Why Every Barnard Student Should Read Lean In

by Samantha Plotner

Sheryl Sandberg has gotten a lot of flack since the release of her book Lean In. Beyond all the media hoopla, however, is a book every young woman (and man) should read. Sandberg draws on a combination of personal experience and management research, which makes her book rooted in fact, as well as occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Sandberg faces many of the critiques of her arguments head on (in particular, that her points may leave out non-professional working women) in a way many reviews haven’t given her credit for.

For those of you who have seen her 2011 Barnard commencement address, the book is an expansion of the points she made to that senior class. Sandberg actually credits the experience of giving a commencement speech at Barnard as her inspiration to write Lean In. It is also enlightening to hear about the reactions she received as she started to talk about women’s workplace issues more publicly, and how the sometimes negative reactions she’s received has only reinforced her resolve. She openly admits to not always seeing the problem, in particular when she was our age, when she used to reject calling herself a feminist. In the book, she explains why she didn’t call herself a feminist in college — a rationale very familiar to the reasons I’ve heard from other college-aged women.

For anyone who doubts that there is a problem, Sandberg does pretty quick work of showing that there is, demonstrating both the internal and external barriers women face in the workplace and addressing both throughout the book.

The biggest argument she makes on the internal level uses a phrase from her Barnard commencement address, “don’t leave before you leave.” By this she means don’t start pulling back in anticipation of children way in advance. She illustrates her point with an anecdote about a young female employee who came into her office full of questions about balancing family and work. Thinking the woman was pregnant, Sandberg asked, only to find out she was not even dating anyone and children were years down the line. Sandberg believes the threat of this is that you start scaling back before you need to, leaving you with an unfulfilling job once you return from maternity leave. Sandberg argues that that will make leaving your child even harder. If you don’t have a job that you enjoy or feel challenged in and you have the option to stay at home, you’ll pick being with your child over an unfulfilling position.

The reason I would recommend this book to college men as well is because Sandberg continually argues that men need be involved in the conversation for anything to change. For example, senior men need to make the effort to mentor and support junior women in the same way they do for the young men who remind them of themselves. Most important for the men of our generation is Sandberg’s emphasis on equality in the home. She highlights the persistent problem of the “second shift” where women do more than their share of housework and childcare. For true equality to happen in the workplace, men need to step up at home, and women need to let them.

I strongly recommend every Barnard woman read Lean In. You may not agree with everything Sandberg says but her perspective is enlightening. It is only in reading the entire book that you will understand the complexities of what she is saying, reflecting the complexities of the world we’re entering. She doesn’t sugarcoat the issues, but instead tries to prepare us for the reality of being a professional woman, and the ways in which we can try to make things better for our generation.

Samantha Plotner just graduated from Barnard and was Senior Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing!

Images courtesy of Forbes and Barnard.


Senior Snapshot: Samantha Plotner

The Nine Ways of Knowing has decided to profile some of the amazing women of the class of 2013… and we’re so sad to see them leave!! If you’d like to be featured on the blog or know someone who should definitely be profiled, fill out our tip form or email us at ninewaysofknowing@gmail.com.

Name: Samantha Plotner
Hometown: Great Falls, VA
Major: Political Science and Human Rights Studies

What are you involved in?
This blog! but also CIRCA and ResLife

Guilty pleasure?
Netflix marathons. The West Wing is getting me through finals

Favorite memory from Barnard?
There are a lot! Though if I’m going to be cheesy I’d pick meeting my boyfriend. It was my first CMUNCE (CIRCA’s high school Model UN conference) and we met during midnight crisis (where we get the high schoolers out of their hotel rooms and have them debate in the middle of the night). On the 3am subway ride back, he got a bunch of fellow staffers to sing me happy birthday. He asked me out a little while later and we’ve been together ever since.

Biggest regret of college?
Not studying abroad! My sisters have had such amazing experiences doing it so now I’d wish I’d gotten myself together so I could have done it too.

Biggest leap of faith during college?
Transferring to Barnard from Claremont McKenna College after my freshman year. It was scary to start over but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What will you miss?
Having so many awesome people around me all the time. And New York City! (if I end up moving away)

What won’t you miss?
Living in a residence halls (sorry ResLife!) and not having real weekends

Favorite place on or off campus?
The Highline—it makes New York City look like art.

In 5 words or less, what’s next? full-time employment (fingers crossed)

Midnight breakfast or Orgo Night?
Midnight breakfast! Getting cake from my bosses at ResLife is always fun

If you were a Morningside Heights bar which would you be?
Amigos, because it’s goofy as I am

Who will play you in the biopic of your life?
Emma Watson! (Though she looks nothing like me, but we can pretend)

Finding an Apartment in New York City

by Samantha Plotner

New York City has one of the most difficult-to-navigate rental markets in the country, and probably the most expensive to boot. Whether you are looking for your post-grad bachelorette pad or a summer sublet, here are the steps to figuring it out and the terms you need to know.

Step 1: Will you live alone or with roommates?
Living with roommates will almost definitely save you money or allow you to rent a nicer space. You can either search with a group, or get a room in an apartment that people already live in. If you are trying to become the new roommate in an apartment that’s already occupied, you will probably interview with the current resident(s) to ensure that you’re normal and will fit in. Living alone will likely cost more but if you value privacy or desperately want a space of your own after college residence halls, it could be worth the extra in rent.

Check crime rates: there’s no Public Safety in the real world.

Step 2: Set a budget.
Figure out how much you have at your disposal. Why is this before deciding where? Because budget is the biggest constraint on where you can live in New York City. Ideally you shouldn’t be spending more than a third of your income on housing, though it is easy for that to become a bigger slice of your expenses in New York. Make sure you have also budgeted for the security deposit and a broker’s fee (if you are using a broker, we’ll get into that in number 4). Also make sure you’re prepared for how to furnish your apartment if your new place is unfurnished.

Step 3: Pick neighborhoods.
First, narrow to one or two boroughs. The Bronx, Queens, parts of Brooklyn and upper Manhattan (further north than campus) are less expensive than other parts of Brooklyn (like Park Slope) and the majority of Manhattan. Beyond just cost there are a number of other considerations including safety, transit times and neighborhood attractions such as bars, stores, or parks. The balance of these is going to be very personal; a great tool for ideas are the neighborhood guides on NYMag.com. The section also features a Livability Calculator where you can balance the importance of a number of factors and it spits out a list of neighborhoods to look at. The guides feature everything from a “green rating” to a link to crime reports, and also include the current average rental prices (which can be slightly inflated so don’t get freaked out). However, the guides don’t include every neighborhood in the city so don’t consider them the end all and be all. Another great way to get a sense of neighborhoods is to walk around to get a sense of who and what is there.

Step 4: Start looking.
Browse websites such as StreetEasy and Columbia University’s Off Campus Housing site. Craigslist can also be useful, especially if you are open to be the new person in an already occupied apartment, but use common sense. Decide if you want to use a broker. The benefit is that a broker will guide you through the process (and help you figure out just what paperwork you need) and should be showing you apartments you wouldn’t be able to see without them. The downside is that you have to pay a broker’s fee once you sign your lease, which is typically a month’s rent. If you don’t like your broker, switch. You don’t pay anything until you’ve signed your lease. Finding your place will take some legwork so make sure you’ve blocked out some time.

The world beyond 110th Street.

Step 5: See it in person and have your paperwork ready.
Do not trust the pictures of an apartment you see online. If you’re searching with roommates have at least one person see the apartment in person before you sign. That “cozy” studio may be smaller than an Elliott single. Look for possible damage. Is there mold in the bathroom? Does it smell weird? Is it a weird shape? How is the area around the apartment? A tip I’ve heard is to not rent an apartment on the ground level if there aren’t bars on the windows. Renting an apartment also requires a bunch of paperwork, and the landlord will likely run a credit check on you as well before you sign the lease.

Step 6: Sign your lease!
You found an apartment; you have your lease (or your sublet agreement). Congratulations! However, make sure you read through it entirely before you sign on the dotted line. Does something confuse you? Ask about it. If you are subletting ask to see the lease. Make sure that the person you are subletting from is actually allowed to do so (some leases prohibit it). Satisfied? Get ready to move in!

Terms to Know

Sublet: A sublet is when you lease an apartment from the person currently leasing it, rather than the landlord. Most often it is because someone is moving before the end of their lease, or they will be gone for an extended period of time. Remember, when you sublet your ability to stay in the apartment is dependent on the original renter. So make sure you aren’t trying to stay in the apartment past their lease ending and hope that it is someone who will keep paying the landlord (since you most likely won’t be paying the landlord directly).

Guarantor: Most new graduates will need a guarantor (most often a parent or other relative) on their lease. This person is who your landlord will hold accountable for your rent if for some reason you can’t pay it. They will need the same financial paperwork you do. Even if you have a high-paying position, if you’ve been in it less than six months or even a year the landlord may require a guarantor. Other new graduates will likely need one if your first job is low-paying (typically making less than 40 times your monthly rent).

Railroad apartment: less privacy than a Brooks quad.

Railroad apartment: These are apartments where the bedrooms and the kitchen (and living room if there is one) are all connected, with no doors, so you are all up in each others’ business. It is also likely that the front door opens up into someone’s bedroom.

“Convertible” two bedroom: This refers to an apartment where there is space to create a second (or third, or fourth) bedroom by putting in a temporary wall in either an existing bedroom or in the living space. There are actually companies that exist solely to build convertible walls. The wall may already be in place, or you may have to pay to have it put in. As crazy as this may sound, it’s a fairly common occurrence in the city.

Studio: Think of a studio apartment sort of like your dorm room. You have your living space, a kitchen, and a bedroom with only the bathroom separated from the rest of the apartment. In contrast a true one bedroom will have some sort of separate living room.

Samantha Plotner is a senior at Barnard and Senior Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Safe Tourist, Vos Iz Neias, and gezellig-girl.com.

Why Susan Patton is Wrong

by Samantha Plotner

Honey, I’m sorry, it just isn’t 1955 anymore.

There is a lot to be said about Susan Patton’s letter in The Daily Princetonian that’s lit up the Internet. I’m not going to get into the elitism or that saying what every woman wants is marriage is a grossly hetro-normative. Instead, I’m going to focus on her main point: that once you graduate college you will never find a man “worthy of you.” That, as an educated woman, you can only have a successful relationship with someone whose “education level” is the same or higher than yours not only in degree(s) attained but prestige of the institutions involved. And that if you don’t, you’ll be miserable and alone forever.

Yes, there are certainly some guys out there who would feel threatened by smarter or more-educated woman. But to paraphrase one of the smartest guys I know, guys who measure their self-worth by being more successful than their partners need to get over themselves. (Besides, why would you want to be with someone you considered small-minded anyway?). Most importantly, there is so much more to a relationship than education or intelligence. The combination of factors from sense of humor to physical attraction is what makes two individuals right for each other—not their college’s ranking in US News. The prescription to marry someone who is your intellectual equal cannot possibly cover it. To quote Juno, the man worthy of you will “think the sun shines out your ass.” Where his degree is from means next to nothing about his worthiness. If a fancy degree is such a huge deal to you, then maybe you are the one that needs to go learn something.

“Pursue your dreams in any form, on your own timeline. Don’t let a woman who evidently thinks it’s still 1955 tell you when you need to fulfill them.”

In a follow up letter, Patton says her advice is intended for any young woman whose life-plan “includes bearing children in a traditional marriage.” This is because “if after graduating, you spend the next ten to fifteen years invested only in professional development, you will find yourself in your thirties and may have nothing but your career, limited marriage prospects, and a loudly ticking biological clock.”

Has Patton ever heard of IVF/adoption/anything in the vast field of fertility medicine? And today, a first-time mother in her thirties is so common, it’s not even worth mentioning. Not to mention we are a generation that is wonderful at multi-tasking. We can find love while pursuing our careers; the two are in no way mutually exclusive. In that letter Patton says, “don’t be afraid to want what you want.” Despite its context, I think that’s solid life advice. No woman should be shamed for making the life choices that will make her happy. But that is exactly what Patton is doing—shaming woman for wanting what we want, especially if that something is “untraditional.” Maybe by happy accident you’ll find the person (male or female) you’ll marry in college. Maybe you already know you want kids someday. But contrary to what Susan Patton says, you have time. You don’t need to be married and pregnant before you hit 30. Pursue your dreams in any form, on your own timeline. Don’t let a woman who evidently thinks it’s still 1955 tell you when you need to fulfill them.

Samantha is a senior at Barnard and Senior Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of NY Daily News.

Housing Review: 616 W 116th St.

Check out all our housing reviews from 2013 to learn more about other Barnard residential halls. For reviews on buildings that haven’t been published yet, check out our reviews from 2012.


Looks like 620 but is slightly closer to campus.

4 Singles, 1 Double: 9
3 Singles, 1 Double: 11
2 Doubles, 2 Singles: 16
Find out what rooms are still available.

General Description
The combination of suite-style living and closeness to campus makes 616 a popular choice. You may appreciate the pre-war charm (the building was originally built in 1906) but it hasn’t been renovated since 1962 leading to complaints about things breaking or not working. The lounge has new furniture (and a piano) and there is also a computer lab. The kitchen is your common space unless you get one of the two suites with a common room.

Prices (updated for the 2013-2014 academic year)
Single: $9,800 for the academic year/ $4,900 for one semester
Double: $8,450 for the academic year/$4,225 for one semester
Minimal Meal Plan: $300 per semester

Captioned “My favorite room ever!”

There is one bathroom per suite that you have to clean yourselves. The bathrooms are fine, but there are complaints about the plumbing.

You get a full kitchen with a gas stove/oven, sink and a full size fridge but kitchen size depends on your suite and who you live with, with many reviewers bemoaning their small size. Facilities issues also are frequently aimed at the kitchens, everything from blown fuses to broken ovens.

• The doubles are on the bigger side which could ease some grumbling about living in a double.
• Some rooms have great views or closet space.
• 616 is the center of activity in the 600s since it has the only building lounge.
• Campus is just across the street, meaning you can make it to class on time even if you hit snooze one too many times.
• The computer lab in the lobby makes it easy to print out assignments without having to go back to main campus.

• Room size varies widely within each suite so chose carefully. Some of the singles are incredibly small.
• With the exception of two suites in the whole building, there is no common space aside from the kitchen, which in many suites is too small to be much of a social area.
• Living on the shaft robs you of natural light, and a view, making it hard to tell what time of day it is or what the weather is like.
• The building is old so you’ll have to get used to regularly filing work orders to get this thing or the other fixed.
• There is no AC in the summer – invest in a fan or two.
• 616 is closed the first three weeks of Winter Break – plan accordingly.

• Live on a higher floor and avoid the shaft to get as much natural light into your suite as possible.
• Decide ahead of time who will get the bigger or smaller singles.

Images courtesy of Barnard Residential Life and Room Reviews.

Surviving Room Selection

Check back over spring break for updated housing reviews. To put in your own feedback about your current or past living arrangements, fill out our housing survey.

by Samantha Plotner

If only it was that easy…

Room selection is quickly approaching and, especially in the hurricane of midterm season, choosing where and who to live with is a complicated and sensitive process.

In nearly four years of dorm living, I’ve learned one universal truth: just because you’re friends with someone, doesn’t mean you’ll live well together. Your experience as roommates or suitemates can also vastly depend on where you live. Here’s some advice from a graduating senior and some things to think about while you’re figuring out housing:

Different buildings have different requirements. In suites (600s, Plimpton, 110, CG) you will be responsible for your room, the bathroom, the kitchen, and any other common areas. In hall-style buildings (Hewitt, Elliott, Sulz Tower) the bathrooms and kitchens are cleaned by facilities. Don’t underestimate the conflict that can be caused by not being on the same page about cleaning with your roommate or suitemates. Make sure you’re rooming with people who are on (or around) your level of cleanliness.

Wall thickness varies around campus, so certain buildings are louder than others (hello, Hewitt and Plimpton!). For shared space in a room or suite, talk about noise expectations. Will everyone be quiet in common spaces after a certain time? What about in a shared bedroom? Headphones and use of common lounges could end up being crucial if you’re living with suitemates keep different hours. Additionally, if you value quiet get on a higher floor (it keeps you away from street noise).

Do you want suite common space for socializing? A dishwasher? A TV on your floor? A close walk to campus? Have an open conversation among your potential suitemates about what you all want. Know what your non-negotiable things are (like if you want your own room), but be reasonable. Accept that you and your friends may want different things. If you’re yearning for the dishwasher and apartment style of CG, but your friends want the campus location of Sulz Tower don’t be afraid to split your group. It’s better for everyone to aim for their non-negotiable things than be miserable in a space they really didn’t want. Holding your group hostage to your singular demands isn’t fair.

Next year, all Plimpton suites will have a double

Look Before You Pick
Floor plans can lie to you and it can be hard to get a sense of a building without seeing it in person. Talk to a friend who lives there or go look around. It also particularly helps if looking at the “Burbs” buildings (Plimpton, 110, CG). Going to the building gives you a true sense of their distance from campus. You can also see our building reviews!

Have a Backup Plan (or two)
In a perfect world everyone would get exactly what they wanted, but as housing shifts, (especially with Plimpton suites now all containing one double) finding the exactly situation you want–especially a suite with all singles–particularly will be difficult. What if there’s a five person suite available but six people in your group? Who is willing to live in a double? You can’t plan for every contingency but having these conversations will help you deal with needing to make an on the spot judgement call. These conversations are essential if you’re using a proxy. Make sure that person is 110% sure about what you want.

Samantha is a senior at Barnard and Co-Founder and Senior Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is an RA in Plimpton Hall.

Images courtesy of Barnard ResLife.

Who is Leymah Gbowee?: Background on Barnard’s 2013 Commencement Speaker

by Samantha Plotner

Since Tuesday, Barnard seniors have finally known our commencement speaker and who will be sending us out into the world: Liberian peace activist and 2011 Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee. While Facebook and Twitter may have been more excited (or affronted) about the presence of Lena Dunham, I’m ecstatic that someone who has done so much to bring peace to her country will be addressing my class at Radio City Music Hall.

Leymah Gbowee will speak at
Barnard’s commencement.

First, some context on where Gbowee comes from. Liberia has suffered through two civil wars, the first of which lasted from 1989 to 1996 and resulted in over 20,000 deaths and the rise to power of Charles Taylor. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, it is because last year Taylor was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes by an international judicial body, the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Taylor is often referred to as a warlord and his crimes including the use of child soldiers and terrorizing civilian populations. Opposition to his rule led to the Second Liberian Civil War in 1999 which went on until 2003.

The Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, a peace group founded by our commencement speaker Leymah Gbowee, was key to bringing about an end to the conflict through mass public protests, and even a sex strike. The group contributed to pressuring Charles Taylor to participate in and did all in their power to ensure their success of peace talks that would eventually end the second civil war. The protests included a staged sit-in outside the Presidential Palace in Ghana, in which participants of peace talks were not allowed to leave until they had an agreement. The group has also helped ease tensions between Muslims and Christians in Liberia, and brought Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the presidency. After the success of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Gbowee founded The Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa) with two other African peace activists to promote women’s activism towards peace throughout Africa. She is currently WIPSEN-Africa’s Executive Director.

“We stepped out first and did, the unimaginable… to send out a signal that we, the Liberian women, we are tired of the killing of our people. And we can do it again if we want to.”

Gbowee may not be a household name, but she should be. She saw the horrors happening in her country and mobilized women to change it. Through her work for WIPSEN-Africa she is supporting and inspiring women all across Africa to do what she and her countrywomen did for Liberia. She is a living example of the power of women’s leadership and someone whose courage and dedication to peace can be an example for us all. For these reasons, she is an outstanding choice for 2013 commencement speaker.

To learn more about Leymah Gbowee you can watch the entire PBS documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell online or read an excerpt from her memoir Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War.

Samantha Plotner is a senior at Barnard and Senior Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of Ted Talks.