Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

Today I write to you on the City of New York’s Day of Remembrance, honoring those who have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. 

Almost one year ago, I wrote to you with the solemn news that Barnard would shift to remote classes for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, as COVID-19 threatened our College, our city, and the world. Of course, history seldom fits neatly into a single day or single message. By the time I wrote that email, Barnard had already taken a series of measures to uphold the health and wellness of our students, faculty, and staff. And we would continue to adapt and change, at first on a daily basis, then stretching into weeks and months. If you look on our COVID Alert website, you will find 60 email updates and community messages in our archive; this message makes 61.

It is hard to look at that archive and not feel the enormity of our losses — beloved colleagues, family, and friends who have died; the tragedies of our civic life; the missed milestones and lost joys of daily community; the stresses of finding new ways to live and work and learn; the deep strains on our physical and emotional health and economic security. 

Grief is a necessary response to this loss, and making time for it is essential for well-being. This Friday, March 19, from 12 noon to 12:15 p.m., we will be observing a pause in our usual campus activities to provide a time when we can collectively acknowledge what we have suffered and remember the loved ones no longer with us. I hope you will avoid scheduling any meetings or activities then, and I hope you can take the time for your own reflection. 

I hope you take time, too, to appreciate what you have accomplished over this past year and to celebrate some of the unexpected joys that have arisen. We have found new ways to come together, and delight in it more than ever when we do, even if it is just seeing the masked smiles of colleagues in line at the COVID testing center or catching up with friends on Zoom. Every small accomplishment is also a badge of resilience. I want to offer my sincere thanks, first to Barnard’s essential health workers, our community safety and facilities staff, and other frontline workers who helped us stay well during this time. I would also like to thank the entire Barnard community for caring for yourselves and one another in ways both generous and responsible.

Looking forward, there is reason to be hopeful, and we are focused on a path where there will be a full opportunity for in-person living and learning in the fall. Barnard’s layered approach to health and wellness on and around campus is being met with low positivity rates for COVID-19 in our community. Many in our community are already vaccinated. And we are working with the city and Columbia to ensure that everyone is able to readily access the vaccine once they are eligible. While we acknowledge that it will be months more and many more updates and adaptations before we finish this chapter of Barnard’s story, we are continuously moving toward the goal of full campus operations.    

As we pause to look back and look forward, I remain deeply grateful for all of you. I am honored to be part of the Barnard community.

With appreciation,
Sian Leah Beilock, President