So What’s the Deal??: Columbia-Barnard Relations (1979-1983)

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Graphic by Stephanie Mannheim and Cleo Levin

To Merge or not to Merge?

In the 1880s, the president of Columbia, Fredrick A.P. Barnard, argued for the admission of women to Columbia University. When his efforts were unsuccessful, Annie Nathan Meyer, a self-educated scholar, took up his cause and petitioned the University for an independent liberal arts college for women connected to Columbia. In 1889, Barnard College was founded.

Eighty years into Barnard’s existence, both Barnard and Columbia agreed that the schools needed to reassess their relationship. The politically radical atmosphere of the 1960s had made students at both colleges question the continuing relevancy of a single-sex education, and Barnard feminists began to think of separate curricula as discriminatory. The Columbia administration also had qualms about the relationship between the schools, but for different reasons. Beginning in the 1960s, Columbia had been struggling financially and began to examine Barnard as a place to cut costs. In reaction to the discontent from both the student bodies and the Columbia administration, the Committees on Instruction established the Barnard College-Columbia College Joint Committee on Cooperation in April 1969. Student senators and members of select academic departments came together to discuss the possibilities for increased collaboration.

Fluid enrollment?

The Joint Committee on Cooperation saw the main difference between the two institutions existing in their academic goals. They stated that Columbia’s general education program “makes available to students a wide range of intellectual experience” while Barnard’s emphasis was on “the flexibility of the program, with a minimal distribution requirement, the possibility of early specialization, and a number of interdisciplinary programs.”  The Committee suggested that both schools maintain their present corporate identities, with Barnard admitting only women and Columbia admitting only men, but allowing the students to complete the academic program of either college.

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Barnard and Columbia students protest in Morningside Heights, 1972

One academic enterprise?

The Columbia administrators had different ideas about collaboration. The dean of the graduate faculties, George Fraenkel, had been recruited to work on merging Columbia’s constituent colleges to cut costs. Fraenkel found that Barnard had not been paying enough for the numbers of students enrolled in Columbia courses. Nor were they paying for facilities, namely Barnard’s use of Columbia’s research library. Rather than preserving the school’s separate curricula, Fraenkel’s focus was on eliminating inefficiency in redundant course offerings. He sent letters to various departments in 1976 encouraging them to create “V” courses, joint-listings between Barnard and Columbia. Ultimately, Fraenkel saw the school’s academic programs merging; he wrote to Columbia President William McGill that there should be “one academic enterprise with one set of co-educational courses, one curriculum, one set of departments and one faculty.” The separation between the colleges would remain in finances, admissions, and extra-curricular activities.

“Small Barnard” retains its autonomy and Columbia goes Co-Ed

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Barnard-Columbia Dance 1942

In 1969, Princeton and Yale began admitting women, and Columbia’s peer institutions steadily followed suit. By the mid-60s, Columbia had already begun experiencing difficulties getting their pick of applicants, and, as other schools began to go co-ed, the quality of the Columbia applicants began to drop even further. Columbia was not only losing the potential for strong female students, but also the male applicants who would now choose to attend a co-ed institution. Admitting qualified females would increase the Columbia applicant pool and eliminate the problem of considering the less qualified males that had been applying. Yet, McGill held off, hoping to make Columbia more co-educational with Barnard. Columbia administrators felt certain that accepting women would eliminate their sister school, and they wanted to prevent the bad blood and bad press that would accompany this decision.

When Ellen Futter assumed the Barnard presidency in the 1980, she encountered faculty and trustees divided over whether to merge with Columbia. Though there was a small contingency who prized the relationship with Columbia over Barnard’s personal agenda, the majority continued to champion “small Barnard” and women’s education. It became clear in the spring of 1981 that it would not be possible to reach a compromise between Barnard and Columbia’s values. The Columbia trustees voted to admit women to Columbia in May 1981, and women were able to enroll at the university starting in 1983.

Barnard Today

In the years after Columbia’s decision to admit women, Barnard struggled. There was skepticism from both institutions on what role Barnard would play after Columbia went co-ed. In 1983, of the women admitted to both Barnard and Columbia, 90% chose to go to Columbia. Even worse, as the women’s movement encouraged universities to hire more female faculty, many professors from Barnard were courted by rival schools like Princeton and City University.

Yet, the faculty and administration have been steadily working to cultivate this small women’s liberal arts college, and the school can now uphold the values that Ellen Futter and the Barnard faculty fought for in 1980. Today, Barnard represents a wholly different experience for students from Columbia or other co-ed institutions. Sixty-five percent of faculty at Barnard are women, and students at the college have access to opportunities like the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. Barnard now represents a distinct and essential place among American colleges.

-Cleo Levin ’14

(With the consultation of Stand, Columbia by Robert A. McCaughey and Changing the Subject: How the Women of Columbia Shaped the Way We Think About Sex and Politics by Rosalind Rosenberg)

 

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Smoking at Barnard

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Source: 1943 Barnard Mortarboard

While cigarettes might seem to be everywhere in New York City, it only takes a look into the past to see how far we’ve come in our collective smoking habits. Barnard is no exception.

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A heartwarming family affair. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Until April 1924, no smoking restrictions existed on Barnard’s campus. Dean Gildersleeve cited “[a] serious danger of fire caused by careless smoking by guests at certain recent social functions” as a reason for instituting a ban in select locations—Milbank, Brinckerhoff, and Fiske Halls were off-limits—and subsequent student handbooks continued to stress this notion of fire safety. However, it appeared that students routinely ignored any restrictions, smoking wherever they pleased, as The Barnard Bulletin had to regularly remind students of the rules. Over the following years, cigarettes remained a staple of Barnard life. A 1941 yearbook listed the most important locations for students as “Jake [the nickname for a popular meeting place in Barnard Hall at the time], library, tea room, lunch room, and smoking room”. The Barnard Bulletin and Barnard Alumnae Magazine, two of the school’s most prominent publications, also regularly ran cigarette advertisements. One Bulletin ad from 1936 claimed that smoking Camels aided digestion, an assertion that sounds laughable today, though it wasn’t much of a stretch from the many endorsements from athletes that also appeared on those pages. Alumnae Magazine ads were extravagant, full-page and full-color affairs, containing portraits of soldiers, happy families, and even Santa Claus enjoying Camel and Chesterfield cigarettes.

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Ho, ho, ho! Pass the cigarettes!

Among students, one staple of this time period was the smoking room, where students gathered to study, play cards, chat, and—of course—smoke cigarettes. In an informal 1942 Bulletin survey, one student noted, “an hour a day is my average in Barnard’s dissipation room”. Another, when asked how much time she spent in the smoking room, simply replied, “Too much”. When, in 1926, the smoking room was closed for a week, The Barnard Bulletin noted that “there has been enough violent comment to show that the need for the inevitable [cigarette] is nothing to be reckoned with lightly”. The room quickly reopened after that incident. As the decades wore on and public attitudes toward cigarettes changed, restrictions on smoking became more of a matter of health than of avoiding fires. Smoke-outs, where students were taught about the dangers of cigarettes, were held on Barnard’s campus, while many Barnard students campaigned for tighter restrictions on smoking throughout the 1980s and 1990s as a means of respecting non-smokers. Wrote Ava Chien in 1981, “Everyone, even smokers, is entitled to clean indoor air”. Many students favored the McIntosh Student Center’s complete smoking ban in 1995. Still, 26 percent of Barnard students continued to smoke in 1994, according to a Barnard Health Services poll. By the time I arrived at Barnard in 2010, smoking was limited to only two locations, both outdoors. Following a 2011 ban on smoking within the school’s campus, students now huddle outside the Barnard gates before lighting their cigarettes. While a smoking culture continues to exist at Barnard to an extent, shifts in public opinion have led to a much different environment from afternoons spent in the smoking room in decades past. -Stephanie Mannheim, BC ’14