By Olivia Hull
|Are you woman enough?|
It wasn’t exactly the Columbia student protests of ’68, but it was something. At noon last Thursday, a group of 5 or 6 disgruntled Barnard women held a small demonstration outside the entrance of the Diana building. The protest was in opposition to the new tuition policy announced by Dean Avis Hinkson , BC ’84, in an e-mail sent to the student body on October 5th. The group, led by Barnard juniors Hannah Goldstein and Naomi Roochnik, jumped up and down together, chanting “Stand up to Barnard!” and “Strong, Beautiful, Broke!” They passed out flyers outlining their demands, which included “immediate rescindment of the tuition policy” for all students already enrolled in the college, and “transparent policy-making in the future.” An online petition to redact the policy has 641 signatures.
The Facebook event counted more than 300 students among its attendees, but Roochnik didn’t expect many to show up. “There’s a culture of apathy at this school,” says Naomi Roochnik, who will graduate this year as a result of the modified policy. “People don’t even pretend to care. The most important thing, though, is that at least we tried.” Roochnik says she entered Barnard already planning to attend school part-time in her senior year. “I can’t afford school anymore,” she says. “I have to pay for college this year. My parents already said they couldn’t pay.” She’s disappointed in the way she feels Barnard has “nickel-and-dimed” her at every turn. “Even staying in housing over winter break used to be free, this year it’s $200. And parents have to pay $10 for Parent’s Weekend. I’m tired of being taken advantage of financially by Barnard.” Though she understands that the school has growing financial concerns, she, like many other students, feels the timing of the announcement was inconsiderate. “It’s dishonest, it’s deceitful, it’s just plain greedy,” she says.
“This policy is unfair to those who already have plans,” says Amelia Lembeck, a sophomore at Barnard. “They plan their semesters around taking fewer jobs, and having a job, or an unpaid internship. In those situations, there is no reason you should have to pay full-time.” Although she’s not affected personally, she says many of her friends will be affected. “They just can’t afford eight full semesters.”
Rachel Bronstein, BC’13, wasn’t planning on taking classes part-time either but she says the recent administration move has “lowered my faith in the Barnard community. It has affected the way I see Barnard.” At first, Bronstein says she was confused when she received the e-mail, because it came after students registered for fall classes. “I was shocked when it became clear that they expected us to change our plans,” she says. “It’s a common policy at other schools, but they could have given us some warning.“
Bronstein hopes the protest and petition will make an impression on the administration. “My hope is that they didn’t realize the effect that it would have on students,” she says. “To her credit, Dean Hinkson has seemed somewhat open to criticism. She thought it would affect only 20-50 students (the estimated number of students who take classes part time per semester). But it really affects the whole community. Most people know at least someone who will be affected by the change. In general it makes me feel like I’m valued more for the check I give Barnard than for my presence here.”
“Barnard isn’t showing that they care for students as students, but rather as people who can pay,” says Vanessa Thill, BC’13. Thill, who has been very involved in the Stand Up movement, says she hopes their demands will be heard. “It’s not meant to be antagonistic, but someone needs to stand up,” she says. “Taking from how they reacted to the outrage over the meal plan changes, I think they will listen. Barnard students are known as the movers and the shakers. They should expect us to fight back.”
Olivia Hull is a sophomore at Barnard and a Staff Writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.