Opinion | Op-eds

Why not merge?!

I like clean numbers and grades. And when I was a senior in high school, I was hoping for a complete set of college acceptance letters. But we can’t always get what we want. I was one school short: Barnard rejected me.

The most immediate response is incredulity and citation of admissions rates. It is this frightfully reductionist mentality that the only difference between a Columbia College/School of Engineering and Applied Science and Barnard education is one of respective admissions processes. We can see this displayed by former Spectator editorial page editor Lanbo Zhang in “Why not merge?” (April 18). He delivers yet another jarring example of the divisive mind-set that continues to plague women on both sides of the street with uninformed arguments for a merge. Zhang describes single-sex university education as “rhetoric” and “incidental” and displays an inability to “see how the substance of a Barnard education necessarily differs from a Columbia College one,” as he “can’t for the life of me figure out how the social life could be so different on the other side of the street.” Many students—male and female alike—fall into the unfortunate trap of assuming that a CC/SEAS education is the singular pinnacle of academic aspiration. I have heard the not infrequent scoff of undiscerning first-years that Barnard is a “backdoor” to a Columbia education. This scoff, when not confronted, develops into published opinions such as Zhang’s, perpetuates comment threads (a coward’s battlefield of entitlement), and erupts in full-fledged ignorance campaigns (Obamanard).

Zhang’s whitewashed assumptions simply do not align with my belief in Barnard as an institution and an environment. He implies that taking similar classes, while enrolled in separate schools, yields a similar education. Unfortunately, he throws around the word “education” without distinction, ignoring the separate-but-intertwined contexts of a classroom education and an education that occurs beyond the walls of Barnard Hall or Milbank. It is in the latter that we find the Athena Film Festival, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, numerous initiatives from faculty, and student services such as Well-Woman, and an incredibly invested and responsive alumnae network. These out-of-the-classroom opportunities are the unshakeable pillar of the Barnard experience. They “address issues of gender in all of their complexity and urgency.” according to the Barnard mission statement. In empowering women to withstand and overcome a society that either overtly denies or more subtly dismisses them, Barnard holds a singular advantage.

As a dancer, I am in Barnard Hall frequently. My closest friends are Barnard students, and I hold them as perhaps the largest influence on my personal growth and education of the “higher” variety. I could cite their unfettered curiosity, strength of character, and intelligence. But above all, they have an ever-growing awareness of their responsibility in confronting and overcoming social disparities particular to women. If I had known the people I know today (and if I had been accepted to Barnard), my decision would have been much more difficult. In the end, I would have still accepted Columbia’s offer, and I feel strongly that I made the right decision in coming to Columbia. But I feel as strongly that Barnard has played a large role in my education, both personal and academic. I cannot overemphasize the influence that Barnard’s institutional aims have had on me and many other Columbia women. 

Zhang casually suggests having a separate women’s college only celebrates a history of sexism. He writes that Barnard is the result of “the separate history of the two schools, because at one point in time, Columbia didn’t see it fit to accept women.” While it is true that women’s colleges emerged in order to provide higher education to a socially minimized population, it certainly cannot be argued that women’s colleges are no longer relevant or that gender disparities are resolved now that women can attend the majority of higher education institutions. Barnard ensures that research on and advocacy for gender equality continues on the forefront. It is unquestionable that the strength and poignancy of such discussion would falter if the dialogue’s semi-autonomy was reduced. If there were no Barnard and no Barnard women, I do not believe that Columbia could have afforded me those same emphatic perspectives. Barnard continues to justify its existence as an independent undergraduate school alongside Columbia College because it offers a fundamentally different education and environment from Columbia College.

Without a doubt, Barnard is in financial straits. Zhang uses the reconstruction of Lehman Hall as the basis for his argumentative strategy, a tactic that might soon appear in an attempt to dilute Barnard into Columbia’s system once and for all. How quickly a discussion of Barnard’s financial concerns can become a question of the value of single-sex educations at large. (Students and administrators alike, beware!) There are many difficulties ahead, but the institutional beauty of Barnard is that it is built to resist such a submissive shortcut as a merge, which is a dismissal of the casual sexism, degrading stereotyping and frankly disgusting entitlement that tries to justify itself with admissions rates. A merge will not solve the other-side-of-the-street problem once and for all. It will only enable the underlying attitudes. Barnard must continue to “help students achieve the personal strength that will enable them to meet the challenges they will encounter throughout their lives.” Barnard must remain separate so that challenges such as Zhang’s indiscriminate slog of superficial conceptions are repelled institutionally.

I hope you take my rejection as proof that an education at Columbia College, as much as I have appreciated my academic experience there, and one at Barnard have distinct aspects and aims. Paradoxically, these factors are accessible to women at all of the Columbia undergraduate schools, but only on the condition that Barnard retains its autonomous identity in our collective Columbia community.

In Barnard we trust.

The author is a Columbia College sophomore. 

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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But you forget posted on

Paradoxically, these factors are accessible to women (AND MEN) at all of the Columbia undergraduate schools.

You're right. This is contradictory, huh?

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CC '14 posted on

I appreciate a CC girl who isn't Barnard hating. I think we get a bad rap as being Barnard haters, but some of my best friends go to Barnard and I honestly don't really think about the distinctions between the two schools on a daily basis. That being said, I don't think the original column was without merit--it was intended to initiate a meaningful discussion with students and administrators, but unfortunately it seems this discussion has devolved into the predictable vitriolic Barnard-bashing and Columbia-attacking :(

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Anonymous posted on

One of the beautiful things about the "Columbia University" education at large is the diversity it provides its students by having four undergraduate schools, whose students all have their own unique experiences here, but create a larger, richer, community through their interaction with each other. As a Barnard student, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, but I feel like my time here has only been enriched by CC students, both men and women. It allows me to appreciate the environment Barnard provides even more. I think the "Barnard-haters" are in the minority, and the real irony is that they are only hurting themselves by not taking advantage of their opportunity to interact with an entire demographic on campus. And frankly, it's silly to assume one school is better than the others, everyone has their own needs, and with four undergraduate schools, there is a good chance to find a school that best meets your individual needs at Columbia University.

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Anonymous posted on

CC 4 lyfe! It's bad enough we have to associate with engineers. Don't let those silly girls ruin the rep!!!

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BC 2015 posted on

We need to start spreading love instead of hate, sharing compassion instead of judgement. In order to have a sense of community, it is imperative that we appreciate the diversity among us, and stop drawing lines between the groups to exclude and ridicule. Our community is what we build together -- it is a conscious effort on everyone's part.

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Essential Logic posted on

Love means inclusion. As long as men are forbidden from Barnard's admissions, how can you say that there is love?

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you.

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Anonymous posted on

Why not Zoidberg?

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Anonymous posted on

While I agree with your opinion, couldn't it be possible that Barnard intentionally rejects a number of CC admits so that articles like this can be written?

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Anonymous posted on

seriously, dude?

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Anonymous posted on

and I say "dude" generally, before anyone starts jumping on me for assuming you are male

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Elizabeth posted on

Interesting. Do you also think the CIA created the crack epidemic?

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Wait posted on

You mean it didn't?

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Essential Logic posted on

A lot of schools purposely reject highly qualified applicants because:
(1) they believe that these applicants will most likely attend a more prestigious institution that will probably accept them; and
(2) it makes their application statistics look more impressive because they rejected students with high GPAs and standardized test scores.

This has been going on for many years at many colleges. It's called reverse admissions.

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Anonymous posted on

From woman to woman, thank you for not bashing on your fellow University students.

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Julia CC'14 posted on

I hope that some of the pretentious, delusional CC students who fueled Obamanard and the like will really ruminate on the last sentence of the first paragraph. The author of this op-ed is a successful Columbia College student - who states that she was rejected by Barnard.

Hopefully they can get past that line and actually read the rest of this thoughtful op-ed. Well done, Martha :)

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Anonymous posted on

*Martha Scott. It's a double name!

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Essential Logic posted on

Perhaps Barnard College rejected her because it knew that Columbia College would accept her because of her qualifications. This makes Barnard College look better. A lot of schools have policies such as these - it's called reverse admissions.

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Essential Logic posted on

This article did not provide any legitimate reasons for the exclusion of males in Barnard's admissions process. All of the research centers and extracurricular activities that are mentioned in the article could still take place if Barnard merges with Columbia.

Many co-educational institutions offer majors in Women's Studies, Gender Studies as well as research center in women's issues. More institutions should offer research centers that can investigate why men are dropping out of high school and college. Basically, this article only reiterates the tiresome, sexist argument that Barnard offer a different or even better education simply because it excludes men from the admissions process. Any educational process that excludes a group for who they are is inferior.

Does Barnard offer any research that would find solutions as to why so many men drop out of school, why more men are homeless, why more men are likely to commit suicide, why more men wind up in prison, why more men are unfairly excluded from their own children's lives in the event of a divorce and why men are not as likely to live as long as women do? You can't say that institutions such as Barnard do research that supports gender equality. Gender equality is not about raising women while allowing men to fall. Gender equality is about raising both men and women. If Barnard wants to "retain its autonomous identity" then it should separate from Columbia completely.

Furthermore, Barnard does not offer opportunities to all women - only to rich women. Only 12 percent of Barnard students receive need-based financial aid. This means that 88 percent of Barnard students tend to be wealthy.

Meanwhile, near Barnard College there are projects where poor women (and men of course) live. Does Barnard offer an education to them? Does Barnard offer child care for single mothers and fathers trying to seek an education? Does Barnard offer programs for veterans? Does Barnard offer programs for elderly women and men who want to pursue an education after years of absence from the classroom, or for women and men who want to transition into new careers?

Barnard College offers opportunities to mostly rich young girls out of high school and excludes boys. That is not a school that empowers those who need it the most.

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