To meet COVID-19’s social-distancing requirements, Barnard took its classes online starting last March, and fall 2020 was the first-ever completely virtual semester at the College. Undeterred, student leaders and organizations have worked tirelessly to maintain community across distances. Groups like the Student Government Association (SGA) are vital parts of student life, having hosted weekly community forums and nearly 10 events last semester to discuss issues important to students, such as the COVID Response Townhall and an “Accessibility in the E-Classroom” workshop. Consisting of 15 different committees and a council for each class year, SGA works to maintain equity, accountability, and student leadership and life at Barnard.
This month, we checked in with several members of the SGA to see how they continued to foster community throughout the virtual semester and take what they learned into the spring.
Carmela Casaburi ’23 (she/her/hers)
Representative for Student Health Services
“A virtual semester definitely scared me at first, especially now joining SGA for the first time from my makeshift ‘Barnard’ in my childhood bedroom. Zoom fatigue, political stress, lack of social interaction, and pandemic anxiety are only a few of the hurdles that affected my own, and most Barnard students’, mental and physical well-being. As the Student Health Advisory Representative for SGA, it was incredibly important to me that during these unusual times we prioritize our wellness and focus on healing.
“That being said, my committee and I brainstormed straightforward, accessible, and stress-free resources to make students feel supported and heard. Creating the Health Hub website (Barnard HealthHub) and @barnardwellness Instagram page allowed us to provide an abundance of workouts, recipes, meditations, and articles [that could be consumed] at one’s own pace. For example, if a student didn’t want to get therapy, no worries; download some of these apps and see what works. If a student needed a support group, we got it; check out our health events calendar for the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center support groups and their meeting times. Wellness is my passion, and as a student leader for health at Barnard, I was able to lend a hand to make someone’s day just a bit better.”
Anindita Das ’21 (she/her/hers)
Representative for Sustainable Initiatives
“I have always imagined myself being the rep for SGA’s Sustainability Committee, but I never thought it would be during a virtual semester. Leading a committee during this pandemic has been challenging but a great learning experience. I organized all of our committee meetings to happen multiple times throughout the week so that everyone could be present despite time zone differences. I also had to be mindful of Zoom fatigue and work to create a space where my peers felt comfortable expressing their views virtually. The Sustainability Committee has members residing all over the world, and their passion and collective effort further increases my desire to continue working with administrators, faculty members, and staff to make Barnard a more sustainable campus.”
Cindy Espinosa ’22 (she/her/hers)
Representative for Information and Technology
“Even though we are in a virtual semester, student voices are as strong as ever. As the rep for information and technology, I have been working closely with the Library and Academic Services, as well as with the presidents of each class, to host workshops for the sophomore and junior class years on how to research their major field and senior thesis, and writing and process tips. It’s been important for me to engage in community care and rest. I feel connected to different parts of campus through my friendships, and they keep me balanced and energized.”
Avalon Fenster ’24 (she/her/hers)
First-Year Class President
“Being a student leader during a virtual semester, especially as a first-year student, was initially intimidating. However, I quickly remembered that the thing that makes a Barnard student who they are is their resilience and their undying desire to build an inclusive and intentional community. Whether bonding through virtual self-care mini-retreats, trivia, and movie nights or stepping up to address and remediate social injustices within our own community, Barnard’s first-years have shown that we are kind friends and visionary leaders in the midst of global crises. Being elected to lead our class as First-Year Class President has not only been a rewarding experience and an honor, but it has also reminded me why I chose Barnard in the first place. I’ve loved every moment, whether speaking with classmates over Instagram about issues they care about, attending weekly SGA meetings, working with the Class Council, or voicing concerns to administrators. Being a student leader is about supporting my peers in a year where nothing seems certain besides our support for one another, and I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity.”
Norah Hassan ’21 (she/her/hers)
Senior Class President
“Like many student organizations, this year has been an adjustment for my council, as we’re used to hosting in-person events across campus. In this virtual format, we’ve stayed dedicated to providing our class with community-building events and a chance to feel connected to one another during this time. I’m so happy to be working with my amazing council members again, as this semester has taught me how powerful the Barnard community is. Despite being away from campus right now, we remain committed to raising class participation and helping seniors celebrate our time at Barnard in unique ways.
“As we continue to host a variety of events, we’ve expanded our social media presence, and provided frequent opportunities for seniors to chat with the council and get to know us! I am proud to say that we have also worked continuously to stay in communication with the Dean’s Office, Beyond Barnard, Res Life, and others to disseminate information to seniors around deadlines and important events. Overall, I am looking forward to enhancing the senior experience and enjoying our last semester together at Barnard. Congrats to us, the Class of 2021! Be sure to follow us @barnard.2021.”
Edidiong Emily Ndiokho ’22 (she/her/hers)
Vice President for Policy
“College during COVID definitely created major challenges and has changed the way I engage with SGA, Black Theatre Ensemble, and other student organizations that I’m a part of. As my peers and I try to navigate our time at Barnard, while being away from one another and while chaotic events continue to take place in our world, I think I have become extremely flexible with myself and everyone I know. Rather than sticking to ‘business as usual,’ the groups I’m a part of have gotten more innovative and creative with events, such as a 23-hour Zoom musical and online scavenger hunts. Nowadays, I’m focused on creating as many joyful moments as possible and being more proactive in connecting with club members and friends!”
— SOLBY LIM ’22