By Sarah Lipkis
|Was it just the smoke from the BBQ,
or did something else hang over
the celebrations of Founder’s Day?
On Wednesday October 5th, 2011, an e-mail regarding Barnard’s new enrollment policy was sent to the entire student body from Dean Avis Hinkson. In the e-mail, Hinkson wrote that beginning with the Fall 2012 semester, all “students will be required to pay full-time [tuition] fees” for all subsequent semesters, regardless of students’ decisions to either graduate early or take fewer than twelve credits. The message went on to explain that even though many students will now be forced to rethink their academic plans, “Barnard has always been a four-year college with a strong commitment to community and, as such, we believe that it is in the academic interest of all of our students to spread required credits over the total number of enrolled semesters.” Student response to the new policy, however, has been largely negative.
Students who intend to graduate early or become a part-time student (most often for senior year) will be required to still pay the full cost of tuition. For many, the decision to graduate early or enroll as part-time students to accommodate jobs or internships is financially motivated. Many Barnard students have expressed that regulations requiring a student to pay for classes she is not taking, or forcing her to take more classes than is necessary to graduate, are unfair and should not be tolerated.
Along with the overall resentment of the policy, many students are skeptical about the true reasons for its implementation. Students acknowledge that Barnard needs to raise capital, but are distraught by the fact that the administration is putting the pressure on students’ academic plans, as well as their wallets. One junior, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I think it’s outrageous. The financial responsibilities of the school should not be the students’ responsibility.” Students went on to elaborate that the seemingly nonchalant nature of the e-mail almost suggested an attempt by the administration to gloss over the policy change by simply saying it’s for the best option for the community.
Barnard currently has around 2% part-time enrollment. Although it is not unusual for small liberal arts colleges to require full-time enrollment, this deviates strongly from Barnard’s fantastic reputation for helping students obtain promising internships and jobs through its acclaimed Career Development program, as well as an impression Barnard’s current students had upon their initial enrollment. While, statistically speaking, the administration may be rescinding a privilege that was not significant to the student body at large, it is clear that the reason behind doing so has much to do with how Barnard finances affect rankings.
Upon receiving the e-mail regarding the new full-enrollment policy, Thea Briggs, a junior who is currently studying abroad, decided to make her feelings known through a petition calling for the Bursars Office to redact the new full-time fee policy. Thea emailed the petition to her classmates at Barnard and asked them for their support. When asked why she started the petition, Thea answered, “The petition needed to go up, because Barnard needs to remember the difference between right and wrong.” She elaborated that there needs to be a better plan, one that looks at the fundraising system, and addresses why Barnard does not have enough money in the first place. Thea emphasized that a solution needs to be found which will not place the burden on students who have already started college or are nearly done. Thea believes that it is important for all Barnard students to sign the petition because:
They tell us to walk home together at night, because there is safety in numbers—this is the same thing. Some students take full-time semesters their entire college careers, others don’t. Some families have the means to pay, regardless of policy changes such as this, others do not. The point is not which group you fall into, the point is that there are others in our community who are getting screwed by this policy. Signing the petition proves that we are not apathetic young people, who whine on Facebook while letting other Barnard women fall. We are strong, beautiful Barnard women: we protect each other.
It is Thea’s hope that the policy will be redacted through the petition, and if not completely redacted, then not applicable to current Barnard students.
Barnard students also plan to voice their opinions at an student-organized event called “Stand Up to Barnard,” at 12pm on Thursday on Lehman Lawn.
Sarah Lipkis is a junior at Barnard and Photography Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.