Barnard’s President Debora Spar’s official last day is this Sunday, prompting many students and colleagues to look back on the past nine years. Some have analyzed her accomplishments and shortcomings, talked about how her departure is not the end of Barnard, and how she has branded the College as an elite institution.
Throughout all of it, Spec has covered the highs and lows of her administration, as well as the changes Barnard has endured under her leadership.
Way back in October 2008, in the days of the second Bush presidency and America’s “Great Recession,” Debora L. Spar (you may know her as DSpar) was inaugurated as Barnard’s seventh president at Riverside Church.
During her inauguration speech, she talked about how Barnard would widen its presence at home and abroad (as this aforementioned op-ed said she accomplished), as well as how the college would change the “feminine mystique” to the “feminine boutique”—in other words, women would gain access to more options than ever before.
President Spar has written many books and articles about womanhood and the pressures often associated with it. When her book “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection” was released in 2013, we wrote about some of its most fascinating points. (Such as how females with children are 44 percent less likely to be hired for a job, and how the average student has an average of 10.28 hookups during their college years.)
Though the college’s investments still remain a hot topic today, in the fall of 2015 Spar took the first step in approaching the issue by vowing to discuss it during the board of trustees committee meeting.
Beginning fall of 2016, Barnard announced that it would begin reviewing admissions applications for any applicants who “consistently live and identify as a women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth.”
This was a step towards admitting transgender students that many were waiting for—only many were disturbed by the ambiguousness of the statement. What does it mean to “consistently live and identify” as a woman?
Additionally, Spar said a statement that quickly turned controversial: that Barnard was a college for women, not oppressed gender minorities.
After President Donald Trump’s election, Spar, along with over 100 other college presidents, voiced their disapproval of Trump’s hateful rhetoric and reaffirmed their commitment to inclusive communities and a host of core values.
This past fall, Spar wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Aging and My Beauty Dilemma.” It got quite the backlash, to put it lightly.
In it, Spar talked about the justification behind her decision to get breast reduction surgery—not for a medical reason, but because she was “sick and tired of every man on the planet being unable to look above my neck.” This sparked the discussion about Spar’s “brand” of feminism, and how it is unlike that of many students.
In November of last year, Spar (rather unexpectedly) announced her resignation to the community, opening up the speculation for who would replace her and what the future of the college might hold.
No matter what—or who—decides Barnard’s future, we can be sure that the college will move with confidence into the future. Thank you for your years of service, DSpar, and best of luck at Lincoln Center.
Mariella Evangelista is a Barnard first-year and a Spectrum staff writer. She wants Hillary Clinton to be Barnard’s next president, but she will also make do with Michelle Obama. Reach her at email@example.com.