This article is part of a special issue looking back at the 2011-12 academic year. Read the rest of the issue here.
With a major campus renovation on the horizon and a planned capital campaign yet to get underway, Barnard made several changes designed to cut costs this year, often angering students and faculty.
In February, administrators began an academic space planning project to prepare for renovations to Barnard, Lehman, and Milbank halls. Barnard Chief Operating Officer Greg Brown said that there are three main options: improving the teaching and learning spaces in the three buildings while maintaining their current square footage; adding floors to Lehman Hall; and “doing the wild thing and taking down Lehman and starting over again.”
According to Brown, one reason Barnard is planning campus renovations now is that administrators are preparing to launch a nine-figure capital campaign to bolster the college’s $215.5 million endowment.
“By having plans in front of donors, it’s a lot easier to raise money when you say, ‘Here’s our exciting vision of where we’re going,’” Brown said.
But in the meantime, Barnard’s annual expenses are higher than its annual revenue, and administrators made several cost-cutting moves this year which were met with opposition from students and faculty.
Barnard Dean Avis Hinkson announced in October that starting this fall, all students will be required to pay full-time tuition fees for every semester in which they are enrolled. The announcement frustrated students, who had previously been allowed to take fewer than 12 credits and pay part-time tuition.
Hannah Goodman, BC/JTS ’12 and List College Student Council president, said that the policy change was not the best way to improve the college’s finances.
“I understand Barnard needs money in order to function, but there are other avenues that will not hinder the students,” Goodman said.
More than 600 students signed a petition opposing the policy, and several students held a small protest outside Lehman Hall. Andrea Egan, BC ’13, said that administrators were not honest in explaining why they made the policy change.
“The email sent to us emphasized that this policy was about building a stronger Barnard community, but it seemed to me that it was just sugarcoating the fact that it was a largely financial decision,” Egan said.
For many students, a major problem with the policy change was the fact that administrators did not seek student input before announcing it. That sort of disconnect could change with the creation of the Financial Advisory Council, a student committee formed in January by Barnard’s Student Government Association to advice Brown on financial policy decisions.
Outgoing SGA Vice President Rachel Ferrari, BC ’13, said that the first FAC meeting “set the stage for what should be really candid discussions with” Brown.
“I think he wants us to be honest with him so there’s no confusion when something is announced,” Ferrari said.
When administrators announced in April that Barnard’s two-semester physical education requirement would be reduced to one semester in an effort to save money, students were more accepting of the policy change. Ferrari said that Brown and Barnard President Debora Spar sought input on the decision from students and professors on the college’s Committee on Instruction.
But when Spectator reported last month that Barnard would close its swimming pool to save the college a projected $3 million, students and professors voiced opposition to the plan.
“Is it the cleanest place? No. Does it do its job? Certainly,” Shira Poliak, BC ’13, said. “Some people think it’s a little old. But I don’t need a modern pool. A pool’s a pool.”
“The saddest thing about a college is that it’s a business. It’s not just a glorious utopia,” Ferrari said. “And I’m proud that our administration is willing to examine where we’re putting our money and where else it could be put.”
Jessica Stallone contributed reporting.
Read the rest of the special issue here.