The following message was sent to the Barnard community on January 21, 2020:
Dear Barnard Community,
Welcome back from what I hope was a restorative winter break with friends and family.
After having the chance to pause and reflect, I wanted to share with you how very proud I am to be part of the Barnard community. Last month, we supported one another in our saddest hour. And, as we continue to mourn Tess Majors’ death, I take solace in knowing how extraordinary Barnard is, with its composition of strong and compassionate people. The display of courage, depth, and caring reinforced very clearly that the Barnard way is about coming together.
Later this semester, on February 7th, we will hold an event to honor Tess’ life. All are invited to attend. For now, know that you are returning to a space dedicated to strength of character and mind. In keeping with this purpose, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy hosted faculty last week to discuss the campus’ first days back from break and how best to create a supportive learning environment in the classroom.
In quiet moments, I have also thought a lot (and talked to many of you) about what community means here. Barnard is in an extraordinary position to explicitly embrace a renewed commitment to an inclusive community — one that extends beyond the gates of our campus to the neighborhoods we learn, live, and work with. In the coming year, I will ask for your ideas and seek your commitment to further build a Barnard that is not just in New York, but of New York.
In many ways, this work is already ongoing: Our new Barnard Engages New York initiative (funded by a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) fosters collaborations between Barnard faculty and partner organizations in New York City focused on immigration, poverty, and labor rights; and our Harlem Semester reflects Barnard faculty’s collaborative involvement with Harlem’s social, political, intellectual, and artistic work, past and present. But there is more to do. In that spirit, the Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Center for Engaged Pedagogy will hold a discussion series to identify key community partners and develop a College-wide engagement strategy with the immediately surrounding community. An initial meeting will happen the first week of February. Details will be provided soon.
One of the first hurdles in returning to campus is the resumption of routines and the creation of new ones. This is a core part of healing because it allows us to take care of ourselves and each other. As we resume academic life, Furman Counseling Center resources are available, and we encourage you to reach out as needed. You will also be hearing later today from Interim Director of Public Safety Amy Zavadil, who will share current safety information.
In the months before winter break, academic life ranged from a moving reading at Convocation by Sheila Nevins ’60 to students enjoying a private screening of alumna Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. Now that we’re back, there’s a lot to look forward to, such as the inaugural Barnard Distinguished Lecture in Computer Science, the 10th annual Athena Film Festival (February 27-March 1), a visit in April from both artists of the I Am Queen Mary sculpture, and many other happenings that reinforce Barnard’s commitment to learning, scholarship, activism, and overall health and wellness.
I know we are all still hurting and healing, and that we will be for a long time to come. But we are also a stronger, more unified community than ever before. As we head into the new year, let’s hold each other up and continue to do the work that makes Barnard such an exceptional place.
Sian Leah Beilock
President, Barnard College