Dodging the Merger Bullet: Why It Didn’t Happen

                                                   Dodging the Merger Bullet , or,
Why Didn’t Barnard Merge with/Get Absorbed by Columbia?

Moves by nearly all leading men’s colleges to go co-ed in the late 1960s:

1969 – Princeton/Yale
1970 –Colgate/Hopkins/UVa/Williams
1971 – Bowdoin/Brown/Lehigh
1972 – Holy Cross, Dartmouth, Davidson, Duke
1975 – Amherst….
The logic of co-education — Means of enlarging classes/generating more tuition income without sacrificing quality/test scores —      when demographics turning down
Make campus life more attractive to both men and women
Objections from alums with sons offset by support from alums with daughters…
Everybody else doing it.

Why not Columbia then?
CU Trustees, administrators, alums and students more strongly opposed to idea??? No

All the above concerned with impact on Barnard?? Not really
Columbia pre-occupied with its perilous financial situation and its at-risk-standing as a major research university and a highly-selective Ivy college
1966-68 – growing deficits/debt – chronic?? Faculty defections
1968 – Campus infrastructure neglect/damage
1968 protests à Fund-raising disrupted; applications down; quality of admits more questionable
1969 – Cordier presidency profligate
1970 – incoming McGill with mandate to straighten CU finances in 5 years – or face absorption by SUNY?
Short-term costs of co-education off-putting to a cost-cutting administration
Ist order of business – squeeze all income generating schools – P & S; law; Business; SEAS…..
to help with University-wide costs and the loss-leader Arts & Sciences
Next – squeeze affiliates in like manner à TC and Barnard

Barnard –
1. McGill Budgeteers — Free ride on library- access and on the modest numbers of x-registrations since early 1960s à encourage more X reg’ns and charge big bucks for it – assumption the CU would be the net recipient of students;
Start charging Barnard for Library access at a rate comparable to cost of libraries at other colleges;
Ditto the gym
1971 agreement on these annual payments – some haggling over 1970 numbers

Barnard’s short-term finances better than CU
balanced budgets; cheap campus; faculty taught more and paid less; alums not as turned off as CU’s

2. Dean of Graduate Faculties George Fraenkel — Include BC faculty in University-wide effort to consolidate faculty positions; eliminate redundancies (Chaucer taught at CU/CC/GS/TC/BC….) – Ditto calculus (Business School; GS; SEAS, BC/CC….) Plan to eventually have one faculty, however many schools…..

3. Hamilton Hall scenario – Deans and CC faculty — Have CC become co-educational irrespective of impact on Barnard;
CC deans faced with the reality of CC as the Ivy safety; stuck at classes of 700 or so; to go higher was to scrape lower in the barrel of applicants (already ccepting 1 of 2 applicants)
Carl Hovde – Dean 1968-72 – Only way ahead for CC but not confrontational
Peter Pouncey – 1972-75 — More outspoken; less publicly concerned with fate of Barnard….
Outspokenness in defiance of McGill cost him his job….

Impact of budgeteers squeeze – A big new expenditure to pay for, but manageable with effort….

Impact of Franekel plan:

In case of BC – CU assumption that faculty unevenly qualified to teach graduate students; those protected by tenure; but immediate lneed to keep those not qualified from getting tenure during transition….
1973 joint trustees agreement – BC faculty to go through University-wide Ad Hoc review process where CU administrators/criteria having last word….
Peterson OK with finances and tenure arrangements – saw the writing on the wall? Saw no reason Barnard should not be folded into Columbia?? Got along with McGill/Fraenkel/Hovde

Had support of several prominent trustees, who might also have accommodated themselves to
a merger – Wallace Jones/Francis Plimpton/Robert Huguet/Sam Milbank

A certain historical logic – Barnard created because Columbia trustees unwilling to admit women into the College; but now they are…. Did not take into account the importance of women’s colleges in the world view of the resurgent women’s movement

Huguet slated to succeed Jones. A surprise coup? Eleanor Elliott instead – critical of Peterson and of the “Gang of 4” for not standing up to Columbia

Elliott talking with BC faculty of like mind – Annette Baxter and the English Department….
Saw tenure decisions under Ad Hoc as costing BC its devoted teachers (Stimpson/Chambers/Ebin…)

Elliott – bring some Barnard defenders to the board – Arthur Altschul/Helene Kaplan/William Golden// secure support of young trustee Ellen Futter
Eleanor Elliott (1999)

“What was uppermost in our minds was the emotional attachment we felt to “our college.” We saw our curriculum as “more exacting, more demanding” than CC’s. We demanded a second language, and lab science. CU senior faculty never taught undergraduates. We believed that Barnard College was more selective than Columbia College. We believed that merger would weaken the educational experience of our undergrads. We viewed CU as a “big bully”; we were the “little person.”


Late 74 – Peterson in China; active in ACE; some faculty worried about her Columbia dealings over disposition of upcoming tenure cases;

6/75 – EE fires Peterson – to bring in a new president who will not cave to CU demands

11/75 – Search committee settles on Jacqueline Mattfeld – provost at Brown/earlier at MIT/Radcliffe
Elliott enthusiastic about her as match for McGill and Co.
February introductory meetings get off badly –JAM with a Ford “ Planning for Planning” grant with strong ideas of outside consultants – her mentor Mary Bunting…..

Takes over in May; formal inauguration in October

Calls for closing the compensation gap with CU; trustees cool to notion of “parity” as unaffordable
Also appeals to women faculty with talk of herself as “a maverick” single mom….
Talks with CU stop at presidential level;

JAM balancing BC budget by expanding admissions – more commuters; bigger classes; room and board charges….

Had angered Altschul by reporting him supportive of goal of faculty salary parity;
Using “loaves and fishes” carry-over of CU pasyments for Barnard faculty teaching graduate courses to get continuing faculty higher increases than discussions with trustees implied.

Altschul/Kaplan/Golden/Futter/Elliott want her out
Students/Barnard Bulletin angry over room hikes and larger classes
February 1980 – Told she was out at end of term? Maybe not until June?

July 1980 –New CU president – Michael Sovern – CC to become co-ed unless arrangements with BC make it comparably so through greatly expanded x-registration [Breslow committee report showing that Barnard could survive, but that Barnard’s fate not CC’s principal concern

Where were students on co-education by merger?
CC students overwhelmingly in favor of going co-ed as soon as possible
BC students favored more x-registration, more co-ed housing, more curricular convergence (access to the Core), but only a minority calling for/favoring merger
Student government folks distressed with Mattfeld over housing but not pro-merger [check Paula Franzeze]



Where were the faculty?
Nearly all CU faculty saw merger as a non-brainer – Ted DeBary/Joan Ferrante two exceptions;
both with strong Barnard ties

Many Barnard faculty (if not most) saw JAM as a champion of the Barnard faculty, not least its women many of whom merger as consigning them to the bottle-washing parts of the curriculum and losing the political influence they exercised at Barnard; a blow to women’s liberation; others exercised by some Ad Hoc decisions that denied tenure to Barnard women faculty seen as effective teachers and role models

Other faculty, but certainly not a majority, had ongoing ties with their departmental counterparts at Columbia (including teaching graduate students) that they thought put in jeopardy by Mattfeld’s hard line with respect to further cooperation

In the end, neither Barnard student nor Barnard faculty sentiment proved decisive; what did was a last offer of “equivalent co-education” from a new Columbia president anxious to get this issue behind the University that the Barnard trustees and acting president found unacceptable, leaving Columbia free to do what they thought best for Columbia

Acting president Futter/Dean Olton/trustees – Barnard couldn’t/wouldn’t make CC as co-ed as Sovern and Hamilton Hall insisted. Would require BC students taking more than half their courses in Columbia classrooms; what then of the Barnard curriculum, the Barnard faculty, Barnard?

December — CU trustees authorize Sovern to admit co-ed class 9/83; BC so informed with a couple weeks to respond; BC trustees come up with a face-saving proposal: that CU make an adjustment to Ad Hoc arrangements – CU decision then part of an “agreement” announced in January

Futter announcement to BC faculty at February meeting – “Our destiny in our hands”

Make what we offer attractive enough to enough good students to stay in business:
Put money into admissions office; into public affairs
Make the curriculum more attractive – focus on general education requirements
Get alumnae on board the college-saving enterprise

Three internal things Barnard had going for it in the 1980s:
A president in synch with her trustees – on the same page
A board excited about the challenge of keeping Barnard autonomous, affiliated and cookin’
Gutsy call in 1985 to borrow $$ to build Centennial Hall to assure all admits housing

A faculty sufficiently attentive to the realities to accept the following:
end of any talk about salary parity for the time being:
reduce the size of the faculty and place a severe cap on tenure
the importance of curricular updating

One local break:
Columbia’s rapidly improving fortunes in the 1980s allowed it to leave Barnard to its own survival, while finding areas where cooperation was a win-win: The athletic consortium; locating some undergraduate programs at Barnard; assurances of graduate teaching opportunities; showing an openness to reviewing financial arrangements on x-registration, especially after Barnard offerings proved more enticing than CU administrators had calculated; with a couple exceptions, not using the Ad Hoc system to dictate the character of the Barnard tenured faculty; not trumpeting the relative attractiveness of CC over BC in cases where applicant admitted to both.

One regional break:
The revival of NYC as a magnet for collegians and faculty….

Demographic break/managed to stick around to catch the next “lift” from national demographics – rise in high school graduates beginning in 1990s – Not to increase the size (same as the late 1970s) but able to become more selective – less needful to “buy” bright classes with heavy discounting via financial aid; a tad more likely to attract full-ticket students


Combined with the persistent belief that an academically demanding/selective college remains a good investment, and for young women, Barnard a college “in the City of New York” that is academically demanding, has a tradition and a current faculty of focusing on women and producing women leaders, but with a campus experience that is as co-educational as you want to make it.

What’s not to like?
August 22, 2014
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