Students from LGBTQ affinity groups asked that Barnard’s Student Government Association better advocate for queer and trans students at the council’s Monday meeting, citing a general lack of Barnard students and administrators in positions directed toward LGBTQ outreach.
In 2015, Barnard decided to amend its admissions policy to begin considering for admission any individuals who “consistently live and identify as women,” and it was the last women’s college to do so. At Monday’s meeting, representatives for Proud Colors and GendeRevolution discussed issues relating to transgender students at Barnard and offered suggestions as to how SGA can provide greater support.
Proud Colors, an organization that aims to provide a space for students dealing with issues that specifically impact queer and trans students of color, asked that SGA support the club’s push for increased funding and assist them in booking spaces for events on Barnard’s campus, which they said has been an issue for the organization in the past.
The group also requested that SGA work to publicize the club to Barnard students, citing a lack of Barnard membership, particularly in the executive board, which is currently composed exclusively of students from Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
GendeRevolution, an advocacy group for trans, gender-nonconforming, and questioning students, requested support in publicizing their club to increase Barnard membership, which they said is also limited. They also asked that SGA help open up a broad conversation on campus about gender-neutral bathrooms, citing past problems with Events Management that prevented clubs from signifying bathrooms as gender-neutral at campus events.
GendeRevolution representative Levi Craske, BC ’18, also proposed a school-wide educational program to discuss common perceptions of womanhood and help students avoid comments or actions that discriminate against trans students.
“Barnard is not making itself a space right now where trans women and trans girls who might apply would want to apply because of the conversations and demographics of the school,” Craske said.
Currently, Columbia’s Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs and LGBTQ Outreach Chris Woods works with Proud Colors. Barnard does not have an equivalent administrator, which Representative for Student Health Services Valerie Jaharis, BC ’19, said is concerning and places Barnard students at a disadvantage.
“We have administrators that we know happen to be queer, and we have events, but Barnard has no specific administrator, from my understanding, that addresses any needs of [LGBTQ students], and I think that that’s incredibly important,” Jaharis said. “And it’s incredibly important that if we were to create that position, that that person would also be a queer or trans person of color, specifically.”
Jaharis acknowledged limits to SGA’s purview, but emphasized the importance of starting conversations discussing queer and trans identities and issues on campus.
“Some of the hardest things, at least in my experience as being queer and trans, aren’t things that are necessarily something that a student government can do because they are more intimate and more difficult to handle,” Jaharis said. “But I think that the way to go about that is to be talking about it more, because we don’t talk about it enough.”
Correction, Nov. 30: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Barnard currently does not provide coverage for hormone therapy. The college health insurance does in fact include hormone treatment and covers gender-affirming surgery.