Updated Nov. 23, 12:54 p.m.
Following heavy criticism, Barnard has changed its winter break housing policy.
Barnard President Debora Spar announced in an email to the Barnard community Monday morning that the College will return to the housing policy used last winter, whereby eligibility for winter break housing is no longer restricted to students who hold "mission critical" roles. But unlike last winter, there will no longer be a housing fee for students who demonstrate financial or personal need.
Students who need housing can provide a written statement by Nov. 30 to be approved by the College. Keeping with the policy in place last winter, those approved to stay on campus from Dec. 24 to Jan. 10 will still have to find a room in Plimpton Hall. Only those who have written statements that clearly demonstrate need will be approved.
"For decades, the College has dedicated itself to providing a welcome and accommodating environment for low-income and first-generation students," Spar wrote in the email. "It is also why we were dismayed by recent allegations that the College was turning away students facing homelessness, or those dealing with dangerous situations at home."
The change comes after widespread student complaints about the policy. A petition demanding that the College provide safe and subsidized housing for housing-insecure students even garnered over 1,870 supporters from students, alumnae, and parents.
The email can be read in full here:
Dear Barnard Students,
I know that there has recently been a great deal of conversation on campus about housing over winter break and concern about fellow students who may be homeless or housing insecure. We have read the petition and the many comments that followed, have spoken to several of you in person, and have discussed the issue at length amongst ourselves in the administration. And we remain committed, now as always, to helping our students deal with the hardships that may confront them during their time at Barnard.
For decades, the College has dedicated itself to providing a welcome and accommodating environment for low-income and first-generation students. That's why we are so firmly committed to being need-blind in our admissions decisions, and why so many of our alumnae pride themselves on having been the first in their families to attend college. It is also why we were dismayed by recent allegations that the College was turning away students facing homelessness, or those dealing with dangerous situations at home.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, as Dean Hinkson noted in her recent email, Barnard's official policy is that the College is closed from December 24 to January 16. But it has always been our policy to close campus during winter break, as is the norm at nearly all of our liberal arts college peers. Yes, we want all students to be able to spend time with friends and family over the holidays, but we always have, and always will, make accommodation for those students who, for personal or financial reasons, cannot return home.
Last year, our policy was to grant exceptions to those students who applied and provided a brief statement of their reason for needing to remain on campus. This year, we replaced the application with an in-person meeting. Several students came forward under this process, and we have granted housing to those with demonstrated need.
Yet, it seems that there may still be students who are either unaware of our policy, or uncomfortable coming forth in person. Accordingly, and since time is running short, we have decided to simplify the process and return to the procedure that was in place last winter. If you have not already made a request and need to stay on campus over winter break, we ask that you submit this online winter housing application found at: https://barnard.edu/sites/default/files/2015_request_for_winter_break_housing_form.pdf by Monday, November 30. With the application, and any supporting documentation, we can determine how best to allocate available housing.
A few points of clarification: unlike last year's policy, there will be no fee for winter break housing. Need must still be demonstrated, be it financial or personal, and approved students must still find a Plimpton resident willing to offer their room. Services provided during the semester -- dining, health, counseling, and residential life -- will not be available during the break, but Public Safety will be available in case of emergency, and students in need of specific financial assistance should feel free to consult, as always, with our Financial Aid office.
Thank you for making your voices heard, and best wishes to you all for a restful Thanksgiving break and a productive end to the semester.