When senior coxswain Rosie Fatt walked onto Barnard’s campus for the first time, she was excited at the prospect of attending a prestigious liberal arts women’s college as well as competing for the women’s rowing team at the Division I level. The Barnard-Columbia Athletics Consortium, ratified in 1983, allows for athletes attending Barnard College to compete on Columbia University teams, and Fatt would participate on the Columbia women’s rowing team as a Barnard student.
When the consortium was originally created, the two schools envisioned a harmony where athletes on all women’s teams would attend Barnard and Columbia at an equal rate.
Yet as of 2017, Fatt was one of a very small percentage of athletes attending Barnard College. Furthermore, with Barnard’s presidential position in flux, little was known as to whether athletics would continue to be part of the Barnard-Columbia intercorporate agreement, threatening the contingent of Barnard athletes.
The small percentage of Barnard athletes was not aided by the fact that there was very little semblance of community present among the Barnard athletes.
“Back in my first few years, I didn’t really know who the athletes were that attended Barnard,” Fatt said. “I always felt close to my teammates, but most of them attended Columbia so it was harder to get to know my peers at Barnard.”
Fatt, yearning to continue competing on the rowing team with her teammates, and also looking to better the current experience for Barnard athletes, advocated on behalf of her peers in numerous meetings with Dean of the College Avis Hinkson, BC ’84, and Barnard admissions staff members Christina Lopez and Sarah Vallancourt, BC ’15.
Fatt hoped to implement lasting change to further integrate Barnard athletes into the greater Columbia Athletics community and was largely successful in doing so, particularly in her senior year.
The critical first step in a long road to improving the relationship between Barnard and Columbia Athletics was solving the pending vacancy of the Barnard president, partially to ensure that Barnard would continue to prioritize athletics.
Enter President Sian Beilock, who competed as an athlete herself while attending UC San Diego and made athletics—and, perhaps more importantly, the athletes themselves—a priority for the new Barnard administration.
“By and large, President Beilock has been really supportive of us,” Fatt said. “And that’s been a really positive change, but there is still more to be done.”
Beilock announced an initiative at an October Student Government Association meeting to formally address the disproportionately low Barnard populations on Columbia athletic teams and similarly met with Fatt and other Barnard athletes to personally hear concerns and make community a priority.
In addition, Barnard social media accounts began creating posts that brought publicity to Barnard athletes. Beilock recently had all of the Barnard athletes over to her nearby house for a dinner to celebrate the athlete’s accomplishments for the year, and connected Barnard athlete alums to current athletes.
For Fatt, who prides herself on having advocated for many Barnard athletes, these efforts by Beilock to bring more community to these athletes demonstrated a clear shift from the precedent, and gave her much optimism going forward.
“I do feel like President Beilock has made a big difference when it comes to Barnard athletes feeling a sense of community,” Fatt noted. “She’s also very relatable since she was an athlete herself, and has made clear that she will prioritize athletics during her time here.”
While Fatt admittedly spends “a lot” of time on the water, she has also found other areas to dedicate her time on campus. Like many of her peers, Fatt has embraced the notion of being well-rounded: a staple of the students who choose to attend Barnard, per her testimony.
Volunteering in the admissions office, Fatt developed a relationship with many admissions administrators, including Lopez and Vallancourt, working hands on to improve the ways in which the admissions department recruits athletes to join Barnard.
Furthermore, as Fatt excelled on the water, coxing the varsity eight boat for the women’s team, she also was inducted into the Columbia Athletics 4.0 GPA club pursuing a double major in American studies and sociology. Finally, she was on the executive committee of the Barnard Senior Fund while serving as a volunteer tutor of the Harlem Clemente Course for the Humanities.
“I honestly don’t know how I balanced everything,” Fatt reflected, “but Barnard allowed me to pursue everything in which I was passionate, and I am very thankful.”
In that way, Fatt is like many Columbia athletes. But perhaps her biggest contribution is a lasting legacy of advocacy that she has left behind for generations of Barnard athletes to come.
“I love my teammates, and that has made my experience here [at Barnard] that much more meaningful,” Fatt said. “I hope that after I leave, Barnard will continue to have athletics and give more of its students the impactful experience that I had.”