Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

The end of the spring semester is always stressful, but these are extraordinary times, and I urge us to respond with care, generosity, and a steadfast commitment to Barnard’s mission to support and educate all students. Many of us came to Barnard because it is a place that challenges convention and promotes free thinking and social activism while nurturing the development of individual identities and diverse points of view. To educate and support students with wide-ranging backgrounds and diverse perspectives, we must always respect and protect one another even when we disagree.

This guiding principle of mutual respect and support amid disagreement does not lead to easy answers. In fact, many of you have strongly criticized actions taken by Barnard and Columbia over the past week, conveying anger and distress about the arrests and interim suspensions of students or concerns about safety on campus. I am listening carefully, and I respect those criticisms while remaining steadfast in my commitment to support and protect each and every student at Barnard. 

I write today to affirm two key aspects of Barnard’s mission and to provide more information about ongoing events and our plans for the future.

First and foremost, I affirm Barnard’s commitment to open inquiry and expression while also stressing that free expression for some should not mean that others feel unwelcome, unsafe, or threatened in the place we all share. Although many of our student protesters are using their voices in a peaceful manner, some protests on and surrounding the Columbia campus have become intimidating. Some students are even leaving our campus because they are afraid to remain. I hope we can all agree that this is not an outcome that achieves anything other than division and distrust.

Second, to support both individual voices and our community as a whole, Barnard has long articulated rules of student conduct and other policies to structure the ways we live and learn together. Nearly all of our students follow these rules, but other students have chosen to push boundaries or break rules in furtherance of their advocacy. Because the College is committed to supporting all students, we provide notice of the consequences of such decisions and seek prompt and compassionate resolution of such matters as part of our educational mission. I want you to know that this is exactly what happened, and is happening, with respect to the students placed on interim suspension last week. 

Many students who participated in the unauthorized encampment on Columbia’s campus on April 17 and 18 chose to remain in the encampment for over 30 hours even as they were warned repeatedly that the encampment violated multiple provisions of Barnard’s Student Code of Conduct. These warnings were based on the refusal to follow rules regarding safe demonstrations and the use of tents on the Columbia campus. The students rejected multiple opportunities to leave the encampment without consequence, and they remained after they received written notices from Barnard that warned that their continued participation in the unauthorized encampment would lead to interim suspensions and outlined the parameters of such suspensions. 

The interim suspensions went into effect over the course of April 18 and 19. Students on interim suspension no longer have access to most Barnard buildings, but they may still use College services, including healthcare, mental health counseling, and academic support. The Dean of the College also has made food available to students on interim suspension and is helping students find alternative housing arrangements when needed. If you know of students who need additional support, please email

The vast majority of the students on interim suspension have not previously engaged in misconduct under Barnard’s rules. Last night, the College sent written notices to these students offering to lift the interim suspensions, and immediately restore their access to College buildings, if they agree to follow all Barnard rules during a probationary period. If these students choose this path, neither the interim suspension nor the probationary period will appear on the students’ academic transcripts and these sanctions will not become part of students’ reportable disciplinary records barring a finding of responsibility under the Student Code of Conduct for future misconduct. The remaining students on interim suspension have previously received notices regarding misconduct, and the College is committed to addressing these situations quickly yet thoughtfully through our conduct process. 

Students remaining on interim suspension may not physically be on campus, but Barnard professors may permit them to attend class via Zoom and otherwise complete work remotely. Indeed, Barnard has long given faculty the discretion to assist students who are absent from class for any reason. Students may be absent from class because of an interim suspension or because they do not feel safe being on campus, and I strongly encourage all faculty members to provide students with maximum flexibility.

This is an evolving situation, and I will write more as events unfold. For now, I will continue to do everything possible to ensure that Barnard remains a safe and welcoming place for all of our students. I strongly believe that exposure to uncomfortable ideas is a vital component of education, and I applaud the boldness of all of our students who speak out, but no student should fear for their safety while at Barnard, and no one should feel that they do not belong. We must always respect and protect one another, especially when we disagree. 

Our seniors have had a college experience none of us could have imagined a few years ago. Their college years began during a global pandemic and are ending during a global conflict. In these last few weeks together before our seniors graduate, let’s be good to one another. 

Very truly yours,
Laura Ann Rosenbury
President, Barnard College