Leaders Grapple With Barnard-Columbia Relationship

The Student Government Association wants to change the way you think about Barnard before you even arrive on campus.

SGA teamed up with Barnard’s Communications Group at the beginning of the 2007-2008 academic year to create a brochure for incoming students at all four of the University’s undergraduate schools. The pamphlet was designed to explain how the various schools benefit one another, and includes the history of Barnard, facts about its independence, and statistics, such as how many students cross-register for classes between Barnard and Columbia College.

But the Barnard, CC, and School of Engineering and Applied Science student councils are struggling to decide how best to distribute the brochure. While SGA would like to include it in admissions packets, the Columbia College Student Council and the Engineering Student Council would rather send it out in June or August with mailings relating to the University-wide New Student Orientation Program.

During Days on Campus, some prospective students see the Varsity Show, with all its jokes about ditzy Barnard girls. By sending the informational materials out early, SGA president Laura Stoffel, BC ’08, hopes to change the tone of the conversation about interschool relationships before such preconceived notions can be formed.

“The mission was to get them [prospective students] something ... so that they would not be tainted by any preconceptions about the school,” Stoffel said.

CCSC president Michelle Diamond, CC ’08, argued against including the brochures in admissions mailings.

“The congratulations letter is not an appropriate place for the Barnard-Columbia relationship,” Diamond said. Instead, she proposed distributing the pamphlets in the folders new students are given when they arrive on campus for orientation.

“I’ve heard SGA make the argument that NSOP is too late,” Diamond said. “For me, I think during orientation week is really when the confusion starts.”

The brochures were included in all of Barnard’s mailings this year, but the Columbia administration has not yet signed off on them. ESC president Liz Strauss, SEAS ’08, brought the brochures to the Columbia admissions office within the past month, and officials there said they needed more information before they would consider including them in a mailing.

While Strauss said she supports distributing the brochures in the June admitted students mailings, she expressed some concern about their content.

While the pamphlet is being marketed as discussing Columbia and Barnard equally, Strauss said, it only lists statistics on Barnard class sizes and faculty quality.

“This [the brochure] really is more Barnard-focused,” Strauss said. “I would like it to reflect that these facts are true of all the schools.”

She added that she did not see a draft of the brochure before it was printed.
But since SGA has already printed enough copies for every admitted student—they have 3,000 extra copies after allotting one for every Barnard student—Strauss said she would agree to distribute the brochures as they stand, but would work to revise them for future printings.

Kevin Shollenberger, associate dean of student affairs for CC and SEAS, would not comment on the brochures specifically, but wrote in an e-mail that CC, SEAS, and Barnard student affairs offices work together to offer “joint orientation programming for entering students which emphasizes the uniqueness of each school and the curricular and cocurricular community we share.”

SGA also advocates reforms that would better integrate the four undergraduate schools’ different orientation programs. One of the changes SGA hopes to see is a buddy system that would pair orientation groups—which are school-specific—with groups from other schools. It has also called for campus-wide tours that would highlight the advantages of both Barnard and Columbia.

SGA will meet with NSOP leaders later this month to discuss implementing these proposals.

In the meantime, Stoffel and other student leaders will continue to push for the inclusion of the brochure in admissions mailings.

“There’s absolutely no reason why this can’t be done,” Stoffel said. “The question is, will they [the student councils] take the initiative to see the project through?”

amanda.erickson@columbiaspectator.com

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