Among the many things that make Barnard a singular institution is its athletics program: Barnard is the only women’s college whose students compete in NCAA Division 1 athletics. This is made possible through a unique arrangement with Columbia University, called the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, which allows Barnard athletes to compete in D-1 tournaments via the Ivy League Athletic Conference.
On March 28, 2022, Barnard and Columbia celebrated this consortium by co-hosting Beyond the Game, a panel discussion centered around women, athletics, and leadership on campus. (The photo above features Barnard athletes from various sports, alongside panelists and President Sian Leah Beilock.) Held annually as part of the College’s celebration of Women’s History Month (March), the conversation was especially timely this year, as it marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other educational program that receives funding from the federal government. The law increased access to women’s sports nationwide.
“The Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium is truly a unique arrangement between Barnard and Columbia that has produced such amazing athletes. And we’re so excited tonight to hear from many of them,” President Sian Leah Beilock said in her opening remarks at the event. “I think one theme that’s going to come out is how special athletics is to their lives and to so many of our lives. As a former athlete myself, I can say some of my wins — and of course my losses — on the playing field really shaped who I am today.”
For the event, three former Barnard and Columbia athletes — Lisa Carnoy CC’89, Co-Chair of Columbia University Board of Trustees; Philippa Portnoy ’86, Barnard trustee and Barnard Bear and Columbia Lion tennis player; and Liz Cheung-Gaffney CC’98 — came together to reflect on the anniversary of Title IX and to discuss how the opportunity to compete in collegiate athletics impacted their trajectories after leaving college. The panel was moderated by Keia Clarke, CEO of the New York Liberty women’s basketball team.
“Being an early consortium athlete was great,” said Portnoy, who played tennis and helped to found the College’s Athena Center for Leadership. “It gave me a really good work ethic because you really have to put in a lot of hours on the court — an important quality for my career. And I developed confidence from being an athlete and having a lot of leadership positions.”
Beyond the Game is just one example of how the University is recognizing the 50th anniversary of Title IX and athletics. For instance, at the start of Women’s History Month on March 1 and running until the June 23 anniversary, Columbia is highlighting 50 individuals who have made an impact on athletics at the University, both on and off the court. The list includes many Barnard alumnae and administrators, including Helen Doyle Yeager ’85, former Barnard president Ellen Futter ’71, and Olympian fencer Erinn Smart ’01.
“The Columbia-Barnard Athletics Consortium is an incredible partnership,” said Peter Pilling, director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education. “We are up to 60 student-athletes from Barnard that represent a majority of our women’s sports. And we’re thankful for how they represent Barnard and our institution.”
The event also came at a particularly exciting time for Columbia’s women’s basketball team, which includes three Barnard athletes. Immediately following the panel, attendees headed to Levien Gymnasium on the Columbia campus to watch the team play for the first time in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament quarterfinals (which they lost with a close score of 75-78). The team had a historic 22 wins this year, a record in the 38-year history of the program.
The panel discussion can be viewed here and below: