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President Obama to Speak at Barnard College

7 Mar

This weekend we were excited to learn that President Obama will be giving the keynote address at Barnard College’s commencement this May. Whether you like the President or not, it’s a coup for the college to land him as speaker. The consensus opinion is that he will be using the occasion to appeal to women and youth voters, two groups that pundits say are necessary to his re-election. Tickets to the graduation have become sizzling hot. For the rest of us, we will have to watch the speech live on Barnard’s website.

The news about President Obama has also publicly exposed simmering tensions between Columbia University and Barnard. I noted in a post from 2010 that some Columbia students believe that Barnard students are inferior to them, either because Barnard ranks lower in national rankings or because Columbia is more difficult to get into (7% acceptance rate for Columbia vs. 25% for Barnard). In reaction to the President choosing to speak at Barnard over Columbia, students have taken to the blogosphere to vent, with many doing so behind the cloak of anonymity.

Some of the comments are downright mean-spirited and have distressed and embarrassed many Columbia and Barnard students and administrators alike. So much so that a Facebook page was formed, calling for all the Columbia schools to come together against the anonymous hurling of insults. The presidents of Barnard and Columbia issued a joint statement saying, “disrespectful comments are not representative of our community.”

It’s heartening to see the Columbia University community speaking out against the nastiness of the exchange and I hope change will occur that addresses the attitudes behind the comments. I always knew that my daughter would receive a fine education at Barnard as she heads there this fall. I just didn’t think that her education would begin right now, as she witnesses this controversy and thinks critically about it for herself.

The Postman Cometh

16 Dec

I heard her running down the hall, her slippered feet slapping against the wooden floor.

“Is the postman here?” I inquired.  But I already knew the answer.

She nodded, her face tense, and we both race to get the mail.  Stuck amongst my copy of Poets & Writers, our local newspaper and junk mail was a priority mail envelope with Barnard College’s return address.  This was it.

She tore open the envelope, took out a black folder with the name of the college printed in large, white letters on the front.  With nervous fingers, she opened the folder and her eyes anxiously scanned the letter:

“Congratulations!  On behalf of the Committee on Admissions, I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to the Barnard College Class of 2016.”   

Screams.  Hugs.  Jumping up and down.  Phone calls to family.  Phone calls to friends who have walked alongside us through this long process.  Email to guidance counselor.  Texts to friends.  No dinner.  Takeout night.  Facebook.  Accepting everyone’s good wishes.  Savoring the moment.

From the start she was attracted to Barnard.  In the middle of the campus tour in August of 2010, she leaned over to me and whispered, “I like this school.”  From then on, every college we visited was compared against Barnard.  She likes the small liberal arts atmosphere of a women’s college with access to Columbia University’s classes, professors, and resources.  The curriculum allows her flexibility to explore different disciplines without having to take required core courses.  The New York City location allows for plenty of opportunities for internships and volunteering.  Columbia University’s Chinese language courses are known to be rigorous and thorough.  For her, it made complete sense to apply early decision.

In case anyone is wondering, I plan to continue with this blog in the new year and write about the rest of the journey from acceptance to matriculation from the point of view of a parent.  I remain fascinated by college admissions and all things higher education, so I hope that you will continue to walk alongside me on this journey.

Thanks, and have a merry Christmas, a happy holiday, and a joyful new year.

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