Community Messages The following email was sent to the Barnard community on April 14, 2019:
Dear Barnard Community,
The past few days have been very distressing for our entire community. The confrontation with a black male Columbia University student and several Barnard public safety officers on April 11, 2019, does not reflect the values of the College; what transpired was unacceptable and antithetical to our mission. I am as deeply troubled by what we witnessed in those videos as you are.
I sincerely apologize to the Columbia student involved and have reached out to him to better understand his experience on campus. I also apologize to the students who witnessed it and were treated disrespectfully, and to all who have felt its impact.
The confrontation puts into stark relief what some members of the Barnard College community, particularly people of color, have been saying about their relationship with the Office of Public Safety and the lack of trust they have in it to keep them safe. We must ensure that public safety officers act equitably toward all and that the community trusts this will occur. That work is now underway, effective immediately.
Since Thursday evening, we have also heard from many members of the Barnard community and beyond. I want to thank those who attended our Friday listening session and those who reached out to share your thoughts and experiences; we welcome any additional thoughts on this critical topic. What has come across is a pervasive sense that racial bias remains pernicious on our campus. In particular, people of color have expressed to me feeling excluded or singled out in campus life, in the classroom, and, yes, in dealings with public safety. I want to say directly that I hear you and am committed to change.
Barnard is about academic excellence, which cannot occur without diversity and an inclusive community where everyone feels welcome and safe. Moving forward, the College has taken, and will continue to take, a number of steps toward that goal – beginning but not ending with a focus on campus security.
First, we promptly placed all of the public safety officers and the supervisor involved on administrative leave pending the outcome of an independent investigation.
Second, an independent firm is being hired to thoroughly investigate everything that happened on April 11, and will issue a report on how and why the situation began and escalated, with recommendations for moving forward. The findings will help us evaluate our Office of Public Safety and will be shared publically.
Third, we are undertaking a thorough review of how all public safety officers and supervisors are trained. Our values demand that all members of our community be treated equally and with respect. All policies must be clear and equitably enforced regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or national origin. While the investigator’s review is underway, these expectations are being reinforced across campus.
Fourth, it is essential that we engage in an honest, ongoing dialogue with students, faculty, and staff about how public