Dear Barnard Community,
Last summer, I wrote to you about Barnard’s commitment to putting our core value of inclusion into action, across every part of the College. Today we write to you with an update on the coordinated efforts by faculty, students, staff, alumnae, and trustees who are truly putting racial justice and equity at the center of our shared endeavor. As we look forward to steps we will take in the months and years to come, it is important to take stock of the work we have done thus far and to reflect on the ways in which this work is helping Barnard to live up to its ideals.
We do much of this work in community. Whether it is the Monday morning assemblies that bring faculty, staff and students together across campus; the year-long faculty institutes and reading groups on anti-racism convened by the Center for Engaged Pedagogy (CEP); the Barnard Bound programs that allow prospective BIPOC students to address important issues with faculty, students, and staff, before they apply; or issue-based fora such as the Community Safety Group. We have been heartened by the way in which we come together regularly for frank and serious examinations of how we can respond to the challenges of access and representation that we face on-campus and off. These conversations are often difficult and uncomfortable, with many points of view represented at the table. This is not only OK, it is exactly what the academic excellence that defines Barnard is all about.
The bonds of community we build in these gatherings are themselves an important outcome. Beyond that, our convenings and conversation are reshaping the College in concrete ways. One powerful example of that is CARES, our comprehensive approach to personal and community safety. This new office and initiative grew directly out of the insights provided by our Community Safety Group and other ad hoc gatherings, resulting in enhanced services that will improve our shared experience, while offering leadership to a nation that is grappling with the challenges of equity and safety.
This kind of progress requires us to be open to new ideas, to be intentional about driving change, and to be accountable to one another. One way we hold ourselves accountable is by doing a better job of measuring and reporting our actions and outcomes. Toward that end, today we are making data easily accessible on the College’s faculty and staff demographics, to parallel data on our students. We have more work to do here as we continue to enhance the representational diversity in scholarship as well as in lived experience and of our faculty and staff. Our recently initiated Opportunity Hiring Program is one concrete way in which we will achieve this goal.
As a community of students and scholars, our efforts must begin in our classrooms, our curriculum, and our research. Our faculty, particularly those in CCIS and Africana Studies, have centered curriculum around critical engagement with race and structural oppression. This work shouldn’t be limited to a few departments. All Barnard students should graduate with knowledge and tools to become leaders in working for equity in their future field. To this end, many new courses were developed this year to address the pandemic and the structural inequality it laid bare. This includes our Big Problems curriculum, which attempted to introduce critical dialogue on contemporary issues into the first-year curriculum. As with most new things, it requires reflection, refinement and iteration. The CEP is perfectly situated to support faculty and students in this type of work. Our new Executive Director for Community Engagement and Inclusion, Cammie Jones, will also help facilitate meaningful and sustained pathways among the curriculum, social change and civic participation beyond the classroom.
Many individual departments are also developing courses that examine the inequality and injustices that have permeated their fields of study. The Chemistry department, for example, launched a course, Chemistry and Racism. Additionally, this year Barnard faculty offered and developed courses on the pandemic and its impact on BIPOC communities. Barnard will continue to provide ongoing institutional support to develop curriculum and pedagogy that addresses anti-racism in all its forms. In coming weeks, Provost Linda Bell will share a more detailed look at the ways in which racial justice and equity are shaping and fueling our academic work.
This year we also launched Access Barnard, which leverages the resources of the College and New York City as a whole to support students who identify as international, first generation, or low-income — about ⅓ of our students — as they navigate the American higher education system. In its first semester, Access Barnard has launched a student advisory board, a peer mentoring program, an ongoing workshop series and the Supplemental Academic Support Application as a centralized hub for students who need extra financial support for their studies.
Finally our equity efforts now include some wonderful external partnerships. We have joined Questbridge, a national nonprofit that connects high achieving low-income high school students with leading colleges. Barnard is also an inaugural member of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA). As a member of LACRELA we have access to experts in racial equity and resources and climate surveys, like the one we administered last fall. Data from this survey will be made available to our community and is critical to ensuring that we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure all feel welcome on our campus
Individually, these initiatives and those leading and participating in them are making important contributions to Barnard. Together, these efforts truly are reshaping the College. We are particularly proud of this progress at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put extraordinary demands on each of us, and on the College’s resources. This determination should give all of us a strong sense of hope for the path we are charting for Barnard — for all of us here now, and for generations to come.
Sian Leah Beilock, President
Ariana González Stokas, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion