Barnard-Columbia Relations Post 1968

                                         BC-CU Relations in the Backwash of 1968

Before 1968

CU and BC with separate charters and boards of trustees – CU president ex-officio member of BC board; occasional overlaps in trustee membership; many Barnard trustees with Columbia ties


Separate endowments, budgets and fundraising –  BC a paying customer for some CU services; 1962 accord eliminated payments earlier paid CU by BC for X-registration imbalance. Sums involved thought not worth the bookkeeping

Separate curricular requirements with a few opportunities available for CC students to take courses at BC (mostly electives in the arts) and for BC students to take courses at Columbia (mostly in upper level departmental/professional courses)
CC curriculum a mix of core requirements early on, followed by free-ranging concentrations in the absence of sharply defined departmental majors;
BC curriculum w/o core courses at outset but later on more departmentally prescribed curriculum.

From 1909 through WW II (the Butler era) undergraduate admissions handled by a joint committee of CC,BC and ES staffers, headed by CU admissions director; led to similar discriminatory practices with respect to Jewish applicants); greater BC autonomy in admissions after WW II (Helen McCann, Admissions Director, 1952-1976). Discriminatory practices eliminated.

Student Housing/Dining
Separate dormitories with no exchanges prior to late 1960s; limited access to other-school dining; separate parietal rules; dress codes

Student Life
Physical proximity encourages social mingling outside the classroom ; Barnard women dated by both CC and CU professional school students. Separate newspapers but some BC women on Spectator

Theoretically separate but in some departmental instances considerable integration in making appointments, assigning courses and promotions . A few Barnard faculty assigned to Barnard faculty by Columbia department (Physics/Math).Some larger BC departments (English/biology) less engaged with CU departmental counterparts. CU role in BC tenure appointments range from determinative/ advisory/pro forma.

What 1968 Wrought

Revealed life-threatening financial strains at Columbia that obliged its incoming President McGill (1970-80) to turn his full attention to effecting cost-saving reforms, which, when addressed to Barnard,  seemed to be less adversely affected by ’68 or earlier deficits, minimally sought:

1. Making Barnard pay for services it previously enjoyed gratis (e.g., faculty and BC student access to University Library;   faculty and BC student athletic facilities) and again ffor traditional and growing net imbalance in student cross-registrations)

2. Including Barnard resources in university-wide effort to reduce duplications/redundancies in faculty staffing and curriculum to the point of contemplating the possible absorption of the BC faculty by Columbia and the unification of the undergraduate curriculum

Rush to coeducation — Accelerated move on part of other heretofore all-male Ivies and other select liberal arts colleges in late 1960s to admit women as a means of increasing recruitment pool both quantitatively and qualitatively ; allowed larger classes without lowering quality.
Advantages of doing so become so obvious to succession of CC deans as to make co-education seem the solution to all its problems. Not prepared to have Barnard’s existence stand in way of doing so.

Two counterforces:
1. The resurgence of feminism that led to a rethinking/upward reassessment of autonomous women’s colleges; a critical take on the motives of Columbia opening its doors to women

2. The startup costs, administrative attention  and political fallout should Columbia move to admit women to the college when it saw its first obligation to straighten its finances.

Key Developments

1970 – Tentative BC-CU Trustee agreement that Barnard would make CU an annually adjusted payment for the net imbalance in cross-registrations once formula was agreed to; other payments as determined; also agree to cooperate on elimination of redundancies in curricular offerings; and to cooperate more on faculty appointments.

1971 — Experiments in co-ed housing begun in some Barnard and Columbia dorms

February 1973 – Joint Trustee Agreement as to the formula for x-registration payments — estimated annual BC payment to CU for ex-registrations in the range of $300,000.
Change in the tenuring procedure for Barnard faculty, bringing it in line with CU tenuring, which involve the constitution of a 5-person ad hoc committee of senior faculty selected by the Provost (two from the nominating school and three from other parts of the University).

CU proponents (especially Dean of Graduate Faculties George Fraenkel) saw this change as assuring/raising the quality of newly tenured Barnard faculty in anticipation of its expected absorption by the CU faculty.

Spring 1974 – Ad Hoc tenure provisions begin to be applied in Barnard tenure cases. Several BC nominees confirmed. President Peterson secures favorable reconsideration in disputed case of Catherine Stimpson.

January 1975 – Wallace Jones ends his 8-years as Barnard trustee chair; he had been part of the BC trustee team; succeeded by Eleanor Elliott, BC ’48, viewed as more protective of Barnard’s autonomy

June 1975 – President Peterson abruptly resigns as president; some Trustee and faculty sentiment that she was insufficiently vigilant in protecting Barnard’s autonomy.

November 1975 – Impatience of Columbia College administrators and CC faculty prompt Dean Peter Pouncey to call for unilateral coeducation whatever objections Barnard has to its doing so. McGill rejects the pressure and prompts Pouncey’s resignation in 6/76
1976 – Provost William T. de Bary emerges as CU administrator most sympathetic to BC’s survival; Fraenkel pushing hard for speedy merger of faculties; resigns in 1978 as critic of Frankel and McGill

February 1976 – BC President-elect Jacquelyn Mattfeld begins co-education discussions with CU VP James Young; she and McGill do not hit it off.

March 1977 – McGill and Mattfeld at public loggerheads; coeducation discussions stalled; trustees reengage; Mattfeld no longer involved in CU discussions; hailed by some Barnard faculty as championing their autonomy

October 1977 – Joint Trustee Committee reaffirms 1973 accord

1978-79 – Mattfeld losing support among trustees for her budgetary manipulations; her push for faculty salary parity in face of budgetary constraints elsewhere

June 1980 – Mattfeld fired by BC trustees;

July 1980 – Michael Sovern takes over as new CU president;

July 1980 – 30-year-old Trustee Ellen Futter installed as acting president for one-year term

November 1980 – CC Faculty panel chaired by Ronald Breslow to assess impact of CC admitting women on both CC and BC

April 1981 – [Ronald] Breslow Report to assess impact on CC (essential to its standing as an Ivy) and BC:Barnard (concludes it will manage); urges CC go coed by Fall 1982;

April 1981 – Adverse Ad Hoc tenure decisions exercise elements of the Barnard faculty; call for changes in procedures to reduce CU determinative powers (e.g., replace 3rd CU member with outsider)

May 1981 – Ellen V. Futter named BC president with authority to negotiate with CU

June 1981 – Sovern: “College will admit women if BC rejects more contact”

Summer and Fall 1981 – Efforts by CU to propose means to BC by which “de facto” co-education could be achieved [where CC has co-education in classrooms and dorms comparable to other Ivies] without admitting women.  Assumes future BC students taking CC and Humanities and BC faculty teaching same.

September – Sovern’s hoped-for decision announcement (to University Senate) delayed by scheduling problems attending President Futter’s pregnancy [ Anne Victoria, 9/20]

October – Sovern proposes a coeducation enforcement panel chaired by law professor Albert Rosenthal

Fall – BC concludes it can not accommodate “de facto” coeducation short of turning over most of its students (and tuition revenue) to Columbia and rendering its faculty redundant.

November 22, 1981 – Futter officially inaugurated as Barnard president

Mid- December 1981 – Sovern informs Futter that CC will admit women in 1983; offers concession on tenure procedures to secure agreement and avoid incriminations

January 22, 1982 – Joint agreement announced that CC going coed in 1983 and BC securing a change in tenuring procedures

1/26/82 – Ellen Futter to BC students: “Barnard did not decide to terminate these discussions. The decision was not for Barnard to make.”

To BC faculty:  “Barnard’s future now more in our hands than at any time since 1900.”

Last updated: May 14,2015
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2 thoughts on “Barnard-Columbia Relations Post 1968

  1. How was university Greek life impacted by the switch to coeducation, specifically sororities that had once been just for Barnard women?

    1. Kelly,

      What co-education at Columbia during Barnard’s early years?
      How about getting some sense of how important fraternities were at Barnard — and what brought them down? Membership can be gleaned from Mortaboards.

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