9. Barnard Rising

November 2017– This chapter encompassing the 13-year Futter Presidency
[Currently 7300 words]


9.  Barnard Rising

I chose to use the crisis to get the Barnard quality story out.
— Ellen V. Futter (2015)

  1. Touching Bottom
    2. The Children’s Crusade: Ellen V. Futter Presidency
    3. Columbia Rules
    4. Whistling Past the Graveyard
    5. Betting the Ranch
    6. A Faculty Empowered
    7. Students Centennial and Millennial

Intro saying something about Barnard, , after hitting bottom in 1980, effecting a turnaround in the ensuing Futter presidency  

  1. Touching Bottom — Barnard in Summer of 1980

    Board had terminated last two presidents in 5 years
    College In decade-long negotiations with increasingly impatient CU
    New CU president who wanted the issues surrounding Barnard resolved quickly
    Faculty fidgety – salary-parity assurances  out with JAM; tenure controversies
    Students – angry about absence of on-campus housing; steep tuition/room hikes; larger classes
    NYC – Recent brush with bankruptcy; perceived as dangerous, uninviting to students….

Data points:
Admissions: accepting 60% of applicants  — women’s colleges with declining market/appeal
Finances: annual budgets balanced of late only by increasing enrollments to non-sustainable level
1980=81 — $20 million budget/$2.6 million in financial aid
Endowment flat – at $20,000,000
Fundraising – In limbo with uncertain future; possible absorption
Borrowing capacity at outer limits

Board strategy – Delay CU from pulling the trigger for as long as possible…
Don’t be unnecessarily confrontational; but don’t give away the store either
Current X-registration arrangements by which BC tuition income transferred to CU to cover its instruction of BC students –costly
And rendered  BC faculty redundant
“De Facto” co-education at CC would require even more of this flow,,,,

Columbia not going to wait any longer:
Merger of faculties not happening as per Fraenkel  plan
CC adamant on wanting its own female students – not Barnard’s on a rental basis
Ron Breslow Report – April 1981 —
Could BC survive CC going co-ed? Yes
Could CC flourish without going co-ed?  No


Notion of de facto coeducation at CC – numbers couldn’t support it; too much drainage from BC to CC


  1. Children’s Crusade

      After a decade of tense  relations with  Columbia – and their termination of two presidents,  both seasoned academic administrators – the Barnard trustees turned to one of their own to play out what some took to be the College’s endgame.  Their doing so was in itself a departure from nearly all past precedent. In 1900, between Deans James and Gill, in 1907, between Gill and Gildersleeve, in 1930-31 during Gildersleeve’s sick leave and during her wartime absences, and as recently  as  1975, between Peterson and Mattfeld the trustees had put a faculty member into the breach. The only exception was in 1946, upon Gildersleeve’s retirement, when trustee-chairman elect  Helen Rogers Reid filled in as acting dean (chairing faculty meetings with her trademark hat on) . Finding someone conversant with the issues and available on short notice  to serve as acting president took some weeks but on July 10 the trustees announced the results of their internal search.

The appointment of Ellen V. Futter as acting president, two months shy of her 30th birthday,  surprised  everyone outside the  Barnard board – and quite possibly some within. Faculty representatives to the board learned of her selection in The New York Times.

Futter’s youth  was only part of what made the appointment unusual.  Although a Barnard graduate, she had been a transfer, arriving after two years attending the Integrated Liberal Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin. (Her home in Port Washington rendered her ineligible for first-year housing at Barnard.).Her professional training was in the law and her occupational experience was as an associate in one of New York’s largest and most prestigious firms, Milbank, Tweed and Hadley, where she was a corporate attorney. Whereas Barnard’s four previous heads had all been academics with  extensive administrative and/or  teaching experience, she brought neither to her new job.  [The only previous non-academic was  Laura Drake Gill. Not reassuring.] The post was defined as “acting,” with the explicit understanding that Futter would return to Milbank, Tweed within a year upon Barnard finding a permanent president. This assurance  did little to allay the immediate concern among some faculty and alumnae that the trustees  had acted precipitately, if not in panic. The appointee later recalled  her selection being likened in some quarters to the desperate launching  of “a children’s crusade.”

In hindsight, the appointment is easier to understand. The leadership  vacuum created by Mattfeld’s departure could not wait on a national search; it had to be filled quickly. But who would take the job on the fly was another concern. This called for  someone  on the scene,  readily available and conversant with the issues.  Mattfeld’s dean of the faculty, Charles S. Olton, was still relatively new to the Barnard community, was not tenured, and had barely escaped being fired along with his boss.   Someone might conceivably have been drawn from the senior faculty,  but none was sufficiently  informed of the issues or had the confidence  of the board.  And because  faculty were so divided over both the firing Mattfeld — 70  members had signed a petition decrying it —  and the proper approach to Columbia,  the appointment of one of them might only exacerbate the all too obvious faculty discord.

Thus, from the perspective of the trustees, turning to one of their own to serve as acting president seemed a more attractive alternative. In Futter’s case, a leave of absence from Milbank, Tweed, a firm with many links to the Barnard board,  could be arranged without jeopardizing her prospects for a partnership.  At the same time, Futter’s  youth was not the liability that some outsiders saw it to be. It might make  her relations with  students easier, not an insignificant factor considering the frayed relations between Mattfeld and student leaders during her last months. That students might see her as an older sister rather than someone at one- or two- generation remove had its potential advantages. So did the newsworthiness of an elite Seven Sisters college entrusting it presidency to one of its graduates two years short of her tenth reunion.  Faculty who had taught her a decade earlier were prepared to certify both her abilities and her being one of the grown ups.

Futter’s youth was also misleading in so far as it implied an absence of relevant experience. Of all her predecessors only Virginia Gildesleeve, who became  dean at 34,  brought as much local and institutional  knowledge to the job.  Like Gildersleeve,  Futter was a New Yorker, born in the City (September 21, 1949) and raised in Port Washington,  a near suburb on the north shore of Long Island. Her father Victor was a graduate of Columbia College (1939) and Columbia Law School (1942), and a respected member of the New York bar. He was also an active Columbia alumnus and had served as president of the Columbia College Alumni Association.  Futter’s  mother was a middle-school librarian and her grandmother had been a graduate of Teachers College and friend of Sarah Butler (Barnard 1915), the only daughter of Nicholas Murray Butler.   Again, like Gildersleeve,  Futter was a Barnard graduate (1971), magna cum laude, and student leader.   She was also a graduate of Columbia’s law school, where Michael I. Sovern, who became  Columbia’s 17th president two weeks before her appointment as Barnard’s acting president, had been her dean.
Where Futter’s prior experience exceeded that of Gildersleeve was her eight years  as a member of the Barnard board of trustees. Appointed in 1972 at age 22 to fill the vacated seat of Arthur Goldberg upon his appointment to the Supreme Court,  having earlier served two years  as the board’s third non-voting  student representative, she soon became a junior member of the inner circle of trustees,  consisting of trustee veteran Eleanor Elliott, the newly appointed William Golden, Arthur Altschul  and Helene Kaplan, plus the ex-president of the University of Rhode Island Frank Newman and the banker Dale Horowitz, who joined the board in 1977. Together they shaped board policy with respect to Columbia in the late 1970s and,  although  without Futter’s involvement,  effected Mattfeld’s resignation. So, to the extent that the Board saw Barnard’s fate as an autonomous college affiliated with Columbia University in its hands,  giving the ball to its youngest member  made  eminent sense.      

  1. Columbia Rules

“Barnard did not decide to terminate these discussions.
The decision was not for Barnard to make.”
— Ellen V. Futter, January 25,  1982

For his part, the newly installed Columbia president Michael I. Sovern made known his intention to settle  quickly the inherited co-educational issue and get on to his own agenda. Still not ready to risk the public relations fall-out from implementing the plan favored by Hamilton Hall – that Columbia immediately admit women and good luck to Barnard – he proposed to Futter a less radical alternative:  that Barnard and Columbia take steps to assure that Columbia classes would have the same proportion of women students as the other Ivies, with those women coming from Barnard. Predictably,  a plan devised by two lawyers and set to be monitored by a third, came with its own  label,   “de facto co-education.” It was to go into effect for the 1981-82 fall term.

The acting president’s charge was straightforward: come to an agreement with Columbia that secured Barnard’s autonomy without losing its affiliation in the University. Both the Barnard board and its acting president knew that Columbia could at any point, with a year’s notice, terminate the 1900 intercorporate agreement and begin admitting  women to the College.  This was  precisely what the Columbia College dean Arnold Collery (as had his three predecessors)  argued for, along with a segment of the Columbia faculty identified with the College.  As Columbia College Dean of Studies Roger Lehecka  put the situation, Columbia College was unable to compete with its Ivy peers  because of  Barnard’s  exclusive right to admit women undergraduates.  Columbia was being “held hostage.”

For his part, Sovern was alert to the possible costs of moving unilaterally. He recalled in his 2014 memoir a disinclination to go down in history as  ”The Butcher of Barnard.” As with many Columbia professors before co-education, one of his daughters was a Barnard alumna. There was also concern that Barnard alumnae and donors would not take kindly to Columbia acting in its own self-interest and hanging Barnard out to dry. The Columbia community had its Barnard loyalists, ex-provost William Theodore deBary, whose wife and three daughters were Barnard alumnae, among them. Similarly, the wider feminist community would be certain to see any adverse effect on Barnard of a Columbia action another instance of male chauvinism. In October, at a forum sponsored by Lesbians at Barnard (LAB),   80 Barnard students signed a petition, “Women Against Merger.”
What “de facto co-education” required of Barnard was a restructuring of its requirements so that its students would take more classes at Columbia, including those in the College’s  core curriculum, thereby assuring a level of co-education at Columbia comparable to that of its Ivy peers. Negotiations with Co-Provost Fritz Stern through the first several months of the Futter acting presidency came close to achieving such an arrangement, one  that would be overseen for  Barnard’s compliance by a third party, Columbia law school professor  Albert Rosenthal,  who was acceptable to both Sovern and Futter.   Other  parts of the proposed package involved Barnard faculty teaching in the Columbia core curriculum,  Barnard students eligible to play on Columbia’s NCAA Title I  athletic teams, and students of both Barnard and Columbia  having the option of meeting  the major requirements of either  school. There seemed that spring a fair prospect that a deal could be reached allowing  Barnard to retain both its autonomy and its Columbia  affiliation, without Columbia College admitting women. In the spring of 1981 some Barnard faculty began brushing up on the classics that were the required  fare of Columbia College’s core curriculum, in the expectation that they might be called upon to help staff it.

In April 1981, the Barnard trustees announced that they had terminated  the 9-month national search for president and  offered the job to acting president Futter. She accepted, conditioned upon the search committee discussing its decision with Barnard’s senior faculty and securing their endorsement.  When it was immediately forthcoming, Futter became Barnard’s 9th academic leader and 5th president.  (And yes, at 32, still its youngest ever leader.) President Sovern applauded the appointment.  Surely some of the confidence the search committee, board, senior faculty,  and the incumbent had in the appointment flowed from what appeared to be the propitious state of the inter-institutional negotiations and the imminence of their successful outcome.

Not so fast. In 1980, the new dean of Columbia College, Arnold Collery  commissioned a committee of faculty affiliated with the College to assess its situation.  Ronald Breslow, professor of chemistry, was named its chair.  Its report appeared in April 1981.  “The Breslow Report” was not the first  to emanate from Hamilton Hall making the case for the College admitting women. Others dated back to the deanship of Carl Hovde, while a subsequent unauthorized statement of the case had cost Dean Peter Pouncey his job. Reports issued in 1978 and 1980 by committees chaired  by  Professor of history Eugene Rice and Professor of Physics  Gerald Feinberg,  if more discreetly, made much the same case. The view from Hamilton Hall summarizing the Feinberg Report and its accompanying survey, which reported that 82% of  Columbia College respondents found their single-sex situation depressing.: “It’s not Barnard’s existence that anyone attacks; it’s the fact that the existence prevents a decent social life.”

What distinguished the Breslow Report from its predecessors and helps account for its game-changing impact was the categorical answers it gave to two principal questions:

1. Q: Could Columbia College restore its place as a highly selective Ivy without moving immediately to
admit women?
A:  No.

  1. Q: Could Barnard survive were Columbia College to admit women?
    A:   Yes.

In defending the first conclusion, Breslow and his committee went well beyond earlier descriptions of the College’s slippage to portray it on the cusp of an irreversible decline.  All prospects of increasing  applications and enrollments turned on its doubling the size of  its recruitment pool by opening its doors to women. Perhaps still more revealing was the report’s tying any plans to replace the bottom quarter of its recent  all-male acceptances with more qualified women by moving as quickly as possible to a student body of half women, half men.

Unstated but generally assumed was that the  “bottom quarter” of the College student body, the smallest in the Ivy League, contained a disproportionately high  percentage of recruited athletes required  to field the  25 teams mandated by Columbia’s status as an NCAA Title I school.  A third or more of Columbia admits in 1980 were athletes. Football alone required the recruitment of 50 potential players a year. Without becoming bigger, the Breslow Report concluded the College could not get better, and both depended on recruiting its own women.  Otherwise, given the projected 17% drop in the applicant pool in the 1980s due to a shrinkage of the college-age population that resulted from a drop in births in the late 1960s, the College would be forced to become even less selective to maintain  current enrollment levels.

The Breslow committee came by its second finding by taking some of Barnard’s own upbeat public projections at face value. Thus, when President Mattfeld assured Barnard alumnae in the spring of 1979 that Barnard “was without peer,” this exercise in whistling-by-the-graveyard was cited as proof of Barnard’s long-term viability. The Report’s overall message: Columbia College needed to do what was in its institutional interest , which was to admit women, leaving to Barnard to sort out its own  future.

Negotiations between Barnard and Columbia on how to implement de facto co-education for the College  continued into the  late summer of 1981, but were suspended for three weeks in August when  President Futter  experienced complications with her first pregnancy. Both President Sovern and Co-Provost Stern had pressed  for a quick agreement that could be communicated at the first meeting of the University Senate in September.  Futter took another break from the discussions in late October to give birth to her daughter Victoria. The clock kept ticking. At one point late that fall, a Columbia staffer told Barnard Dean of Studies Barbara Schmitter that Barnard had two weeks left to commit to the de facto co-education plan or to see Columbia College given the green light by the trustees  to admit women.

Meanwhile, Barnard staffers, along with consultants from Peat, Marwick, were developing various models  for what achieving co-educational levels of 40% in Columbia classrooms meant for Barnard.  [The finance VP McBride had decamped in February to take a job with CARE.] All involved assumed it would require a substantially larger number of Barnard students  taking classes at Columbia,  with a correspondingly larger amount of Barnard tuition income being transferred to Columbia.  But how many  more students would be crossing Broadway and at how much more tuition income would be going with them?  One scenario, after taking into account that Barnard enrolled 400 fewer students than did the College, that to achieve  40% co-education at Columbia would require 79% of all Barnard registrations going there.

Here the available historical record is unclear and interviews inconclusive. But in a seven-page  letter to President Sovern  on November 16, 1981, in which she cited the 40%/79% scenario, President Futter signaled that adoption  of the de facto co-education plan represented  for Barnard was unacceptable and called for more discussion.

Time’s up. At a meeting of the Columbia board of trustees in early December, President Sovern was  given authority, upon informing Barnard, to make plans to admit women into Columbia College in the fall of 1983. Co-provost Fritz Stern was delegated to so inform President Futter, which he did – “the winds have changed” – in late December. The other Columbia negotiator, co-provost Peter Likins, who was already slated to leave Columbia to become president of Lehigh University, later succinctly stated  (and in  impressively neutral language) why Barnard  could not accept the de facto plan: “Because they would end up with most of their students taking courses on this side of the street most of the time.” Without disagreeing, Futter put the outcome  differently.  “Columbia changed its mind,” she stated in a 2015 interview. “They walked away from a deal-well-along-in-the-making.” As for the  need to send so much of Barnard’s tuition income to Columbia: “We were prepared to figure how to do that.”

Then followed discussions between the trustees of the two institutions, which one Barnard participant remembers as “very difficult.” The Barnard team, sensing  they were the target of a “hostile takeover,” augmented their ranks by the inclusion of Joseph Flom, the famed mergers-and-acquisitions attorney  and subsequent trustee.  The upshot of these discussions was a two-part agreement:

— Barnard would accept a change in the intercorporate agreement  allowing Columbia College
to admit women in the fall of 1983;

— Columbia would accept an alteration in the standing  Ad Hoc faculty procedures as applied to Barnard
by replacing one of the three Columbia faculty members of the five-member committee with an
academic drawn from outside the University.


  1. Whistling Past the Graveyard

While Columbia’s  concession on the composition of ad hoc tenure committees allowed Barnard to come away with something of importance,  particularly to its faculty, few  observers missed the asymmetry of the outcomes or its unilateral initiation. Certainly Ellen Futter had no illusions,  telling her faculty  on January 25, 1982, the day after the agreement was made public: “Barnard did not decide to terminate these discussions. The decision was not for Barnard to make.”

At that same faculty meeting,  Futter concluded her remarks with the uplifting message that Barnard was “now, more than ever, in charge of its own destiny.”  As for Barnard’s ties to Columbia: “We are more certain than ever before of a long-term stable relationship.”  For some in the audience, the author included,  these statements  were more truthful than reassuring.  Already struggling for a decade with shaky finances and a challenging recruitment picture, and now to be faced with competing for students with the far better known and newly co-educational Columbia College,  Barnard’s very survival as an autonomous  institution seemed very much in play.

The three-fold challenge

1. Barnard no longer the only source of collegiate education for women on Morningside Heights; it would now be vying for qualified  students not only with its traditional competitors but with its better known neighbor. Would Barnard be able to continue to attract bright women in this new competitive environment? And do so while entering another multi-year decline in the size of the college-age cohort, especially in the northeast

2. With the merger of the Barnard faculty with Columbia’s now off the table (Fraenkel stepped down as dean of the graduate faculties in 1982), assuring access  to graduate teaching for that segment of the Barnard faculty for whom such access had been an important professional consideration.  Would Barnard under this new dispensation be able to maintain a quality faculty of “scholar-teachers” or would it have to abandon its recently acquired “research ethos”  and revert to its earlier identity as  primarily classroom teachers?

  1. The outcome of the merger-that-wasn’t did nothing to strengthen Barnard’s fragile financial situation, except possibly engage the active financial support of some heretofore inactive alumnae now alerted to their college’s  tenuous condition. Would Barnard have the financial aid funds necessary to secure strong incoming classes and  support them for their four years at Barnard? An what of the salaries and research equipment   necessary to attract and retain a quality faculty? The funding necessary to upgrade campus facilities in an era when colleges would be placing increased emphasis on their physical plants and student services as recruitment enticements?


[Another challenge: Dealing with the reputation NYC had acquired in the 1970s for being a dangerous place….]

There were also the two issues tentatively agreed upon during the 1980-81 discussions between Co-provost Stern and acting president Futter —  access to Columbia teams and Columbia dorms for Barnard students – that because those discussions were preempted, were far from guaranteed.

No one at  Barnard could be sure that the College was up to meeting these challenges, while some at Columbia, expected Barnard to be in such terminal shape by  1987, when the1982  intercorporate agreement was up for renegotiation, that it would be then folded into Columbia and cease to be. To such prognosticators President Futter responded: “We’re here to stay.” But also: “This was not a divorce.”

Curriculum Overhaul
President Futter’s first move after the announcement of the new intercorporate agreement was to initiate a  sweeping curriculum review, with an implicit goal of revamping Barnard’s academic offerings  to both more clearly distinguish them  from those of Columbia College and to develop new courses  that would also attract Columbia students under the ongoing cross-registration arrangements.  It was a good place to start.   As then Dean of the Faculty Charles S. Olton later characterized  the Barnard curriculum of the time, which had not been reviewed in 20 years: “Nothing to write home about.”  Lawrence A. Cremin, a distinguished historian of American education and  president of Teachers College, chaired the curriculum review committee.

In short order (as curricular changes go), the committee produced several recommendations that went directly to the faculty for its consideration.  The first of the recommendations to come to a full faculty vote, in   May of 1983, was the inclusion in the curriculum a required  course that combined the critical consideration of major texts organized thematically and  a focus on developing critical writing skills. These courses, required of all incoming first-year students and initially called (in less gender-attentive days) “Freshman Seminar,” and were to be taught by regular faculty drawn from throughout the College and taught in a seminar-like format with enrollment limited to sixteen students. (This was to be in addition to the required writing course for first-year students taught by members of the English Department.) The seminars were first offered in the fall of 1984. With surprisingly little alteration, other than a change in title to “First-Year Seminar” and the inclusion in some of the seminars a speaking component, the classes remain a feature of the Barnard curriculum three-plus decades on.

A second curricular innovation coming out of the 1981-82 comprehensive review was a second required course, this in “Quantitative Reasoning.”  Put in place to insure that all Barnard students had an early exposure to analytical methods making use of numbers and statistics, it in turn encouraged several departments in the sciences and social sciences to develop courses that fulfilled this requirement, even as they introduced non- or prospective majors to a range of discipline-specific methodologies.

A third curricular initiative was the Centennial Scholars Program, funded by an anonymous donor and  designed to attract top applicants to Barnard, irrespective of their financial circumstances. It did so by underwriting special seminars that Centennial Scholars would take alongside their regular course work and  provided stipends for summer research. Throughout its 25–year existence, the program was successively co-chaired by several of Barnard’s leading scholars and most innovative teachers. In 2015 it was merged with the Athena Scholars Program, about which more in Ch. 10.

Other curricular initiatives increased Barnard’s involvement in the arts – Theater/beefed up dance/turn toward architecture – double-downed on writing (Mary Gordon appointment)
designed to broaden Barnard’s offerings and attract Columbia registrants
Interdisciplinary majors like Urban Studies and Environmental Science
Environmental Science  [something on each]

Positive effect on cross-registration costs…..increased the flow of Columbia students across Broadway

Between 1988 and 1992 five straight years where the number of Columbia students taking Barnard courses rose.

Faculty Development

Any curricular reform effort undertaken was constrained by the financial uncertainties  under which Barnard existed in the first years following coeducation at Columbia. President Futter’s first two budgets imposed  cuts in virtually every expense area except student recruitment and communications.  In 1984 the board directed [EVF recalls no such directive; thinks it too much into the weeds…] the president to develop a faculty planning profile that limited the proportion of tenured faculty to 50%  of the full-time faculty. When applied on a department-to-department basis, the profile proved even more restrictive and brought the proportion of tenured faculty below 40%. The proportion of tenured faculty at most of Barnard’s peers at the time was 60%, with some as high as 70%.

Some of this trimming was  accomplished through attrition, leaving empty positions vacated by retirement, but also by informing  assistant professors that in the absence of demonstrated institutional need,  even well received publications  and effective teaching  would not secure them tenure. Of the 48 assistant professors in 1980, 33 (69%) left without receiving tenure. The short-term effect of this policy was to make securing tenure at Barnard seem to many faculty, tenured and untenured alike, subject to the law of infinite regression.

Out From Under the Basket

Back in the era of “creative retrenchment,” board chairman Elly Elliott was given to saying “Barnard keeps its light under a basket.”  In the new competitive environment in which Barnard was now competing,  it was crucial to  increase Barnard’s visibility both in the New York region and nationally. Responsibility for this challenge with respect to high schoolers and their parents fell principally to Director of Admissions Christine Royer. New publications, including a high-end slideshow, and getting more recruiters on the road visiting schools and attending college fairs resulted in an impressive rise in applications from earlier levels.  [From 1534 in 195 to 2314 in 1982]

But the job of horn-tooting more generally fell to President Futter. “I chose to use the crisis to get the Barnard quality story out.”

Good example of turning a problem into an asset: Barnard’s  public commitment to “need blind” admissions, even though doing so put real if unpredictable strain on the budget and complicated planning. Financially NY Times editorial applauding BC for remaining true to its commitment to first-generation clientele.
Another — Elizabeth Tidball findings about women’s colleges, but especially Barnard, in sending its graduates on to PhD studies and medical school….

A third – hosting a conference in 1989 of college leaders to promote the idea of college faculty having a real role in their scholarly disciplines – and being better teachers  for having one.

Thanks to these efforts and to President Futter’s own  public appearances in person and in print caught the interested attention of more potential students, revived alumnae support and gave physical substance to her bold assertion, “We’re here to stay.”

“Where else in America can a young woman attend a liberal arts college in NYC affiliated with a great university?”
Barnard now faced the related challenge of assuring that all who wanted  on-campus housing got it.


  1.                                                      Betting the Ranch

Barnard’s financial situation five years into the Futter presidency remained precarious. The return to pre-Mattfeld enrollment levels meant a decline in tuition revenues, while economies expected with the cap on tenure were slow to be realized.  Recruitment continued to be a challenge, particularly for students with little or no financial-aid needs.  The 2000 applications received for the entering class in 1983, the first year that Columbia College admitted women, represented a 15 percent drop from the year before.  Early head-to-head competition with Columbia for acceptances from applicants admitted to both schools favored Columbia (on the order of 9 to 1?  — Pollack). And unlike Columbia, which, with the opening of the South Campus dormitories, could now offer all admitted students housing, Barnard still had on-campus housing for only about half of an incoming class, with chances of those wanting but not getting housing their first year getting it as sophomores or juniors something of a crapshoot.

Of the 526 students entering in the fall of 1983,  47% qualified for financial aid.  Financial aid costs at the outer limit of Barnard’s capacity to provide – modest departures from “need blind” introduced in case of transfers and wait-listed à “aid-eligible-but-not-assured”.

[Work on these numbers]
BC class to enter in 1983 – first decrease in apps in 5 years; record leap at CC
2300 in ’82  — admitted 1100  — 47%
2300 in ’83 – admitted 934 – 52%

126 acceptance overlap
8 to BC; 78 to CC
9 BCers transfer to CC

128 transfers coming to BC – down from 190 in 1978



The need for a new dormitory had been clear since the early 1970s  but the tumult of the decade kept it a need unmet.

1979 – HUD not willing to loan Barnard a requested  $4.6 million – cited the College’s reliance upon  income from tuition for  more than 60% of its income.

When in 1980  the trustees looked into the possibility of borrowing $20,000,000  to build a dormitory with funds from the issuance of bonds  on the commercial market backed by the federal Housing and Urban Development  agency,  they were informed that Barnard’s long-term debt, which amounted to some $6,000,000, for a college with a modest endowment of $28,000,000, made it ineligible for inclusion in the federal program.  [HUD –proposed borrowing $5 million for 40 years at 3% to build dorm with 300 beds]

to  – x,0000,000, giving its modest endowment – x million, up from $21,000,000  ten  years earlier but with most of the increase attributable to inflation rather than new gifts, of which only x million was “quasi endowment” and thus available as collateral — was too large to secure a credit rating sufficient to justify insuring such a bond offering.  Members of the Finance Committee  suspected as much, having for some time maintained  two sets of books, one, the chairman of the finance committee referred to  as “honest,” that clearly stated the magnitude of the  College’s debt, the other, which obscured it, less so.

In 1983 Arthur Altschul stepped down as board chairman, a post he had held for  seven years. He was succeeded by Helene Kaplan (Barnard 1955), who had joined the board a decade earlier. The following year the continuing need for a new dormitory again became priority number one, and one which several interviewees either volunteered or subscribed to the notion that it was now one upon which the board was prepared “to bet the ranch.”  Someone else in the room later recalled the prevailing sentiment to go ahead with the dorm without the money to pay for it in less apocalyptic terms : “We thought it essential.”


[EVF:  Crucial role of Helene L. Kaplan in College’s resurgence – an active negotiator in late 70s; a fundraiser throughout; successful in getting the heavily-engaged board during the merger crisis to go back to its advisory role and let a trusted administration/president handle the daily business of the College]

  1. Launch BC’s first (?) capital campaign of $40 million; (The 1979  JAM $20 million campaign never formally launched);

    The opportunity to do so took the form of a last call to apply to a program managed by the New York State Dormitory Authority that put its “full moral authority – as opposed to its more binding “full legal authority” — behind bonds that private “distressed” New York colleges could issue to underwrite dormitory construction. Such bonds were a device designed by  bond lawyer (and later Nixon Attorney General) John Mitchell in 1960s to circumvent the constitutional requirement that  all New York State “legal obligation” bond issues secure two successive referenda approvals before issuance. “Full moral authority” bonds could be bought by investors for less than “full legal authority” bonds because they were a riskier investment.

In  1986 Barnard requested  and secured permission to issue $40 million of these bonds to underwrite construction of what came to be called, awaiting a naming gift,  “Centennial Hall.” Barnard’s bonds found a sufficiency of ready buyers, some possibly operating under the assumption that they were getting Columbia quality bonds, which by the late 1980s after its sale of the land under Rockefeller Center in 1986 for $500 million earned the University an AAA bond rating, on the cheap. The two other New York colleges who issued bonds under this same “distressed colleges” program, subsequently closed before paying off their bondholders, leaving it to the state of New York to do so.
On        , 1985, the trustees announced plans for the new  dorm as part of a three-year  $100 million capital campaign to mark the College’s centennial in 1989.  Unlike Barnard fundraising campaigns before and since,  and accepted fundraising practice, this campaign was launched backwards, that is  without the usual pre-campaign gifts in hand to assure  future would-be donors that the campaign was already well along to its goal. Rather like the land speculators of the trans-Mississippi arid west after the Civil War, they hoped with the settlers would come the rain.

And it did. Centennial Hall opened in the fall of 1988, allowing the College to make good on its promise to provide housing for every  incoming student that year  seeking it. Meanwhile, the Centennial campaign, highlighted by a series of events spanning eighteen months marking the College’s founding in 1889,  met its goal on schedule.  A combined gift of $5 million from members of the Sulzberger family designated to help pay for the new dormitory covered its carrying costs for the first five years, led to its naming in honor of Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger. Other major gifts included endowed faculty chairs……                               


  1. Light at Tunnel’s End; A Faculty

Changing the assumptions about tenure:

1982 – Adjustment in Ad Hoc composition from 3 CU to CU – outsider did not alter the expectations for scholarly production

1983 – Faculty Planning Committee
3rd-year Review for assistant professors; focus on post-dissertation scholarly activities

1985 — Introduction of merit increases for senior faculty between promotions-in-rank

Dean of Faculty authorized to respond to outside offers to faculty with counter offer

Modification of promotion to full professor being a function of seniority; early promotion possible for most productive scholars

1989  — Introduction of Senior Faculty Research Leaves – for senior faculty with ATP-approved research projects providing semester leave between sabbaticals

Key faculty appointments of the Futter presidency:

Mary Gordon (1989)
Jack Hawley (1986)_
Irene Bloom (1988)
Benjamin Buchloh
Jonathan Reider

Some that got away
Robert O’Meally
Caryl Phillips



Need to economize on faculty well into the 1980s
Cut benefits – college-tuition for faculty kids

Trustee  cap on tenure of 50% for faculty, when  applied at department level, produced a tenure level hovering in the 35-40% range.
Faculty Planning Committee to administer it
Somewhat more often making outside senior appointments that could be put through the ATP and ad hoc process prior to acceptance

The faculty of the early 1990s as compared with that of the early 1970s;

Mobility – no longer a characteristic possessed by male faculty; highest to recently tenured blacks, both men and  women
Women faculty in 1970 likely attended a women’s college; far less likely to have done so in 1990s
All faculty with fewer and more attenuated ties to Columbia or New York City

A faculty now composed of men and women self-identifying as scholar-teachers and accepting of the institutional actions that over the preceding two decades have made it so. Some were brought about by trustee fiat, others by the repeated judgments of faculty

The imposition of Ad hoc tenure procedures – a heightened attention to scholarly productivity. Teaching effectiveness did not cease to matter and remained a necessary condition for promotion, but absent an impressive scholarly record, not sufficient.

Change in the process by which faculty were promoted from associate professor to full professor;  again with the increased expectation of ongoing scholarly activity since the promotion to tenure;  no longer followed automatically after a specified  time-in-rank as often obtained earlier;

Compensation system that allowed for individual faculty to receive annual merit increases for scholarly performance

— a teaching program for professorial-rank faculty that provides in-term time for ongoing scholarly work; from six to five courses in the mid-1970s to five to four courses in 2010;

— a leaves program that assures tenure-eligible assistant professors at least a semester’s leave prior to tenure consideration

— a leaves program that provides tenured professors with an ongoing scholarly project  with a paid semester’s leave between sabbaticals

— a policy of awarding chaired professorships that privileges the faculty’s outstanding scholars


With the adoption of some of these policies Barnard has tried to keep up with changes made at Columbia in the way of faculty development, while others have narrowed the differences between faculty expectations on the two sides of Broadway. While the salary  disparity between Barnard and Columbia faculty of the same rank that has existed since the founding of the Barnard faculty in 1900 remained in the early 1990s, their self-identities have more closely merged.



Differences remain between the work life of a Barnard College professor and a Columbia University professor, but less if any by gender and more by field. Whereas the difference between the work life of a Barnard anthropologist or classicist is of a piece with that of their Columbia counterparts, differences remain when the comparison is made involving faculty in the sciences. There the access of the Columbia scientist to graduate students and post-docs, as well as to more extensive laboratory facilities, while the Barnard scientist relies primarily upon undergraduates, differentiates their research agendas and the frequency with which results reach print. But even among Barnard’s relatively disadvantaged science faculty,  the research ethos, once regularly disdained by faculty at even the best undergraduate colleges, and  suspect in some  quarters at Barnard in living memory, by the early 1990s had taken up here what twenty-five years on looks very much like permanent residence. O brave new world.

1989 – Faculty adopt a standardized course-evaluation system based on that pioneered by the First-Year Seminar Program. Thereafter all considerations of promotion and merit increases to include a consideration of the faculty member’s teaching effectiveness as  assessed by her/his students.


                                     Students,  Centennial and Millennial [ aim for 2000 words]

How many?

Of the 526 students entering in the fall of 1983,  47% qualified for financial aid [EVF remembers it closer to 60%] .  Financial aid costs at the outer limit of Barnard’s capacity to provide – modest departures from “need blind” introduced in case of transfers and wait-listed à “aid-eligible-but-not-assured

BC class to enter in 1983 – first decrease in apps in 5 years; record leap at CC
2300 in ’82  — admitted 1100  — 47%
2300 in ’83 – admitted 934 – 52%

126 acceptance overlap
8 to BC; 78 to CC
9 BCers transfer to CC

128 transfers coming to BC – down from 190 in 19780

From where?
What majoring in?
What of their extra-curriculars?
Athletic consortium
After 1983 – Presence of Columbia woman – sisterhood v. institutional bragging rights
CC football losing streak
Protests – S Africa divestment

What became of them?
More schooling – law/medicine/architecture/business….



A Trans-Broadway Thaw/Rapprochement

BC/Columbia Relations      [aim for 1000 words]
Thawing, maybe even increasingly cordial – Sovern/Don Hood….
Long way from 1970s McGill/Fraenkel confrontations

Columbia’s return to prosperity takes Barnard off its action agenda
Occasional disputes over contested tenure nominations  — Provost Jonathan Cole

Olton story of a transaction occurring in the 3rd day of Futter’s acting presidency:
Olton providing a draft of his snarky  response to an equally snarky letter from Columbia Dean of Graduate Faculty George Fraenkel:

EVF: What is this?
CSO: This is what I do.”
EVF; Not anymore
CSO: Wow, a new style being enforces.
CSO gets a meeting with Fraenkel to let him know the world had turned…

Lew Wyman on BC/CU relations in late Futter years
“Moved from a complicated set of considerations to a series of cooperative understandings with less unpredictability allowing for more confident planning.”

Kathryn Rodgers and her counterparts in the legal counsel’s office…. Mason Harding
The new ethos: “We’re not out to screw each other.”
Not always amicable;
Dean Pollack remained suspicious of Barnard motives
the occasional disagreement over a tenure case (Shelly Weinstein)
The newly installed President George Rupp asking Barnard’s dean of the faculty to tell him again why it was, a decade into Columbia College being co-educational, Barnard continued to exist?
Just joking….


The NYC Effect (picked up for the start of the next chapter covering the Shapiro presidency , where NYC is the hook)

BMc to EVF:  What’s the role of the City’s changing fortunes?
EVF: “We are absolutely tied to the City.”
City changed, but so did the demography change – from too few of college age to numbers in the 1990s more favorable to higher education
“You need it all. [City and demography]Gave us wind at our back.’
NYC by the end of 1980s trying to present itself as attractive college town…

                                                               Exit Ellen  — Apologia Pro Vita Sua

1993 – May –EVF announced plans to leave to become head of AMNH
Barnard in much better shape than it had been in 1980….
13 years – longer than her  two  predecessors’  combined — 8 and 4; none of the VCG drag at the end…
Benefitted from stable staffing in key administrative positions

Successful presidential transition effected in 1993 Rodgers as acting president

It was time – faculty/student send off à singer, song writer Lyle Lovett –“She really wants to go.”

EVF retrospective view of the decade a quarter-century on
Gives much credit to board —  à “Its divisions aside, its ability to make tough decisions—

On the 1980s – “Decade-long negotiations prompted self-examination on several fronts and led to sharpening of the institution’s self identity. “We were ready to go when we were called upon to do so… when the dime dropped.”

Summary judgment of this presidency : Made the last serious dip in Barnard’s fortunes (1980-84) less bumpy than it could otherwise  have been; then fully exploited the possibilities presented thereafter, making what she said back in 1982, when it sounded to some ears false courage, as true as at any time in the College’s s then 100-year-plus history: “Barnard was now,  more than ever, in charge of its own destiny.”
Last updated: September 6, 2016
ram31@columbia.ed u