Monica L. Miller's Remarks
Monica L. Miller, Tow Family Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies
I'm Monica Miller and I'm bringing greetings from the faculty. Barnard's first black student and famous literary alumna Zora Neale Hurston '28 once said, "There are years that ask questions and years that give answers." The year 1926 was such a year, the year that Hurston entered Barnard Hall, "jumped at the sun" and broke down barriers by integrating the college. A 36 year-old woman passing for a undergraduate in her 20s, and already an accomplished writer who came to New York to join the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston's presence asked Barnard essential, foundational questions about itself as an institution and the moral and educational values that it holds. Born out of a demand for gender equality and equal opportunity, what other measures of diversity and inclusion would matter to and for Barnard?
1968 was another interrogative year when Barnard women protested, along with Columbia students, against the establishment of a gym in Morningside Park, an early, gentrifying encroachment into Harlem. As the campus-specific protests expanded to include equity, social justice, and human rights concerns the world-over, 1968 questioned our community about the relation between values and rights, about the challenges and opportunities of the college or university in defending democracy and fostering the common good.
2018 will also be a year that asks questions. We are living in a time in which our values are being challenged and some of our collective accomplishments pushed back. What is our role, our task, not to just resist these currents, but to both theorize and work our way out of them? As Barnard faculty, these are questions we confront with our students every day and every year. Here, at Barnard-a liberal arts college in New York City with a proud history of educating women and now transgender students of all colors, creeds, classes, sexualities, abilities, and nations-we have a unique opportunity to think with and through each other, to learn from discomfort and create change. Sian Leah Beilock, as our president and fellow faculty member, we welcome you into this conversation-may this moment itself inaugurate celebration, interrogation, and resolve.