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Columbia Spectator Staff

Correction appended.

Last month, the entire Barnard College faculty met with Verge, a consulting firm hired to repackage Barnard's image. A Verge spokesperson proclaimed to faculty members that Barnard is no longer the best of both worlds-Barnard and Columbia-but the best of all worlds. Barnard Vice President of Public Affairs Suzanne Trimel said that Verge was hired "to improve the way that we tell the Barnard story to our various audiences."

But the Barnard story has never been straightforward. Admissions materials boast that Barnard is a women's liberal arts institution affiliated with Columbia, but for many this relationship is ambiguous. Barnard administrators say that the two institutions share a beneficial relationship-Barnard students gain access to the resources of a prominent research institution, while Columbia undergraduates have more majors to pick from.

"The situation is as good as it's ever been in my time here," said Barnard history professor Robert McCaughey, author of Stand, Columbia. McCaughey has been here since 1969. However, he noted, "It's always been the case that the relationship has meant more to Barnard than to Columbia."

This academic year, a number of issues such as Flash Access and a petition to revoke Barnard students' Columbia e-mail accounts illustrated that this still seems to be the case.

 

A FIRST-YEAR PHENOMENON?

According to Hillary Link, Barnard first-year dean, the Barnard-Columbia relationship is a common source of angst for many of her students.

"The issue is [Barnard first-years] don't feel like fully integrated members of the Columbia community, which they shouldn't, but they feel it's hard for them to connect with students on Columbia's campus," Link said.

Most feel that the divide begins as early as the New Student Orientation Program, which is officially a joint endeavor.

"We see the students from Barnard and CC and SEAS as a united front," Cynthia Jennings, assistant director of the CC/SEAS division of student affairs, said.

But the planning of orientation programs and their actual application are often divergent.

"My orientation leader had some strong views about Barnard and Barnard girls," Elizabeth Gemdjian, CC '09, said. "She told us that Barnard girls are basically, well, sluts. That was my first encounter with negativity about Barnard." Gemdjian's twin sister, Christina, is a Barnard first-year.

Dorothy Denburg, dean of Barnard College, said that most of the time, NSOP organizers from both sides of the street have a similar vision of the schools' relationship. But occasionally, she added, there have been divergences. Jennings and fellow NSOP coordinator, Julien Marques, who serves as the associate director of Barnard College activities, said that they plan to address such issues in more depth for 2006.

Meanwhile though, many Barnard first-years said they experience a sense of inferiority.

"My experience with many of the students at Columbia... has made me feel inadequate about myself," said a Barnard first-year, who requested anonymity because she is considering transferring.

Other students say that, as they progress in their education, whatever discomfort they initially experience dissipates. Caroline Beck, CC '06, and also a Barnard tour guide, said that the differences were more pronounced because of all the Barnard jokes that circulated. Now, in her senior year, she says that "it seems it's not really a big deal."

Fencer Katie McCully, BC '09, said that one way to assimilate is to join organizations and find a niche. "At an athletic level, we're totally equal," McCully said.

 

THE "COLUMBIA

COMMUNITY"

Every year, a small number of students transfer between institutions, most from Barnard to Columbia.

"Whenever I was on their campus, I felt I wasn't good enough to be there and I didn't belong," said a Columbia College student who transferred from Barnard. The student requested anonymity because she said she feels negatively judged for her decision to transfer.

"I was one of those annoying Barnard people who wanted to go to Columbia originally," she said. "It was something that I always wanted-to be at this school." She maintained that it feels like "the same school," but that Columbia students who find out she transferred express a "you're on the good side of the street now" sentiment.

One issue that seemed to broaden the gulf between the schools this semester was the SGA proposal to institute Flash Access, which would allow Columbia and Barnard students to sign themselves into each others' dorms. Although the goal of easy access indicated an open relationship between the schools, the proposal soon became the center of debate in all undergraduate student councils.

Of the four councils, Barnard's Student Government Association has been the fiercest Flash Access advocate, seeking greater unity in the Columbia community.

Yet, other councils were not so enthusiastic. Spectator reported in February that the Engineering Student Council was wary of the proposal due to security risks.

"This is one issue that we found to be relatively divided amongst our student body," said ESC President Tom Fazzio, SEAS '06.

Flash Access is still subject to debate and it remains of special interest to campus organizations, many of which are open to both institutions but have limited access to each other.

Avi Zenilman, CC '07 and editor-in-chief of the Blue and White, noted that the inability to reach Barnard dorms limits the number of issues that his all-Columbia staff can distribute, thus limiting potential to recruit Barnard participants. "Pass Flash Access-that would help," he said.

Well-Woman, a Barnard health promotion program and wellness center, is in a similar fix. While Columbia students are welcome to take part in its programs, they have to be able to get into the building.

A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP?

Although tension exists, academic cross-registration remains fluid between the two schools. The education, architecture, dance, and theater majors are run by Barnard, while all computer science majors complete their coursework at Columbia. Meanwhile urban studies is jointly funded but based at Barnard.

Despite this symbiosis, Barnard's relevance in the present day is still being questioned.

"To a lot of Columbia students," the transfer student said, "it seems ridiculous that there is a school with a 30 percent acceptance rate and that they're graduating with a Columbia degree." Though Barnard actually accepted only 24 percent of applicants for its incoming class of 2010, a large gap still remains; Columbia College's admittance rate was only 9.6 percent.

Kwame Spearman, CC '06 class president, CTV president, and Spectator columnist, summed up a common sentiment, saying that Barnard's desires seem conflicting and opportunistic. If a student wants to go to an Ivy League school, he continued, she should just apply to one.

Some Barnard students agree. "It's very important for Barnard to have its voice as a women's school," said Daisy Wiggins, BC '07 and Barnard Bulletin co-managing editor. "Don't people have better things to do with their time than argue about the relationship between two separate schools?"

Denburg admitted that miscommunication between the administration and students may be a factor contributing to the confusion.

"I think that we haven't necessarily done the most effective job in describing the relationship to both Barnard and Columbia students," she said.

 


Correction: In "Barnard's Mixed Message" (April 20), Caroline Beck was referred to as a Barnard tour guide. She is a Columbia tour guide. The same article incorrectly stated that the urban studies major is jointly funded by Columbia and Barnard. The urban studies major is funded by Barnard but serves students from Barnard College, Columbia College, and the School of General Studies.

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