Dean for the First-Year Class and Dean for Academic Assistance Rebecca Grabiner will begin serving as Barnard’s senior class dean at the end of the academic year, Dean of Studies and Dean of the Senior Class Natalie Friedman announced in an email on Wednesday morning.
Grabiner, who has served as first-year class dean since 2014, will also serve as college case manager, a new position that will oversee students who are going on or returning from academic leave. Friedman will now exclusively serve as dean of studies.
“This will allow for closer tracking and greater engagement with students who are integrating back to campus life,” Friedman said in the email. “The role requires a unique combination of skills, including a background in social work or related fields, and many of our peers have adopted this model with success.”
Students may take a general leave of absence or a medical or mental health leave of absence depending on their specific circumstances and must make an appointment with their class dean and the dean of studies in order to review the terms of their leave.
Additionally, other students may be required to take a semester or year-long leave due to “lack of satisfactory academic progress” or if their grade point average falls below 2.0 for two consecutive semesters.
At present, the responsibility of advising students who are considering withdrawing from the college or are returning from a leave of absence is shared by multiple members of the dean of studies office, according to a spokesperson for Barnard.
Students who have withdrawn from and returned to Barnard acknowledged that re-acclimating to campus can be difficult without having a faculty member designated to support these students.
Alexa Hait, BC ’21, started at Barnard in the fall of 2016, before taking a medical health leave. Hait returned to campus the following year, but said that support has been limited and reacclimation has been difficult.
“I make meetings every now and then [with my adviser and class dean] when I have to, but nobody has ever checked in or asked me how things are going,” Hait said. “It’s hard coming back. It’s like I’m doing my first year a second time.”
Students returning from leave face additional roadblocks such as securing housing, establishing necessary support systems, and meeting credit requirements. While students that enter Barnard as first-years are guaranteed housing for all four years, students that go on leave—regardless of type—forfeit their right to guaranteed housing. Students returning from medical or mental health leave may, however, be given housing preference.
Hait worked with Grabiner, her class dean, to help navigate her withdrawal and return process. She hopes that Grabiner’s new official position as college case manager will allow students to know where to go for support while also raising general awareness of this issue on campus.
“A lot of students withdraw from the College,” Hait said. “Even just that email yesterday saying that there is going to be someone helping students coming back from leave… I don’t know if other students have ever thought of it. Getting the email and going, ‘Oh, that exists.’”
Grabiner and Friedman will continue in their roles until after Barnard Commencement on May 16. The search for Grabiner’s replacement will begin shortly, with the goal of hiring a new first-year dean before the Class of 2022 arrives on campus.