Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
At Barnard, we celebrate openness, critical thinking, empathy, and respect as we engage in intellectual risk-taking and discovery. We welcome and embrace students, faculty, and staff with different backgrounds and points of view, and we collectively endeavor to analyze, discuss, and debate challenging ideas.
These values have been tested as our community mourns the loss of life in Israel and Gaza and debates ways to end the conflict, ensure the safe return of hostages, and respond to horrific sexual and gender-based violence and other atrocities. We condemn antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hate, yet some of our interactions have lacked the empathy and respect we hold dear. Students wearing Stars of David, head coverings, or keffiyehs have reported feeling physically threatened, for example. And an unauthorized protest on our campus included chants and banners with phrases that are inconsistent with our values.
We may disagree about the intent and meaning of certain words, but I ask each and every one of us to acknowledge that language can cause harm, and I call upon our community to work to alleviate that harm. Phrases like “from the river to the sea” and “by any means necessary” or chants of “intifada” are deeply hurtful to many members of our community and experienced as antisemitic threats of violence. Many members of our community are also hurt when the labels “Hamas” or “terrorist” are used to describe those protesting the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
We must do better to ensure that every member of our community feels welcome on our campus, even when we disagree and challenge one another. Threats, harassment, and discrimination have no place on our campus, and we will continue to challenge all actions that are antithetical to who we are as an inclusive community. This is particularly important because our small campus is not simply a place of learning and work; it is also a home for most of our students.
To strengthen our campus climate, Barnard commits to do the following as a college in 2024:
First, we will continue to offer programming designed to foster mutual understanding and respect. Building upon our efforts over the past three months, we will begin the spring semester with a daylong series of events on Friday, January 19, that is designed to address our challenges, promote respectful dialogue across our differences, and affirm our commitment to being an inclusive community. We will cancel classes that day so that students may participate in the events, and we will continue to offer related speaker series and other programming throughout 2024. More information on the January 19th day of events will be provided early in the new year, and all programming related to this commitment will continue to be posted here.
Second, we will work with faculty, staff, and student leaders to review and improve our existing policies, with a particular focus on ensuring that we continue to protect freedom of expression and prohibit identity-based harassment and discrimination. Barnard’s policies are created with the intent of helping us live and learn together, and we are committed to ensuring that these policies live up to that goal.
Third, we will continue to enforce all policies and rules, including our Code of Conduct, and hold those who violate them responsible for their actions. Protests are fundamental to our democracy, and they can play a vital role in the overall campus experience at Barnard so long as they do not disrupt our learning environment or threaten the safety of our community. We have procedures in place to achieve these goals, and we will continue to initiate confidential proceedings for individuals who do not follow these procedures and instead engage in unauthorized protests. We will also continue to investigate and address all reports of harassment, discrimination, hate speech, and threats of violence, including calls for the genocide of any group.
We must, and we will, do better. I stand with our students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumnae, and parents to shoulder the responsibility of fostering a sense of belonging and community while supporting intellectual risk-taking and discovery. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we collectively uphold this commitment to our mission and take affirmative steps together.
I congratulate our students for finishing their final exams and papers, and I thank our faculty and staff for their dedication and commitment to our students. This has been a particularly challenging time for our community, but I know we will rise together in 2024.
With bold determination for the new year,
Laura Ann Rosenbury