Seven candidates for Barnard’s representative for academic affairs presented their campaign platforms at Monday’s Student Government Association meeting, focusing on strengthening student-teacher relationships and creating a more inclusive classroom.
The representative for academic affairs serves as the liaison between students and the Office of the Dean of Studies in order to discuss academic policies and student concerns. While SGA representatives are normally elected at the end of the spring semester and serve for the entirety of the following academic year, the current representative, Shoshana Edelman, BC ’18, will be studying abroad in the spring, requiring a midyear replacement.
The seven candidates include Paige Moskowitz, BC ’20, Shreya Sunderram, BC/JTS ’19, Ariela Martin, BC ’18 and former Spectrum deputy editor, Emma Bellows, BC/JTS ’20, Nicki Mohammadi, BC ’19, Hadassah Solomson, BC ’20, and Gabriella Singh, BC ’20.
Candidates’ platforms included proposals for diversifying Barnard’s First-Year Seminar and First-Year English curricula by including texts outside of the traditional canon and expanding academic resources for students with disabilities.
Candidates also discussed the issue of student-professor interactions, a concern that was recently raised by the results of this semester’s Desserts after Dark survey, and suggested more workshops to educate professors on microaggressions in the classroom and providing more out-of-class opportunities for students and faculty to interact.
Sunderram pointed to an upcoming conference at Mount Holyoke College as an opportunity for meaningful dialogue between students and faculty, and said she would like to see something similar at Barnard. The conference, during which classes will be canceled and all campus offices will be closed, will consist of conversations and activities about diversity, equity, and inclusion that are designed and facilitated by students and faculty members.
“I think that we need to have a real conversation about how professors treat their students,” Sunderram said. “We have rampant ableism, classism, sexism, [and] racism within our classroom spaces.”
Some candidates pledged to improve resources for students with disabilities in the classroom, particularly those with mental illnesses that may be exacerbated by classroom and exam stresses.
Martin said that she hopes that improving the relationship between the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center and the Office of the Dean of Studies would benefit these students.
“I think that mental health is really, really important on campus, and I think that we need to make sure that we’re there for the students,” she said. “I want to make it more personal … and make it easier for students to have that conversation.”
Several candidates also pointed to the Office of the Registrar as an academic service with room for improvement, noting that poor communication between Barnard and Columbia’s registrars has hindered course registration procedures in the past by failing to list a full slate of available courses in time for students to register.
During the open-floor portion of the meeting, WBAR, Barnard’s student radio station, advocated for improved space on campus. WBAR is currently housed in the basement of Brooks Hall, though this placement was originally intended to be temporary when construction began on the Diana Center in 2007. Although the Diana Center was completed in 2010, WBAR has remained housed in Brooks.
WBAR treasurer Klea Kalia, BC ’19, noted that the size of the studio is prohibitive—particularly in light of the fact that WBAR has up to 96 individuals on staff at a time—and said that the lack of ventilation and presence of vermin have also proven problematic. Additionally, the location in a dorm causes access issues, with guests and members of WBAR’s board unable to ensure consistent access to the studio.
WBAR said that they have identified the space in which the Barnard Center for Research on Women is currently housed as an ideal location, as that space is set to free up after BCRW moves to the Milstein Teaching and Learning Center.