Inaugural Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ariana González Stokas, TC ’10, discussed plans to improve accessibility for low-income students and to provide increased support for transgender students during an appearance at Barnard’s Student Government Association meeting on Monday night.
Stokas, who was appointed to the position in May after a year-long search, leads the campus’s office of diversity, equity, and inclusion and is responsible for examining policies related to diversity and inclusion for the college as a whole. In her second appearance before SGA, Stokas emphasized the importance of making sure that Barnard students understand the college’s policies around equity, find resources such as the Office of Title IX and Equity, and know how to navigate support systems on campus.
“What are the resources like for a student when they have to navigate a system in order to gain accommodation? What are the procedures like for a student when they have to navigate a system in order to make sure it’s accessible? We really want to make sure that a student is not the only one doing all the work,” Stokas said.
Stokas shared plans for a program called Access Barnard, which will aim to improve accessibility on campus for students from low-income backgrounds, and noted that she and her colleagues are particularly focused on improving textbook accessibility and alleviating food insecurity.
“[Access Barnard] will really look at and streamline the way in which we think about socioeconomic access and disability and diversity, and try to identify the pockets where things are not funded the way they need to be,” Stokas said. “We’re in talks about creating a food pantry on campus, maybe not just food but clothing … [and] we need to create better program budgets or resources in the library to ensure that texts are available [to all students].”
SGA representatives pushed Stokas on plans to improve resources for transgender students on campus, noting that resources at Barnard, as a women’s college, is often femininity. Students pointed to the tendency of some professors to use female pronouns in the classroom and on syllabi. Barnard has admitted students who “consistently live and identify as women regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth” since 2015.
Stokas said that she has begun working with the Office of the Provost to develop strategies for faculty to navigate the use of gendered language in the classroom and regularly ask students for their pronouns. She also questioned the use of the word “alumnae” to describe Barnard graduates.
“When I say build out trans resources on campus, I’m not just talking about students, and [we need] to be doing institutional work on this,” Stokas said.