to Obama (Carol Browner had been brought back in to oversee environment and energy issues at the time). Due to work-related injuries, Coleman-Adebayo had worked successfully the previous five years from an EPA-appointed home office. She continues to press the agency over her departure, and has filed a wrongful termination suit against the EPA. Her health is one casualty of her cause; her family life was another. “Even though I won in court, I lost so much time with my kids,” she says. Her two children are now attending college.
Coleman-Adebayo continues to be an advocate for whistle-blowers. She founded the No FEAR Institute, a nonprofit organization that educates the public about federal sector discrimination, and helps victims of discrimination. She also continues to spread the word about the plight of the vanadium miners. In 2003, she traveled back to Brits on a research mission with Barnard students from the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows and General Electric Fellows programs, including Hayley Holness ’05, Alexandra Severino ’05, Kendra Tappin ’05, and Alexandria Wright ’05; Barnard professors Diane Dittrick and Timothy Halpin-Healy; a contingent from Smith College; and a film crew. She also brought her daughter, Sade, who was able to see firsthand the struggles that consumed her mother. On March 25, 2004, the Barnard Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program sponsored a symposium about the trip; a visiting miner from South Africa stood up to tell his powerfully emotional story. The young women involved were as moved as Coleman-Adebayo herself had once been. In November, the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters (BOSS) plans to have Coleman-Adebayo back on campus to discuss the research experience of Barnard students now chronicled in her book. “I think those are the kinds of experiences that can whet the appetite of young people,” says Coleman-Adebayo. “When they get that small taste of what it’s like to save a life…. They will say, I can do this, I can make a difference, I can change history.”
-by Melissa Phipps
In early September when the Class of 2015, walked into their new homes on Broadway, they were also welcomed into the brand-new world of Barnard Constellations—an ambitious, community-building initiative the College launched this year.
The project is the fruit of numerous conversations with both students and alumnae over an extended period of time about ways to foster a better sense of Barnard community. Students, especially first-years, are found to bond closely with others living on their dormitory floor. After thoughtful discussions with representatives from various student groups and Barnard departments, the program took shape and capitalized on the College’s unique quad structure—almost all floors in Brooks, Hewitt, Reid, and Sulzberger are interconnected. Constellation members are determined by what floor assignment a first-year resident receives, and is modeled after residence-based social groups at other colleges such as Harvard and Yale. Similarly, the name “Barnard Constellations” was a collective decision and a tribute to Henrietta Hill Swope ’25, a pioneering astronomer and former Barnard faculty member who discovered 2,000 variable stars.
The Barnard Program revolves around the students’ dormitory experience. Each floor is designated as a special “constellation,” a mini-community led by a Constellation Leader chosen by Dean of the College Avis Hinkson ’84. The specific constellations symbolize tools related to acquiring knowledge of the arts and sciences. The second floor is Telescopium, or “Telescope,” and it hosts both residents of that floor and commuters. The third floor is Pyxis, or “Compass.” The fourth is Pictor, “the Painter’s Easel.” Octans, a sextant used in navigation, gave its name to fifth floor residents while the sixth floor became Microscopium, “Microscope.” The seventh floor is designated Lyra, “Lyre,” an ancient musical instrument, and the eighth floor is Fornax, “Furnace.” Inaugural members of Barnard Constellations have the unique privilege of composing nicknames and choosing mascots for their respective group.
Working closely with resident assistants and campus groups, the Constellation Leaders organize service projects, social events, and academic programs both on and off campus aimed to help students adapt to their new lives in New York City, navigate the College and neighboring Columbia, and develop a sense of community. In addition to e-mail communications, each Constellation has a special page on the Barnard Web site, a blog, and a Facebook page to connect its members.
Although the program began with only residents of the quad and commuters, upperclass students joined the constellations this fall; alumnae will become part of it in the spring. As older students and alumnae are brought into this community, the program will expand and include more peer leadership and mentoring opportunities in hopes of forging lasting ties across the years.
In a recent interview published on the Barnard Web site, Dean Hinkson spells out a bold vision for the Constellations: “The desire is to establish a cross-generational bond and give both students and alumnae another way to connect to the College. In the future, I’m hoping that at Reunion and other events on campus, people will be on the lookout not only for their classmates, but also for members of their Constellation, to share experiences, network, mentor one another, and feel a sense of community.
-- Xinyi Lin '14
Janet Jakobsen, longtime director of Barnard’s Center for Research on Women, has heard all about the supposed demise of the women’s movement. Over the past decade or so, she has read countless media reports about the movement’s failure to connect with a younger generation of women—as well as endless pronouncements that feminism is basically dead. But, as Jakobsen made clear to the crowd of hundreds of feminist scholars, activists, and supporters that gathered at Barnard this fall, she’s not buying it.
“It’s quite clear that feminism is alive and well—and, perhaps most importantly, relevant today,” declared Jakobsen, as she kicked off a two-day conference, “Activism and the Academy: Celebrating 40 Years of Feminist Scholarship and Action,” marking the 40th anniversary of the BCRW’s founding.
On one hand, the event was a chance to honor BCRW’s groundbreaking contributions to the women’s movement. Not only was it the first research center at an American college or university focused on women’s issues, but since its founding in 1971, it has sought to serve as a bridge between feminist scholars and activists, and has maintained a staunch commitment to its original mission, as spelled out in the Center’s charter statement, of ensuring that “women can live and work in dignity, autonomy, and equality.”
In part, that has meant helping to focus attention on the obstacles to true gender equality. Indeed, the Center’s first public event, held in Barnard’s gym in January 1972, raised the question of sexism on the neighboring Columbia University campus with a forum on “Male Chauvinism at Columbia: Does it Exist?” In the decades since, the Center has sponsored countless other conferences and events covering everything from the politics of sexuality to women, work, and family. It has also produced a steady stream of papers and publications offering sophisticated analysis of the distinct challenges women in the United States and abroad continue to face and has helped stimulate discussions about the need for effective social and political reforms.
The September 23–24 conference, however, wasn’t just about celebrating the Center’s past. As Jakobsen noted in her opening remarks, the BCRW today is every bit as committed to strengthening the connections between feminist scholarship and activism. That effort, she added, is more urgent than ever in light of the mounting attacks on women’s reproductive rights, not to mention the global economic and environmental crises and the proliferation of wars—all of which, she said, have made it plain that new approaches for promoting economic and social justice are imperative and that “feminist ideas and feminist action could not be more important.”
Many of the speakers and panelists featured at the conference echoed that view. Indeed, in her keynote address, South African feminist author and activist Mamphela Ramphele confessed that she’s more alarmed than ever about the state of the world, especially as political discourse in the United States continues to devolve. “When I listen to the political debates, I am terrified,” said Ramphele. A former chancellor at the University of Cape Town, Ramphele has seen the dramatic reforms social movements can bring. Yet despite the fact that racial and gender equality are now enshrined in South Africa’s constitution, she noted that sexual assaults against South African women have reached epidemic proportions and that violence against both men and women has continued to spread. “We are a country at war with itself,” declared Ramphele, who told the audience that in her view there’s only one real solution. Social transformation—including embedding the values of gender equality and moving from a consumer-driven society to one focused on the needs of people—has to come from the ground up, and women have to step up and help lead the way. “We have an historic mission to be transformative agents,” she said adding that that’s no less true for women in the United States. “Women in the U.S. don’t want to risk the comforts by challenging the status quo, [but] if you don’t rock the boat, the boat is going to sink.”
Ramphele and other speakers and panelists at the conference praised BCRW for its long-standing commitment to developing and refining feminist scholarship on social problems, and to building a new generation of women leaders. Moreover, they lauded the Center’s ongoing partnerships with a broad range of organizations working to bring about positive social change. One example: the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which has been leading a campaign to improve pay and working conditions for thousands of U.S. nannies and housekeepers and was one of four BCRW partner groups featured on a September 23 panel entitled “Expanding Feminism: Collaborations for Social Justice.”
As host to the first national domestic workers conference three years ago, the Center played a valuable role in helping the NDWA build what has become a thriving national movement, said Ai-Jen Poo, NDWA executive director. To wit: She noted that last year New York became the first state in the country to pass a law guaranteeing overtime pay and other benefits to domestic workers and that efforts to pass similar legislation have recently been gaining ground in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states.
“I’m really excited because we’re in this breakthrough moment,” said Poo.
Likewise, panelist Ana Oliveira, who heads the New York Women’s Foundation, said Barnard’s Center has been an important ally in its efforts to help build economic security for low-income women, as well as a generous partner to many of the organizations the foundation supports. “We want to thank Barnard for being such an activist thought leader in New York City,” said Oliveira, who added that collaboration between academic institutions and social activists has become even more critical in the face of the growing economic crisis. “The question is what can we do collectively to accelerate solutions,” said Oliveira. “We’ve got to quicken the midwifery of the new.”
Building on that theme, journalist Laura Flanders ’85 led a Saturday afternoon panel on how activists can best leverage research and other scholarly work produced at universities to advance the fight for social change. As one example, panelist Jamia Wilson of the Women’s Media Center noted that last year the American Psychological Association produced a new study on the harm caused by sexualization of girls in the media—and said the WMC had used that research to launch a new campaign, called SPARK (Sexualization Protest: Action Rebellion Knowledge), to challenge the ways girls are routinely objectified in movies, television programs, music videos, and advertising. “It gave us a platform to create the SPARK movement,” said Wilson.
Also on the program were sessions on feminist literature and on recent efforts by feminist librarians to better archive and document women’s history, as well as a discussion of campus activism around the country, highlighting the recent protests against tuition increases and budget cuts at the University of California and a successful union organizing drive for workers at Chicago’s Loyola University.
In addition, the program included panels that highlighted the growing power of feminist activism abroad, ranging from the fight for gender equality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the struggle by feminist academics and activists in Mexico to protect land rights for indigenous people.
In the year ahead, BCRW director Jakobsen said that one of the Center’s top priorities will be its new transnational project. As part of that, she noted that the Center has already launched a partnership with the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town, and has recently established a new faculty fellows program to help lead the effort to build new ties between BCRW and other feminist research centers around the world.
The Center is also considering a new program to help fund investigative reporting on a wide range of gender equality issues. Moreover, Jakobsen hopes to do more with new media to highlight the work that the Center and its partners are doing in the fight to end discrimination against women and bring positive social change.
In the four decades since the Center launched, there has definitely been real progress, said Jakobsen, who points to the Equal Pay Act of 2008 along with tougher rape and domestic violence laws as just a few examples. But, it’s clear that the fight for true gender equality still has a long way to go. “We’re talking about a very complex social system,” she said, noting that even at supposedly liberal publications like The New Yorker the vast majority of writers are white and male and that women are still underrepresented in government. “We’re still stuck at around 17 to 18 percent of elected officials,” sighed Jakobsen.
While much remains to be done, the good news, she added, is that the Center has plenty of eager young allies. Indeed, based on the enthusiasm and interest she saw at the 40th anniversary conference, she’s convinced that a whole new generation of women, who understand the stakes, have now taken up the struggle for women’s rights. Attendees included students from campuses across the country and Canada, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California; that group contributed a good portion of the more than 1,300 tweets posted during the event.
“There’s a real energy behind this,” affirmed Jakobsen. “The vibrancy and youth of the [participants] surprised even me.”
- by Susan Hansen
Watch a video about the BCRW and its initiatives on barnard.edu/magazine
by Susan Daitch ’76
City Lights Publishers, 2011, $16.95
The Ghost of Greenwich Village: A Novel
by Lorna Graham ’87
Ballantine Books, 2011, $15
by Kia (Tsakos) Heavey ’88
Unfiltered Creative, 2011, $11.95
by Wendy Dubow Polins ’84
Hamilton Hall Press, 2011, $16
Re-Visions: Stories from Stories
by Meredith Sue Willis ’69
Hamilton Stone Editions, 2011, $14.95
Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability
Coedited by Shelia Black ’83, Jennifer Bartlett, and Michael Northen
Cinco Puntos Press, 2011, $19.95
Distant, Burned-out Stars
by Catherine Wald ’76
Finishing Line Press, 2011, $12
Mycophilia: New Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms
by Eugenia Giobbi Bone ’83
Rodale Books, 2011, $25.99
Why Jane Austen?
by Rachel (Mayer) Brownstein ’58
Columbia University Press, 2011, $29.50
No Fear: A Whistleblower’s Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA
by Marsha Coleman-Adebayo ’74
Lawrence Hill Books, 2011, $27.95
A Portfolio: Behind & Beyond Surface
by Margaret Dessau ’68
Available through blurb.com, 2011, $32.95/$42.95
Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood
by Emily Wortis Leider ’59
University of California Press, 2011, $34.95
Stellar Medicine: A Journey Through the Universe of Women’s Health
by Saralyn Mark, MD, ’83
Brick Tower Press, 2011, $19.95
Project Rebirth: Survival and the Strength of the Human Spirit from 9/11 Survivors
by Dr. Robin Stern and Courtney E. Martin ’02
Dutton, 2011, $29.95
What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past
by Nancy K. Miller ’61
University of Nebraska Press, 2011, $24.95
I Have Nothing To Wear!: A Painless 12-Step Program to Declutter Your Life So You Never Have to Say This Again!
by Dana Ravich ’92 and Jill Martin
Rodale Books, 2011, $25.99
No More Enemies
by Deb Reich ’73
Joshua, Joshua & Reich, 2011, $14.95
See Yourself Sensing: Redefining Human Perception
by Madeline Schwartzman ’83
Black Dog Publishing, 2011, $45
Banishing Bullying Behavior: Transforming the Culture of Pain, Rage, and Revenge
by SuEllen Fried and Blanche (Eisemann) Sosland ’58
Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2011, $45/$19.95
Safta’s Diaries: Intimate Diaries of a Religious Zionist Woman
by Bina Appleman, Translated by Shera Aranoff Tuchman ’69
KTAV Publishing House, 2011, $39.50
The New Lombard Street: How the Fed Became the Dealer of Last Resort
by Perry Mehrling, Professor of Economics
Princeton University Press, 2010, $29.95
Economic Evolution and Revolution in Historical Time
by David Weiman, Alena Wels Hirschorn ’58 Professor of Economics
Stanford University Press, 2011, $60
Milk: A Local and Global History
by Deborah Valenze, Professor of European History and Studies
Yale University Press, 2011, $28
Topping The Diana Center is a roof that in late summer this year popped with greens, yellows, and black thanks to beds of black-eyed Susans, deer-tongue grass, and goldenrod. This garden space above Morningside Heights was recently named the Sibyl Levy Golden ’38 Ecological Learning Center, thanks to her daughter’s thoughtful and much appreciated memorial to a woman whose passion for nature was well known and passed on to her. Committed to ecologic studies, Sibyl R. Golden says, “This green roof is a place of scientific investigation for both students and teachers. It provides a unique opportunity for students to do ecology field work directly on campus.”
With their environmental and economic benefits, green roofs are becoming more common and are welcome spots of nature especially in an urban environment such as the College’s. Most notably, they provide insulation for the buildings they cover, improving energy efficiency, and absorb runoff destined for sewer systems. Barnard’s green roof, however, fills an important role in addition to its practical advantages: It serves as an outdoor laboratory.
Field Studies Not Far Afield
Visitors to the Diana’s roof, which parallels Broadway, are treated to expansive views of both the Barnard and Columbia campuses. At the wider south end there is a small lawn with coffee tables and chairs where professors and students lounge, study, and enjoy the views. Some teachers even hold classes on the lawn. The opposite end is filled with gravel paths that run through dozens of beds of different types of plant life that in some areas grow waist-high. This is where the learning center becomes a scientific study site.
Hilary Callahan, associate professor of biology and also director of the Arthur Ross Greenhouse, was chosen as co-director of the green roof along with her colleague Martin Stute, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Environmental Science.
Callahan is teaching classes on the green roof this fall, and she and her students have already begun planting and tending vegetation. “We’ve chosen plant life mainly from the Hempstead Plains plant community on Long Island and the Rocky Summit plant community in the Hudson Valley,” says Callahan. “The plants native to those locations are used to growing under the types of harsh conditions that exist on the rooftop; they can survive exposure to direct sunlight, as well as wind and rain and shallow soil.”
Callahan will be using the green roof to teach methods for quantifying vegetation, along with more general lessons in plant ecology. “It will be a great opportunity to teach [from the] beginning all the way through senior-level biology classes.”
Stute intends to use both planted and unplanted areas of the roof as a teaching tool in his hydrology and environmental data analysis courses. About a month ago, a weather station was set up on an adjoining roof level above the Sibyl Golden Center. Half a dozen sensors on the station record temperature, sunlight, wind, precipitation, and other environmental data, which is transmitted via wireless network to a Web site that can be accessed by
any computer on campus.
He is planning another station on the green roof itself so that he can compare its measurements (as well as additional variables, such as water runoff, soil moisture, and temperature) to those taken at the first station. “Environmental science is all about dividing the world up into boxes, and then comparing how these boxes interact,” says Stute. He adds, “A box in this case could be a plot on the green roof where we measure how much mass (e.g. water) and energy are exchanged between the plot and the outside world. The Diana Center roof provides a great opportunity to teach students this basic lesson.”
Both environmental studies and biology students will also use these facilities to conduct independent research projects as part of their senior theses. “The roof will give them another setting to test hypotheses and carry out those projects,” says Stute.
When The Diana Center was still under construction in 2009, there were already plans to incorporate a green roof. Callahan, brought in to help decide how the roof could best be implemented, felt strongly that it should be something both students and faculty could use. She got the idea from a Columbia colleague who told her about innovative green roof projects at other schools in the New York area. “Normally green roofs are left in the hands of architects, but these schools
were turning them into classrooms for biology and ecology,” says Callahan.
Callahan was enthusiastic about the substantial environmental benefits of a green roof, but she also hoped it could be used for education and enjoyment. “Green roofs can absorb much of the runoff that would otherwise be drained into our sewage system and improve the energy efficiency of buildings,” she says. “But I always think it’s such a waste when people don’t have access to green roofs; I wanted Barnard’s green roof to provide a space for research and community.” A planning committee endorsed the idea, and to gain support it turned to a family with strong connections to Barnard and a history of passion for ecological studies.
A Family to Raise the Roof
After presenting her suggestions, Callahan reached out to Sibyl Golden. She first met Golden through conducting field research with students at the Black Rock Forest, a nearly 4,000-acre site in the Hudson Highlands that is used as a field station for scientific research, education, and conservation. A consortium of some 20 educational and scientific institutes, including Barnard, operates the site. Sibyl Golden is chairman of the consortium, which was founded by her father, William T. Golden.
Callahan suspected that Golden would have a unique interest in supporting a new urban site for students to conduct field research. Besides her personal interest in ecology, Golden also had a rich history of connections to Barnard through her parents and the Black Rock Forest Consortium. Both parents were very involved with the Barnard community. “My mother was a very active alumna, and my father served on the board,” she explains.
Over the years William T. Golden helped fund scholarships to Barnard and contributed to the school annually. He passed away in 2007, having previously left an undedicated $1 million gift as part of a capital campaign. Golden agreed to direct the money to the construction of the roof, and she bolstered the support with funds for its ongoing maintenance. The roof ultimately was named in honor of her mother, who died in 1983. “I chose to support the green roof because it is representative of what was important to my mother,” says Sibyl Golden. “I also believe it’s very important for students to be able to conduct field work in such a convenient location—right on campus.”
Callahan expects Barnard’s uses of the Sibyl Levy Golden ’38 Ecological Learning Center to expand and evolve. She envisions new opportunities for her advanced biology students, but she also hopes to reach out to students who are less enthusiastic about studying the sciences. “An indoor lab can seem sterile and a bit dangerous to a non-science major,” she says. “But the roof is in a beautiful location, not intimidating at all, and provides a very hands-on experience.”
Her work there has made her days much richer. “I’ve got a full plate, but I wouldn’t give it up,” says Callahan. “Working [at the center] is becoming one of the best parts of my job.”
-by Harper Willis
People are passionate about a lot of things concerning food these days. And milk is a lightning rod for debate, whether people are talking about breast-feeding or dairy farms. Still, Professor of History Deborah Valenze says she became aware of the strong depth of feelings with which some regarded her topic after Yale University Press published her latest book, Milk: A Local and Global History. “I do keep sensing that some people think I wrote this for a reason,” she adds. Valenze is quick to say she didn’t have any particular agenda. She’s just a historian with a focus on British and European history, and she became fascinated by milk’s cultural history. “It comes in a complex cultural package,” she says. “The objective really was to bring milk’s history to a broader audience. This was my fourth book, so I thought, why not do something new here?”
Her book traces thousands of years of human history, showing how advances in technology, business, nutrition, and public health helped cow’s milk become a staple in refrigerators around the world. But she also shows that milk has been an ever-changing cultural artifact, starting her journey in ancient Mesopotamia, looking at Egypt —Cleopatra allegedly bathed in milk for youthful skin—and ultimately ending today. “Milk really was there throughout history,” notes Valenze. “The biggest surprise in doing my research was how it showed up everywhere. Historians are used to spending weeks, months, searching for the appearance of their subjects. I had none of that. Milk was always there.”
She notes how religious beliefs and practices enhanced the virtue of milk, making it a symbol of virtue and goodness, and how the Renaissance elite introduced consumers to the delights of specially crafted dairy products. Milk became a much more widely available commodity in response to urbanization, but there were long-standing tensions over the question of feeding children what was seen as “artificial” milk. It was an issue of infant mortality, since it was thought that infants might die from drinking this milk as opposed to breast milk. This unease was societal, the question being, shouldn’t a mother be feeding her child her own milk?
Prior to World War I, scientists had discovered that the fluid had a little something called vitamins. And after the war, milk became understood as a dietary necessity, one that governments would help provide with a law mandating that milk be pasteurized. Milk eventually became part of an international reform effort to improve the health of the masses.
Historians are typically a reclusive lot who enjoy spending hours a day in dusty archives. For this project, Valenze got to do that, and something different as well. She visited working dairy farms although she doesn’t really like drinking milk herself because she is lactose intolerant. “It’s thrilling to go to a farm and hear the history and what people say,” Valenze says. “In fact, dairy farmers in particular are very sensitive to history. They pride themselves on the special skills that have been handed down sometimes three or four or five generations, in one case back to the eighteenth century. It was great to see that today’s farmers are as appreciative of the past as I am.”
Still, she says there are others much more qualified to debate current issues surrounding milk, such as whether drinking raw milk is better than drinking pasteurized milk.
Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship this year, Valenze is ready to return to her historical niche: British and European history. Her next project will probably be about some aspect of rural life, just not milk. “I’m looking forward to being my old self again,” she says.
- by Amy Miller