In the loop
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Rya Inman / Senior Staff Photographer

(Rya Inman/Senior Staff Photographer)

Each class that passes through Barnard’s gates sees its fair share of college-altering history, but the members of the class of 2020 have experienced countless pivotal, and even unprecedented, events during their time as Barnard students. Here are a few of the class of 2020’s standout moments, from its first experiences on campus to its last:


1. The establishment of the Foundations curriculum

As the class of 2020 entered Barnard in fall 2016, it was the first round of students to undergo the “Foundations” curriculum. Transitioning from the previously established “Nine Ways of Knowing,” the Foundations curriculum mapped out students’ new general education requirements through first-year experience classes, a physical education course, distributional requirements, and (of course,) the modes of thinking.

2. President Trump’s victory

Aarushi Jain
A cardboard venus symbol and cartoon rat depicting Donald Trump were hung from Alma Mater's hands before a demonstration began in response to Trump's election.

President Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, sent shockwaves through campus. The news resulted in numerous anti-Trump protests and became a profound event in the class of 2020’s first semester at Barnard.

3. Barnard 125th anniversary

Generations of Barnard alumnae attended Barnard's 125th anniversary convocation at Riverside Church on Monday afternoon and reflected on their experiences at Barnard.

2016 marked Barnard’s 125th anniversary, and the event was commemorated through numerous campus celebrations aimed to honor Barnard’s past and extend a hopeful eye toward its future.

4. The Bold campaign

Barnard launched its massive capital campaign initiated by Debora Spar, former president of the college. The campaign was called“The Bold Standard,” and it aimed to raise $400 million. The donations would fund four main initiatives: the endowment ($175 million, of which $100 million would be allocated to financial aid), annual support ($75 million), planned gifts ($50 million), and The Teaching and Learning Center ($100 million). Currently, the campaign has raised blah blah blah


5. Barnard and faculty union agreement

The Barnard faculty union reached its first agreement with the college on Feb. 16, 2017—five days before a union strike was scheduled to take place, which would have resulted in a work hiatus from about half of all Barnard faculty. After a year of negotiations, the final contract was effectively implemented for the 2017-2018 academic year, resulting in wage and benefit increases and greater job security for faculty. Concerns continued to arise, however. In 2018, the faculty union accused the college of anti-union discrimination, as the stipends awarded for teaching first-year seminar classes had been stripped from union members and union members only.

6. President Debora Spar’s resignation

Barnard President Debora Spar resigned from the college on March 5, 2017, to take on the role of president and CEO of Lincoln Center.

Spar officially resigned on March 5, 2017, transitioning to become the president and CEO of the Lincoln Center. Entering her term in 2008 with the college’s especially low endowment and an increasingly complicated relationship with Columbia, Spar was tasked with raising funds and Barnard’s profile throughout the world. Throughout her nine years as president, Barnard’s reputation had grown around the world, and the endowment increased from $162 million to around $300 million, much of which helped to finance The Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning.

7. Founding of Bold, Beautiful, Black event at Barnard

Morgana Van Peebles
An image exhibited in the 2019 Bold, Beautifu, Black @ Barnard, which was centered around black femme artistry.

Barnard’s first-ever Bold, Beautiful, Black weekend centered on uplifting and celebrating Black students outside of February’s Black History Month. The event became an annual and extended event focusing on innovations in the art world, including an on-campus showcase of cutting edge art by women of color. Furthermore, through a partnership with Beyond Barnard, the event features panels of women of color in the fashion, dance, and multimedia industries to generate conversation about access into the art world.


8. Beilock’s inauguration

Cherrie Zheng
Barnard President Sian Beilock at her inauguration ceremony in Riverside Church.

President Sian Beilock was officially inaugurated as the college’s eighth president on Feb. 12, 2018. Throughout her address, Beilock shared her goals for the college: enhancing science’s role in a liberal arts education, increasing students’ utilization of New York City’s resources, investing in Barnard’s inclusion efforts, and proving the optimal tools for student success beyond the college (as observed with the implementation of the Beyond Barnard program). As more progress has been made, Beilock recently introduced the “Feel Well, Do Well” initiative and the Community Safety Group, both aimed to foster a healthy and safe community.

9. Dean Avis Hinkson’s resignation

After seven years in the role, beloved Dean of Barnard College Avis Hinkson shared her plans to officially step down in May 2018. Hinkson played an integral role in numerous changes to Barnard’s policies and reinvented long-established college events, such as Convocation.

10. Beyond Barnard

As one of newly elected President Beilock’s first initiatives, the Beyond Barnard program sought to consolidate Barnard’s professional resources with the hopes of better connecting students with alumni, providing potential employment opportunities and resources, and offering advising for numerous graduate and fellowship programs.

11. Barnard students hospitalized during heat wave

As temperatures spiked in fall 2018, numerous students living in Brooks Hall—one of the many residence halls without air conditioning—were hospitalized due to health complications from the heat. Barnard administrators responded to the resounding student concerns by suggesting students stay with friends in air-conditioned dorms or consume foods high in water content, such as celery.

12. The opening of the Milstein Center

Lola Lafia
The crowd at the Milstein Center's opening.

After three years of construction, the Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning officially opened its doors on Sept. 4, 2018. The space finally provided Barnard students with a home library and featured the Empirical Reasoning Center and a Peet’s Coffee.


13. Switching food service providers

Arielle Shternfeld

After much student dissatisfaction with the current dining provider, Barnard did not renew its contract with Aramark and welcomed Chartwells on April 11, 2019. The transition included new menus, food prices, and initiatives to address food insecurity. Although students were assured meal plans would maintain their original structure, students were running out of points to purchase meals.

14. Barnard’s “Feel Well, Do Well” initiative

In the beginning of fall 2019, Barnard launched the “Feel Well, Do Well” initiative, which aimed to promote community-wide health in and outside of the classroom and provide students with greater access to mental health resources.

15. Public Safety incident in the Milstein Center

On April 11, 2019, Alexander McNab, CC ’19, was pinned against a counter by Barnard Public Safety officers after declining to show a Columbia ID upon entering the newly-erected Milstein Center. The incident garnered national attention and resulted in significant student, faculty, and administration protest and discussion—ultimately resulting in changes throughout Barnard Public Safety. The officers in question were immediately put on administrative leave during the independent investigation of the incident, and the Community Safety Group was created to discuss what was uncovered.

16. The creation of associate director of campus sustainability role

After launching new climate action initiatives throughout Barnard, administrators announced the creation of an associate director of campus sustainability and climate action at a Student Government Association meeting on Oct. 23, 2019.

17. The death of Tess Majors

Beatrice Shlanksy
Flowers left by grieving students in front of Barnard's gates.

The Barnard and Columbia community suffered a tragic loss on Dec. 11, 2019, with the death of Barnard first-year Tess Majors. Students and faculty honored Majors’ life through numerous campus support gatherings during the fall and spring semesters, including a memorial on Feb. 7, 2020.


18. The 10th annual Athena Film Festival

Rommel Nuñez
A panel at the 10th annual Athena Film Festival.

The 10th annual Athena Film Festival took place in February 2020, marking 10 years of highlighting stories from and about remarkable women. This year’s festival attracted numerous arts figures, including Unjoo Moon and Greta Gerwig, BC ’06.

19. Bacchanal’s transition to Terminal 5

Bacchanal’s summer concert was officially set to take place off-campus this year. The move to popular concert venue Terminal 5 was the result of numerous Bacchanal committee concerns regarding student interest, event budget cuts, and difficulty booking headliners.

20. Remote learning and the cancellation of Commencement

Gillian Rae
As part of the move to Zoom the University underwent as a consequence of COVID-19, Bacchanal decided to host its annual concert digitally on the platform.

After Columbia’s first potential exposure to the coronavirus, which was reported to students on May 8, University classes were postponed until the Wednesday prior to spring break. As the outbreak quickly developed into a pandemic, the transition to virtual classes for the rest of the semester began. This brought an abrupt halt to graduating seniors’ time on campus, but perhaps the biggest loss to the graduating class of 2020 was the cancellation of the actual Commencement ceremony itself. Barnard will have a virtual celebration on May 18, and the University Commencement will be broadcasted virtually on May 20.

Senior staff writer Sydney Fox can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

Barnard Graduation Commencement Online Zoom Covid-19 coronavirus
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