On any given Saturday night, Barnard students line the Ruggles entryway waiting to be signed in. Cards fly at the overwhelmed guard--some from frustrated Columbia students who just want to be swiped into their dorm, and others from antsy Barnard students waiting to go to a party or to spend time with a Columbia friend. In the commotion, several students--it's unclear whether they are from Barnard or Columbia--wiggle past.As the glitter settles, I ask the security guard supposedly monitoring the stampede whether he thinks Barnard students should have swipe access to Columbia dorms. He shrugs. "They tell us it's for security reasons, but I haven't seen any Barnard women go crazy," he said. An off-duty security guard beside him laughs. "Eh," he jokes. "Some of them are good-looking, but some of them are dogs," as if that answers the question.
The Barnard swipe debate was started and settled in 2001, when the Columbia College Student Council and then-Vice President for Student Services Gene Awakuni voted down Barnard students' hopes of gaining swipe.
They offered few arguments--anti-access students and administrators voiced the need for the separation between the two institutions, while others said that before Columbia's dorms were made available to Barnard, Barnard needed to open its dormitory doors to Columbia.
In all truth, the security argument is moot: The crime log at the security desk shows no indication that Barnard women are more dangerous than, say, the average member of the wrestling team. Barnard and Columbia students live in each other's dorms, and in the 1970s, Barnard students were RAs for Columbia housing, and Columbia students lived in Hewitt and Brooks Halls.
Mike Agresta, CC '04, used to live in 600 West 116th Street, a Barnard dorm, and now lives in Ruggles, where he often signs in a dozen Barnard students at a time for parties. He sees the no-swipe access policy as a nuisance, but furthermore, as unequal. When he lived in Barnard dorms, the security guard would call up to his room when guests arrived; Agresta did not have to come down to formally sign them in.
"It's stupid that Columbia kids have to be more protected from Barnard girls than Barnard girls from Columbia kids," he said.
The issue boils down to inter-college rivalry and, consequently, anti-Barnard sentiment.
When I spoke to Columbia students, the response was split even: the women did not want Barnard students to gain access, whereas most of the men smiled sheepishly and said they wouldn't mind it.
Shaud Tavakoli, SEAS '07, lives in John Jay, and said he didn't think giving Barnard students swipe access would pose a problem.
"They come around here anyway," he said, adding that he thought Columbia women would be more averse to the possibility than men. "Columbia men wouldn't have a problem, but I don't know if it's a jealousy thing, or pure hate, but [Columbia women] don't like [Barnard women]."
Ilana Stone, CC '07 lives in Wallach Hall and was wearing a blue "Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl" t-shirt when I approached her in John Jay dining hall. She argued that the two schools should stay separate through swipe, a sentiment she attributes to her feelings about Barnard women.
"There's no question about the animosity," she said. "There is a stereotype--that I kind of buy into--that Barnard girls are getting drunk all the time and dying to give blowjobs."
In addition, she said some of her friends are upset that Barnard girls take "our Columbia men".
Stone admitted that if she were male, she might have a different opinion.
Stephanie Louis-Charles, CC '07 and Carman resident, gave a more compelling argument--she said she'd vote "no" on an initiative allowing Barnard students swipe access, not out of resentment ("They can take the whole supply of Columbia men," she said), but because she feels that Carman is overcrowded.
"I live in a social dorm," she said. "[Signing in] limits the amount of people in the dorm."
Barnard students seem to agree that having swipe access would be handy, but not absolutely necessary.
Fareeda Ahmed, BC '06, said that lack of swipe makes her feel separate from Columbia, when she thought she was part of the institution.
Lindsey Miller, BC '04 and frequent signer-inner, said it makes her uncomfortable. "You should be able to crash at your boyfriend's house after doing homework late or whatever, without someone looking at you like, 'ooh, you're going to do it,'" Miller said.
However, there are loopholes, and Barnard's Orthodox Jewish community has managed to exploit them most effectively. One prayer group meets at 10:45 every night in East Campus, and to save Barnard students the trouble of getting signed in, Hillel gave the women swipe access.
Rebecca Kabat, BC '04, along with many others, obtained swipe access to East Campus this way, even though she rarely attended a meeting.
That loophole has since been sealed, as administrators at Hillel clued into what they called swipe access abuse.
And then there are Shabbat observers who don't carry anything on Friday to Saturday at sundown. Shabbat observers merely need to walk by the security desk, announce themselves as "Shabbat observers," and get waved through.
"I've seen girls walk in with their cell phones in their hands, and they say 'Shabbat observer' and they get in," Kabat said. "They're not even Jewish."
The swipe issue isn't on the agenda for the CCSC or for Barnard's Student Government Association. But the issue raises animosities between the two schools, particularly Columbia against Barnard.
At the time of the debate in 2001, Spectator published an editorial in support of a Barnard-inclusive swipe policy. The editors at the time said they felt the issue was seated in arrogance and not logical arguments against swipe access. The editorial read: "No student should be prevented from attending a meeting in John Jay lounge. No student should have to call up to an East Campus party to be let in. Women already enter Columbia dorms daily, so allowing Barnard students the convenience of swipe access would not be an earth-shattering change."
For the psychological split this policy reinforces, the refusal to allow Barnard students to have swipe access strikes many students as silly.
"It's very dated," Miller said. "It's taking a 'Barnard girls are the enemy' approach."