After the Student Governing Board’s executive board voted on Sunday not to comply with Barnard’s bureaucratic new fliering policy, the Activities Board at Columbia followed suit and club leaders voiced their support on Monday.
Beginning this semester, fliers, posters, and event notices on Barnard’s campus must carry a stamp from the college’s student life office. But at a meeting of Barnard’s Student Government Association, chairs of the governing boards, which allocate funds for and advocate for student groups, called the policy an instance of administrative overreach.
“It adds on an additional layer of bureaucracy for student groups who are just trying to program their events and advertise so that as many people as possible from both Columbia and Barnard can come,” ABC president Saketh Kalathur, CC ’13, said.
Barnard’s Office of Student Life did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
The SGB executive board said in a statement that Barnard created this new requirement “to prevent the proliferation of non-student related flyers on campus and to actively prevent the occurrence of ‘bias incidents’ in violation of the university’s Community Principles Initiative.” But SGB chair David Fine, CC ’13 and a Spectator sports columnist, described the policy on Sunday as a “case of good intentions executed very, very wrongly.”
SGB’s executive board decision will only come into effect if the general body votes in favor of noncompliance at SGB’s town hall in December, but ABC’s decision is effective immediately, a move that Kalathur hopes will force the administration to act quickly.
“Our hope is not that student group leaders will need to spend the rest of the year breaking Barnard’s rules,” Kalathur said on Monday. “Our hope is that this will send a message to Barnard about how serious we are about protecting the interests of our groups and how serious we are about making sure that our voices are heard before any changes occur.”
SGB representative Mel Meder, BC ’14, said on Sunday that the restrictions on fliering have alienated Barnard students.
“I’m really disappointed to see a policy that discourages groups from posting on Barnard’s campus,” she said. “We had heard from some of our groups that this policy … really did impede and prevent advertising on Barnard’s campus, and that as a result they were missing out on a lot of Barnard participation at events and in terms of new members.”
The policy is also inefficient, said Jackie Ho, CC ’14 and CC/SEAS vice president of the Chinese Students Club, a group under ABC.
“Fliering at Barnard is already sort of slim because a lot of groups, if they don’t have Barnard funding … just don’t feel the need to flier Barnard,” she said. “With this sort of policy, I feel like there’d be definitely even less publicity for events and stuff on Barnard’s campus, which is really unfortunate.”
Kalathur said the main reason ABC voted for noncompliance was because “there was absolutely no communication whatsoever from the Barnard Office of Student Life to ABC.”
Sarah Steinmann, BC ’13 and the SGA VP of Student Activities, said at Monday’s SGA meeting that she attended one meeting with administrators last spring to discuss changes to the fliering policy. However, they mainly discussed logistical changes, and Steinmann said she “had no idea this was coming.”
Some SGA representatives said that they should not immediately dismiss the policy.
“This is not something that anybody here should decide, ‘Let’s throw the policy out,’” Aliza Hassine, BC ’14 and junior class president, said at the meeting. “These are instances that happened on this campus that bothered people.”
Fine said that the administration provided him with only one example of a bias incident in the last two years, posters by the all-male a cappella group the Kingsmen.
“The Kingsmen is not an SGB group but it was an incident that they brought up and an incident where I agree the fliers were inappropriate,” Fine said. “At the same time, it’s one incident with one group. I don’t think that requires a response of requiring that every single student group’s fliers be preapproved by the administration.” The Kingsmen declined to comment.
“There has to be a large amount of bias incidents on this campus … for them to mandate a preapproval of student speech on campus,” Fine said in his presentation.
SGA president JungHee Hyun, BC ’13, said that SGA met with administrators earlier in the semester and decided to take the rest of the semester as a “review period.” Last week, SGA sent out a survey to its groups to get feedback about the new policy, and representatives plan to talk to administrators again after fall break.
“We understand the benefit of a trial period,” Steinmann said after the meeting. “That doesn’t mean we want the policy to stay as is. We want to do something that benefits the student body.”
Emma Goss contributed reporting.