Students were shocked to learn that Ani Bournoutian, BC ’75, and GSAS ’84, and Barnard’s dean of transfer and international students, quietly resigned earlier this month after working at the college for 18 years.
Bournoutian’s last day at Barnard was Oct. 4, and she sent a farewell email to faculty members, first-year transfer students, and all international students on Oct. 3.
Bournoutian and Barnard spokesperson Alyssa Vine declined to comment on the reason for her resignation.
“We have reassigned her individual advisees and are in the process of identifying individuals to cover her responsibility for advising various student populations,” Barnard College Dean Avis Hinkson, BC ’84, said in an email. “We anticipate having everyone in place by the end of the month. We certainly apologize to any student who has not received appropriate support and would encourage them to speak with Dean Friedman in the interim.”
Natalie Friedman joined Barnard in July, replacing Aaron Schneider as dean of studies and senior class dean. Schneider stepped down from his role as an administrator and is now a term assistant professor in the English department. Schneider and Vine declined to comment on the reasons for these administrative changes. A photo of Bournoutian on the Barnard website has been taken down, and Vine declined to send Spectator a photo.
Bournoutian, known by many students as “Dean B,” became dean of transfer and international students in 2009. Prior to that, she had been associate dean of studies and the adviser for pre-health professions since 1995.
Barnard international and transfer students were saddened by her departure, and several were curious about why she left.
“I think it’s really upsetting, especially because we’re not getting any reason why,” Rachel Mazur, BC ’14 and one of Bournoutian’s former transfer student advisees, said. “I think we deserve to know why. When they announce a change of staff, it’s usually very well known as to the reasons why. This is kind of strange.”
Ashiana Jivraj, BC ’15 and an international student from Canada who had Bournoutian as her first-year advisor, agreed.
“They should have sent something more formal about it, because what are international students going to do? Who do we go to? She was an integral part of our community,” Jivraj said.
Julia Qian, BC ’15 and both an international and transfer student, said she had serious concerns about losing Bournoutian as her dean. However, she is optimistic about Hinkson’s ability to find a satisfactory replacement.
“I did email Dean Hinkson, and I talked with her on this issue, because as both an international and transfer student I felt the need to find a replacement as soon as possible,” Qian said. “As winter break comes up, who is going to sign our visa to go back home? That’s a real issue.”
“I’m really pleased at how she replied the next day and met with me the next day,” Qian said of Hinkson. “I was really pleased at how responsive she was and how willingly she wanted to hear from students.”
Several of Bournoutian’s advisees said she was an important resource for students, helping them complete the academic procedures and necessary documents unique to their status as international or transfer students. But they said the thing they’ll miss most is her caring personality.
“Coming here and being 17 hours away by flights and being alone was really intimidating, but she really helped things get all settled from the beginning,” Maya Daver-Massion, BC ’16 and an international student from Japan, said. “She has this protective, motherly sense about her, which was really comforting.”
Several students said they appreciated how Bournoutian frequently recommended books she thought they’d be interested in and took a personal interest in their lives.
“On the first day I met her, she wrote down her home phone number and said, ‘I want you to call me if you need anything. This is a very stressful time. I want you to feel like you’re cared for,’” Mazur recalled. “I was so touched by that. It was so scary coming to this school—I didn’t know anything.”
“I’m really sad because she represented a lot of the greatness of Barnard advising,” Mazur said. “She really did everything she could for her advisees and was such a genuine person. It’s going to be a very hard spot to fill.”