Barnard’s Student Government Association has formed a council to advise a top administrator on financial policy in response to a perceived lack of transparency.
Last semester, Barnard administrators introduced a policy requiring students to pay full-time enrollment fees for all four years of college, ending a practice that allowed part-time students to pay part-time tuition. The change was met with widespread student opposition, in large part because students said they were not consulted on the decision.
Six students will sit on the Financial Advisory Council and offer input to Barnard Chief Operating Officer Greg Brown.
“I need to hear from the students what issues relative to the finance of the college are important to them, and they need to hear from me what I think is going on with the college so there is greater transparency,” Brown said.
Naomi Cooper, BC ’12 and SGA’s vice president of finance, said she hopes the FAC will serve as a “sounding board for decisions that the college is going to make.”
Cooper said she approached Brown after an SGA town hall in November during which members of Occupy Columbia University expressed discontent with the administration’s decision.
Rachel Ferrari, BC ’13 and vice president of student government for SGA, said that she hopes the council’s existence will make students more accepting of future policy changes.
“We want them to receive it better than how the enrollment policy was received, because I think that’s still on people’s minds,” said Ferrari, who is a member of the council.
Brown said he doesn’t want students to feel left in the dark about administrative decisions.
“Sometimes a decision gets made and students feel like they weren’t part of the conversation. And this is hopefully going to stop that,” Brown said.
At the council’s first meeting last week, Brown explained how Barnard’s budget is allocated and how student tuition money is used. One of the major issues the group will tackle this semester is financial aid.
“Financial aid is really a key issue for me and one that I have a lot of expertise in, but I need to understand from students what it’s actually like going through Barnard,” Brown said. “It’s that kind of thing where having the conversation makes for better administrative decisions.”
The council, which was formed at the end of January, is scheduled to meet four more times this semester. It is composed of two first-years, one sophomore, two juniors, and one senior, as well as a mix of council and non-council members.
“I know that we have students that will actually be involved next year,” Brown said. “What we’re trying to do is actually build a mechanism that’s more permanent.”
Ferrari said she found it “very touching” that Brown is taking student input into consideration before making financial decisions.
The first meeting “was pretty vanilla, but it set the stage for what should be really candid discussions with him,” Ferrari said. “I think he wants us to be honest with him so there’s no confusion when something is announced.”