Archive | Columbia University RSS feed for this section

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.


Views of Barnard and Columbia

26 Aug

Trip Report: Barnard and Columbia (Part 2)

26 Aug

Last week I wondered out loud whether the wide disparity in admission rate between Columbia and Barnard Colleges causes any tension between their students.  In other words, does unequal admission rate lead to unequal treatment?

On our Barnard tour, one parent asked the student tour guide this question.  The tour guide, a rising sophomore from New Jersey, acknowledged that initially, she was a little concerned about this.  Barnard and Columbia students participate in the same first year orientation activities and she felt that some Columbia female students regarded her with less respect and prestige.  (She noticed that the male students didn’t seem to care whether she was from Barnard or Columbia).  However, as soon as classes started, any differences disappeared because usually no one can tell whether you are a Barnard or Columbia student.  This issue is also discussed widely online in some of the college forums.

So it appears that Barnard students have to learn how to handle or ignore disparaging remarks or loss of prestige from their Columbia compatriots.  This in itself is an education about life.  One Barnard alumni notes that Barnard successfully turns out women who are confident and who feel that they can accomplish anything.  Those who attend Barnard are usually seeking the experience and value of a women’s college and those who attend Columbia’s liberal arts college are attracted to its strengths like the Core Curriculum.

Differences aside, tuition for either school is expensive.  A year of Barnard tuition, room and board can run you at least $53,496 depending on the type of housing and meal plan selected.  At Columbia, tuition, room and board for 2010-2011 will cost about $53,876.  Housing is guaranteed for all four years at both places.  Both institutions conduct “need-blind” admissions, which means that an applicant’s financial ability to pay is not considered in determining admissions.  In addition, the Columbia admissions officer indicated that they provide financial assistance to foreign students, one of the few universities that do.

Some famous Barnard alumni:

  • Martha Stewart
  • Anna Quindlen
  • Twyla Tharp
  • Joan Rivers
  • Margaret Mead

Some famous Columbia alumni:

  • Barack Obama
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Emanuel Ax
  • George Stephanopoulos

Trip Report: Barnard and Columbia (Part I)

19 Aug

Living so close to New York City, we had to visit Columbia University in the City of New York (that’s the full name of the university) and its affiliated sister school Barnard College, in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan.

Both colleges are literally across the street from each other, the street being Broadway. Architecturally both campuses look similar to each other with neoclassical brick buildings with copper green roofs.  Barnard College occupies four acres on the west side of Broadway starting at 116th Street and Columbia is on the east side, their physical proximity reflecting the yin and yang nature of their relationship.  In the past, women applied only to Barnard, a women’s college and member of the erstwhile Seven Sisters (Vassar became co-ed and Radcliffe merged with Harvard, leaving only five Sisters).  Then Columbia opened its doors to women in the 1980s and now women can apply to either Barnard or Columbia.

I was surprised to learn that Columbia and Barnard are separate entities, each with its own faculty, endowment, and trustees.  Each administers its own admissions process and financial aid.  A long-standing affiliation agreement and historical relationship binds both institutions together to the benefit of students on both sides of Broadway.  Students can cross-register and take classes at either college, eat in each other’s cafeterias, even live in each other’s dorms (although our Barnard guide told us that Barnard has nicer dorms).  Barnard students graduate with a Columbia University degree.

Columbia’s three undergraduate colleges are Columbia College, the liberal arts school, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and for nontraditional students such as returning veterans or older students, the School of General Studies (the average age of a General Studies student is 29).

Each of these schools has its own general education requirements.  Columbia College is best known for its rigorous “Core Curriculum,” a series of required courses like Contemporary Civilization, Literature Humanities, Art Humanities, or Music Humanities.  These courses introduce students to foundational texts in each area.  In Contemporary Civilization for example, students read the Bible, the Greek philosophers, the Koran, the French Enlightenment writers, Marx, Darwin and others.  In Literature Humanities they start with the Greek writers and end with Dostoevsky and Woolf.  The School of General Studies and engineering students take a modified version of the Core Curriculum.

In contrast, Barnard requires its students to select courses arranged around different themes.  For example, to satisfy the “Reason and Value” theme, students can choose from over 90 courses in 15 departments.  Some of these courses can also be used to satisfy a requirement for their major or minor.

Differences in curriculum aside, both Barnard and Columbia are difficult to get into.  Last year Barnard received the most applications in its history and admitted 28%, making it the most popular women’s college.  Columbia’s admission rate dipped to 9% for its class of 2014.  Does the difference in admission rates have any impact on the students on both sides of Broadway?

Stay tuned for Part II of my trip report.

%d bloggers like this: