Dear Barnard Community,
This year has brought the nation a cascade of challenges — from COVID-19 to blatant acts of racism to economic hardship for many and now, a highly tense and uncertain presidential election. Regardless of our individual viewpoints and for whom we may have cast a ballot, not knowing who has been declared the elected winner is, simply put, extremely anxiety provoking. As such, I wanted to write directly to all of you today — especially to our first-time voters —  as we as a Barnard community try to make sense of the precarity of our current times.

First, as psychological research has shown time and time again, uncertainty breeds anxiety. Perhaps knowing this in itself doesn’t do much to quell that anxiety. However, I myself have at least been heartened by the fact that even though so many of us feel this tension and general uneasiness, we are not shying away from civic participation. Anxiety often makes people drop out; limits their participation. Yet what we’ve witnessed across the nation, leading up to Election Day, is anxiety turned on its head. Nationally, there’s been record-breaking poll turnout, and a youth vote that shattered expectations by casting more than double the ballots this year than in 2016. People all over the country are demanding and practicing democracy by showing up on long lines with lawn chairs and voting for the officials they believe in.

I am grateful to see how faculty, staff, students, and alumnae have shown up for themselves and each other, by doing everything possible from canvassing to producing pre-election programming. Before the election, we asked our faculty for a 2020 voting guide and they delivered. The Athena Center for Leadership revamped its debate watch parties for social distancing that included politically savvy alumnae voices. Current students and young alumnae answered the question of what they were doing to put their best political feet forward and more.

Now, we must dig deep and determine not to let our anxiety push us to shy away from the current situation. We must continue to stay engaged and process these times together, turning to the academic excellence that is a hallmark of a Barnard education.

I invite you to a talk back with some of our faculty about the election and next steps. Tonight, from 6-7:30 p.m. EST, Barnard faculty members Maria Hinojosa, Michael Miller, J.C. Salyer, and Elizabeth Ananat will join Provost Linda Bell for a look at last night and help us frame how we move forward. I encourage the entire Barnard community to join in. Register in advance.

Tomorrow, (Thursday, Nov. 5) from 5:30-6:30 p.m. EST, join Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Umbreen Bhatti ’00 and Athena Student Advisory Board members for a discussion with Emily Ramshaw on this election and how it exposed glaring flaws in our democracy—flaws that continue to disenfranchise women and other underrepresented communities—and what women can do about that. Register in advance.

And, on Thursday, Nov. 12 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. EST, students, faculty, and staff can debrief 2020, with a look back and a look ahead, alongside executive director of The Representation Project Soraya Chemaly. Register in advance.

More resources and election events can be found at 2020 Election Events.

Regardless of what happens in the coming days, we must continue to uplift each other and move forward together as a community. At Barnard that means turning to our greatest strengths: our intellectual acumen; our ability to use research and historical context to interpret and contextualize what has transpired; and our desire to learn from each other (our faculty, staff, students and alums) as we continue to better our world. This work is not easy, but I have every confidence that we are up to the task.

Sian Leah Beilock, President