9. Saying No to Zeus

Chapter 9.
Saying No To Zeus

Interviewer:  Aside from your understanding both perspectives, did you think
that Barnard should merge into Columbia as a whole?

Interviewee: I’ll tell you what I thought.  I felt like the Greek maiden Leda as the swan
approaches her. How do you say no to Zeus? You know. What I felt was overwhelmed.
Columbia is big. It’s like living—as somebody pointed out at the time at our meeting over
this—we had a 10-ton gorilla in the room, and how can we preserve our independence if
the 10-ton gorilla wants to take over?

— Professor of English Anne Prescott, BC ‘59 [1]


  1.                                                              Rebel and Maverick

    The  job of finding Barnard’s fourth president fell principally to newly elected trustee and  attorney Helene L. Kaplan. Her search committee included another trustee newcomer as co-chair, investment banker William T. Golden, whose mother,  was a Barnard graduate. Faculty members included professor of sociology Bernard Barber and professor of Spanish Mirella Servodidio, BC ’55. The Columbia representative was professor of history Henry Graff, whose two daughters were Barnard graduates.  [2]

    Committed to selecting a woman, a scholar, and an experienced academic administrator, and assuming a shallow pool of  candidates meeting these conditions,  the committee anticipated a long search. That  Peterson’s departure had been widely seen  as a board firing and the  testy Barnard-Columbia discussions being regularly reported upon by The New York Times did not make their task seem easier.  It would take a particular kind of academic to be attracted to the prospect of entering  this  lion’s den.

    To the committee’s surprise and relief, a candidate with all the stated qualifications turned up early in the canvassing.  Jacquelyn A. Mattfeld , a musicologist with scholarly standing, had been at Brown University for five years, currently as Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs. As such, she was the highest ranked woman administrator among Ivy universities. Three months into the search, the committee unanimously recommended her appointment to the Barnard trustees and the president of the University.    At its November 12th meeting, the trustees unanimously elected Mattfeld Barnard’s fourth president, to take up the office July 1, 1976.  [3]

    When Brown  terminated Mattfeld’s deanship on the announcement of her new post, Barnard board chair Eleanor Elliott asked her to spend the five months before assuming the office of presidency familiarizing herself with the issues and introducing herself to the players. Elliott used the announcement of this interim arrangement to  assure Barnard alumnae that there was not to be a  merger and that the board and the president-elect were now embarked on an aggressive  program of “innovative retrenchment.”[4]

Jacquelyn Anderson Mattfeld was born in 1925 in Baltimore, into a family adversely affected by the ensuing Great Depression. Her father, a chemist, limited her college selection to local schools.  An accomplished pianist as a teenager, she first  attended Peabody Conservatory and then Goucher College, from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1948. From there she went to Yale for graduate studies in musicology and music history. While in New Haven, she met and married a fellow musicologist, Victor Mattfeld. Despite her  PhD in music history, she could not secure even a TA position at Yale, those being  reserved for men, and was forced to earned an unsteady income for the next decade giving private piano lessons. With two daughters and a husband intermittently employed editing music, she was often the family’s primary wage earner. [5]

Mattfeld’s career prospects brightened  in 1960 when, at 35, she came within the supportive orbit of Mary Bunting,  then president of Radcliffe College. Bunting brought her to Cambridge as Radcliffe’s associate director of financial aid. She moved  to MIT in 1963  as its first female dean of student affairs, and then to Sarah Lawrence College as provost and dean of the faculty. There her marriage ended and her children were put in the care of her brother and his family.  In 1971 she became associate provost and dean of academic affairs of Brown University.  Three years later, in 1974,  she became Brown’s den of the faculty. At about this same time she was offered the presidency of Swarthmore College, only to turn it down because she thought it would be “too comfortable.”  In 1973, reflecting on her career as a woman in a man’s academic world, she characterized herself  to a reporter  as less “militant” than younger women colleagues:

Don’t forget,  I’m 47. I’ve been tempered in a far different fire than women who
have come in in the last few years riding the crest of the wave of HEW rulings…
I’ve done all the dirty work. I’ve been the butt of all the things that used
to happen to women. That doesn’t mean I’m a martyr. I’m not. I’m here
because I’m good. But I’m also here because people  have been good to me
and I don’t forget it. [6]

Five months into her presidency Mattfeld delivered an autobiographical  talk to 75 women at the Barnard Women’s Center that she entitled  ”The Life Story of a Maverick and a Rebel.” In it both her father and her ex-husband, and her male Yale colleagues  all come up short, whereas it was the “Sisterhood” that saw her through to better times.  The Spectator reporter covering the talk  noted that her remarks left many in the audience in tears. [7]

President-elect Mattfeld became a Morningside presence during the five months between her selection in November and the scheduled start of her presidency in May. She was introduced to the trustees  at their December 10, 1975 meeting. At that same meeting trustees learned from board treasurer Samuel Milbank that the 1975-76 budget was $400,000 in the red, due to the  shortfall  from the entering and returning classes  of 100 tuition-paying students. Newly elected trustee William Golden, citing the projected drop in endowment from $24 million to $21 million,  urged adoption of a  budget with a mandated  cut of $650,000 over the next two years.  While agreeing that “We are operating at a very large deficit,” ex-chairman Wallace Jones opposed doing so. Matters were not helped when admissions director Helen McCann reported that the enrollment picture for the coming year was not any brighter. [8]

In February 1976 President-elect Mattfeld met Columbia officials,  first President William McGill  and then Vice President James Young, who headed the Columbia team charged with putting Barnard-Columbia relations on a permanent basis, for the first time. These early talks, both sides subsequently agreed, went badly.  Mattfeld later said in an open letter to the Barnard community that McGill had tried to get her to go beyond the charge she had from her trustees and commit to a merger of the Barnard faculty. For his part, McGill suspected  Mattfeld was trying to provoke him into a public fight. When Mattfeld proposed bringing in consultants under a Ford Foundation planning grant, McGill disagreed about her recommended consultants, who included her mentor Mary Bunting. [9]

Some of the animosity that Mattfeld generated at Columbia might be explained as coming from male academics unused to dealing with women as professional equals and wary of being  out-negotiated by one of them from Barnard.  Mattfeld and her defenders felt that was the source of her difficulties with McGill and Young. But then there is the case of University provost William T. deBary, whose wife and three daughters were Barnard graduates and who disagreed with the evolving Columbia view that Barnard should  merge with Columbia or Columbia College should admit women. His take on Mattfeld:

She didn’t trust Columbia. Period. That’s it. She had been brought in by trustees
that didn’t trust Columbia, once McGill had begun to talk about taking over Barnard.
They got her in the search for somebody that would fight McGill, and they sure got
somebody who fought him. [10]

A week before  formally taking up the presidency in May,  Mattfeld obtained  from her trustees the following charge: “To maintain Barnard’s autonomy and integrity while furthering the Barnard-Columbia relationship through institutional planning and cooperation.”  On August 30, in her 9-page open letter to the Barnard community, she acknowledged her already strained relations with both McGill and Young, charging them with setting conditions not contemplated in the 1973  Agreement.  [11]

Nor did she ingratiate herself with Columbia by negotiating in the press.  On May 14, 1976, in a New York Times interview, under the headline, “Barnard, Columbia in a Merger Struggle,” she cast  herself in  the role of underdog. “If push comes to shove, “ she told education editor Edward Fiske, “Columbia has the trump card. They can simply say that there will be no cross-registration.”  This followed on Mattfeld’s description of her antagonists’ expressed attitude toward Barnard: “Authorities at Columbia can think of no valid reason for the continuance of Barnard’s independence.” She also quoted  Columbia’s complaint with Barnard’s faculty, specifically “the mediocrity in the female contingent of the faculty.” Meanwhile, board chair Elliott installed a new trustee negotiating team  to carry on discussions with Columbia, consisting of Helene Kaplan, William Golden and Richard Furland, all new board members. [12]

Mattfeld was inaugurated as Barnard’s  fourth president on November 7, 1976 in a music-filled ceremony attended by 4000 in Riverside Church. Accompanying events were widely reported as “lavish,” with Barnard trustee chair Elliott personally picking up the $35,000 tab. [13]

But already something was amiss. Later reports have some trustees (and their spouses) and members of the presidential search team having early second thoughts about their new president.  Among those visited by an early case of “buyer’s remorse” was Mattfeld’s most enthusiastic sponsor on the board, Eleanor Elliott. During the search, she had personally checked with Mattfeld’s former employers, all of whom touted her administrative skills, only later to conclude that the positive assessments from Providence were an instance of “white collar welfare” whereby Brown “just passed her along.” In December 1976, Elliott resigned the chairmanship after less than  three years, ostensibly because of her health. A friend later described her condition as a near nervous breakdown brought on by the prospect of firing a second Barnard president. [14]

The incoming chairman Arthur Altschul, financier and son of Helen Goodhart Altschul BC 1907,  was another early doubter who soon found himself unwilling to meet with Mattfeld without having trustee  Helene Kaplan present.  Mattfeld’s  problem with Altschul  derived from his concluding that she had tricked him into publicly aligning the board behind her call for  Barnard faculty salary parity with Columbia. He had agreed with the need to reduce the longstanding gap “in principle,”  but Mattfeld  had him committing to parity within three years. He later explicitly repudiated any such agreement. [15]

Meanwhile, the new president began  installing her own set of senior administrators. For the retiring “Duke” Abbott, she appointed Harry Albers as vice president of finance; for vice president for public affairs, Doris Critz; for vice president  for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, Charles S. Olton. This last appointment was a departure on two scores: Olton, a 35-year-old American historian,  came from outside the Barnard faculty (he had been a recently  tenured member of the Buffalo State faculty and an administrative fellow at Swarthmore) and his appointment did not include a tenured position in the faculty. For a new director of admissions, Mattfeld  turned to a member of the faculty, Christine Royer,  a lecturer in the English Department and beloved academic adviser. [16]

Some president-watchers later suggested Mattfeld  had a problem working with colleagues,  including some of those she hired. Development officer Doris Critz lasted only two years before she was publicly chastised by Mattfeld, demoted and quit. The president alternately berated her dean of the faculty and increased his salary. The problem may have been particularly acute when it came to men. Two male spouses of trustees were said to have reacted negatively upon first meeting her, while Columbia officials clearly did so. One Barnard administrator said of Mattfeld, referring to her reluctance to personally confront her Columbia counterparts: “She could not cross Broadway without feeling faint.” [17]

However quickly at odds with her Columbia counterparts and  some of her own trustees, Mattfeld had, in championing the cause of salary parity, won support among faculty.  Many appreciated her standing as a scholar and her administrative experience, while others saw her as an embattled feminist  going toe-to-toe with Columbia’s male chauvinists. And there was at least one who admired her calling faculty meetings to order by letting loose a whistle that could break crystal.  Of the constituencies making up the Barnard community, the faculty remained her most consistent allies throughout her star-crossed presidency. [18]

Nor were the reasons for such faculty support entirely self-interested.  Mattfeld was more sophisticated and better attuned to the ways of eastern  private institutions than her predecessor. Whereas Peterson’s forte was dealing with students, Mattfeld seemed more sure-footed in taking on the financial problems she inherited. Indeed, shortly after taking office she came up with what her staffers believed might be the answer to them.

  1. The Mattfeld Surge & Its Discontents

Barnard’s expenditures in the late 1950s and early 1960s consistently matched its income, despite the college’s heavy reliance upon tuition (upwards of 70%). Foundation support had helped, as well as the sale of the Claremont Ave.  property back to the Rockefeller family to make way for the Interchurch Center  (locally referred to as “The God Box”). Rosemary Park’s four budgets all produced modest surpluses. Between 1962 and 1971, the endowment doubled from $12 million to $25 million ($162 million in 2019 dollars). Meanwhile, three buildings  — McIntosh Student Center, Plimpton Dormitory and the Altschul Science Tower – had been  added to the operating plant. Thus, the explanation offered by trustee Eleanor Elliott in 1970 as to why Columbia, operating with annual deficits larger than Barnard’s annual budgets, began to look to Barnard to relieve its financial difficulties: “Because they were broke and we were in the black.” [19]

But not for long. Of Peterson’s  seven budgets, only the first was balanced, to be followed by six with ever-increasing deficits. These were covered by annual drawdowns on the quasi-endowment, which in turn reduced the amount available for investment. Between 1971 and 1975 Barnard’s endowment shrank from $25 million to $21 million. Meanwhile, faculty salaries fell further behind those of Columbia and many of Barnard’s collegiate peers located in places where the cost of living was substantially less than in New York City. [20]

Upon  assuming the board chairmanship in 1977, Arthur Altschul asked Gedale Horowitz, a Citigroup financial  executive,  the husband of a Barnard graduate  and himself a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School,  to join the board as its fifth treasurer, succeeding Samuel Milbank. Horowitz found the College to be operating with two balance sheets, one that obscured the amount of debt and “the real one” that showed “We were absolutely broke…..The school was in desperate shape.” He later recalled the situation as “so close to the edge of being gone [that] Columbia would have taken the place over.”  [21]

Part of the financial difficulty the Peterson administration faced after 1970 was making the new negotiated annual payments to Columbia, which their negotiators pegged at $4 million, and which now fell to her successor to cover.  Mattfeld moved quickly to increase tuition income by enlarging  the size of entering classes. Her new admissions director, Christine Royer, installed in early 1977 upon McCann’s retirement,  introduced new promotional literature and more active recruiting  efforts that increased applications from  1,546 in 1977  to 2,278 in 1980, and increase of 47%. With more applicants came more admits, reaching with Royer’s first class in 1977 an astronomical admit rate of 71%, before dropping back to  51% in 1980. Total enrollments grew proportionally, from 2,006  in 1975 to 2,524 in 1980, an increase of 26%. [22]
As early as the fall of 1977, the new chief financial officer Harry Albers credited increased enrollments with  eliminating the projected  budget deficit for 1977-78, noting that Barnard “is in a much healthier position than it has been for years.” Two months later Albers acknowledged   omitting from his October calculation additional expenditures of $240,000 on financial aid for the additional enrollments, which again put balancing that year’s budget in doubt.  “He was loved,” a member of the board’s finance committee recalled Albers. “Not a good sign. He ran Barnard like a mom-and-pop store.” Albers left after eighteen months in the job, assuring his staff, “The budget and my leaving are two separate matters.” [23]

The surge in enrollments unaccompanied by a corresponding  increase in college housing meant that  Barnard applicants from the New York region could not be assured of ever living on campus. Being so informed, many went elsewhere.  Among already enrolled students, it meant that some first-year commuters who been promised housing in their sophomore year were now told to wait until their junior or even senior year to live on campus. [24]

Turning some singles into doubles in Plimpton and  600 and 620 West 116th Street  in 1978 marginally supplemented the capacity of Barnard’s dorms, but also made them less livable. Efforts to lease  off-campus housing for upper- class students addressed but did not alleviate the problem and created new ones. The lease of 50 apartments in the Embassy Hotel on Broadway and 70th Street, for example, had to be terminated when the building’s owners were arrested for loan sharking. The lease of one floor in an apartment building on 110th St. was plagued by inadequate security that allowed several break-ins to and an attempted rape of a Barnard resident. [25]

What turned out to be the final blow to any chance of an administrative-student  rapprochement over housing occurred in April 1980, when it was announced that the admissions office had promised  too many incoming students on-campus housing, some of whom  had to be given  rooms slated for commuters who had waited three years for a room on campus and were now out of luck.  This prompted a noontime sit-in in McIntosh, led by student government leaders, which ended  with administrators promising to find more off-campus housing for the incoming class. [26]

Little wonder that when two student leaders from the late 1970s were four decades later asked their views on the much discussed prospect of merger, each recalled that student priorities of their day were less about merger than housing. When pushed to choose between Mattfeld and the trustees, even students who admired her stance toward Columbia and honored her hard-won feminism, could not be counted on to come to her defense. [27]

Mattfeld’s problems with providing housing for the increased number of students were complicated  by the trustees’ insistence that the costs of the College’s auxiliary services – the provision of room and board – be income neutral. Accordingly,  substantial increase in room and board prompted by inflation (CPI increase in 1979 was 12%) were imposed.  An attempt in November 1979 to supplement the increase  with a $150 “energy surcharge” on students living on campus and $60 for those commuting for the spring term  prompted  parents to  express outrage at what they saw as a classic instance of “bait and switch.” It did not help matters that Columbia mandated no such surcharge, with the upshot that Barnard residents in  coed Plimpton  would have to pay several hundred dollars more than their Columbia hallmates. The Barnard board later rescinded these charges, but not before the Student Rep Council charged the administration with “fiscal mismanagement.” [28]

Concerns were expressed by a few faculty, and likely by some trustees, about two other matters related to the enrollment surge. One was whether more students  really increased total  revenues by their additional tuition income generated,  or whether increased financial aid outlays  rendered the surge income-neutral or worse. How many of these additional students were coming simply because of generous financial-aid packages that the College could ill afford?  And then there was the concern that bigger enrollments unaccompanied by a parallel increase in courses offered by Barnard faculty meant larger classes. [29]

Both questions were referred by Mattfeld to her third Vice President for Finance,  Jack McBride. He assured the faculty at the April 2, 1980 meeting that the tuition derived from the additional students, after the added financial aid was subtracted, still netted  $2 million in additional income. According to McBride the enrollment increase was a “clear financial benefit.” Whatever their non-financial costs, the balanced budgets of the Mattfeld presidency were  real. [30]

Mattfeld and McBride were equally categorical on the matter of class size. Both cited internal studies that showed the student/faculty ratio had held steady at around 14.4 students per Barnard  classroom instructor throughout the surge and even may have declined a bit. How could this be when enrollments had increased almost 20 per cent and the number of full-time faculty had declined? The answer was that more and more Barnard students were taking classes at Columbia, thereby keeping  Barnard classes from growing. In 1974 Barnard registrations in Columbia-taught courses numbered 5386, while Columbia registrations  in Barnard-taught course was 4180, for a net balance favoring  Columbia of 1206 registrations; in 1979 Barnard registrations in Columbia-taught courses had increased to 5,999 and the net balance favoring Columbia had increased to 1,764.  This explanation,  while  putting to rest the charge of overcrowded Barnard classrooms, only increased doubts about Barnard’s long-term viability. It opened the administration to new charges that the enrollment surge was mostly  enriching Columbia and put into play the life-or-death  question of the need for a  Barnard faculty. Why not just send all the students enrolled at Barnard over to Columbia for all their classes? For Barnard’s beleaguered president, damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t. [31]

Meanwhile, Mattfeld kept pressure on the trustees to make good on her goal to bring Barnard faculty salaries into parity with those at Columbia within three years. She included funds in each of her budgets to help accomplish this and, despite the runaway inflation of the late 1970s,  made real progress.  The 1978-79 salary program brought Barnard assistant professors into parity with those at Columbia; the 1979-80 salary program was expected to do the same for Barnard’s associate professors. A sizable gap remained at the full-professor level, but even the most critically disposed  faculty members acknowledged their  president’s  commitment to closing it. [32]

Other policy actions relating to senior faculty were less appreciated. At one point in 1978, when the trustees had effectively removed Mattfeld from the ongoing discussions with Columbia, she informed faculty that they  should likewise cease all communications with their Columbia counterparts. For the 30 or so Barnard faculty who regularly taught graduate courses and were  voting members of their cognate Columbia departments,  that directive  went ignored.  [33]

                                                                      3. Exit Mattfeld

Two staffers working closely with President Mattfeld in the spring of  1980 agreed in separate interviews that her firing came as a shock to their boss.  The decision was delivered by four members of the executive committee of the trustees in the president’s apartment on Claremont Avenue immediately after the regular June meeting  the entire board which transpired uneventfully.  One staffer recalled her being “stunned,” not least by the trustees’  insistence that she  “get out today.” Another recalled her confusion when “no reasons were provided” for her dismissal.  Both faculty representatives to the trustees, Peter Juvilier and Marcia Welles, were also caught unawares. Nor were reasons subsequently forthcoming, either in the minutes of  Trustees’ meeting that followed the firing or in the several interviews of trustees “in the room” conducted by my colleague Rosalind Rosenberg and me.  What follows therefore  is necessarily conjecture. [34]

There is no  shortage of possible explanations for her termination. Four different ones from as many sources bear consideration. The first turns on Mattfeld’s efforts to secure faculty-salary parity. To increase the money available for annual salary increases for continuing faculty, it has been said that she supplemented the trustee-approved budgetary amount going for salary increases for a given year with Columbia’s annual payment for graduate instruction by Barnard faculty to be paid in the next year. Doing so represented  a departure from normal accounting rules.  When both the dean of the faculty, Charles S. Olton, and the budget officer, Helen Vanides, pointed this out to the president, they were directed to proceed anyway,  without informing the trustees. [35]

The trustees, so this explanation goes,  inadvertently learned of this practice in early May 1980 when a Finance Committee member did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of what  faculty were being told by the administration  they would be receiving against the amounted allotted by the trustees. The salary increases exceeded the budgeted amount. When questioned by members of the board, Dean Olton confirmed the board member’s calculation and stated that commingling the budgeted amount for salaries with the Columbia payment had been the practice in prior budgets as well, as directed by the president.  Olton later recalled that he and a knowledgeable senior member of the faculty referred to it as “the loaves and fishes strategy”. [36.]

Once the trustees learned  of this practice, concluding that it was intended to mislead them by understating the magnitude of the salary increases, Mattfeld was fired.  Olton narrowly escaped a similar fate  by producing the memo he wrote to Mattfeld questioning her instructions as at variance with standard accounting practices. To the extent that this was the smoking gun, it comports  with a view expressed later by some trustees of their president as “unstable” and “manipulative.” [37]

A second explanation, this  from the Mattfeld camp, has her being fired because she had succeeded all too well in protecting Barnard’s autonomy. This to the supposed consternation of board members who were planning to have Barnard merge with Columbia. By increasing enrollments, balancing the budget, rallying alumnae and securing the support of her faculty,  Mattfeld had eliminated the need for merger. One of her staffers claimed that in the immediate aftermath of the firing,  board members still favoring merger sought to undercut recent successes in recruiting students by slashing the financial aid budget by 45%.  Their doing so was blocked only by the staffer’s impassioned objections and the threat of a story to this effect  appearing in The New York Times. The financial aid funding was restored, the Times story never appeared, and the accusing staffer was fired. [38]

A third explanation  was that trustees objected to Mattfeld’s open lesbian relationship with a colleague from Providence who was co-habiting the president’s apartment on Claremont Avenue. That some students and faculty were aware of this relationship attests to its visibility, if not its role in prompting Mattfeld’s firing. [39]

The last proffered explanation implicates Columbia in the firing.  In the spring of 1979, President McGill, exhausted after his protracted financial rescue of the University, told his trustees of his intention to retire the following year. With their approval he then offered the job of University provost to the dean of the law school, Michael I. Sovern, personally assuring him that as provost he had the inside track to become Columbia’s next president a year hence. [40]

The new provost and president-in-waiting made it an early order of business to reach out to Barnard’s president by inviting her to Columbia for an introductory meeting. They had at this point never met, in itself unusual because of the weekly meeting of all the Columbia deans convened by the University provost,  which Barnard presidents and deans had faithfully attended going back to the Gildersleeve deanship, and at  which Sovern was a regular attendee.  These Mattfeld chose not to attend, sending a succession of staffers in her stead, one of whom noted that Sovern, unlike some of the other deans, was unfailingly kind to her. [41]

The meeting between the Barnard president and the Columbia president-to-be went badly. Rather than accept the invitation  to meet alone and without an agenda, Mattfeld surprised Sovern by showing up  with her dean of the faculty in tow. Early into the meeting she objected to something Sovern  said,  declaring  the remark “an opinion a man would have.” The meeting went downhill from there, although Mattfeld later described it as amicable.  As for Sovern, he might well have asked, “What’s her story?” and relayed his misgivings about working with her to some of Barnard’s trustees, several of whom were personal friends (he and Gedale Horowitz had attended high school and Columbia College together) and professional acquaintances. It would not have to have been said that the prospects for resolving the Barnard-Columbia impasse would be facilitated by Barnard seeking a new president for that message to make it across Broadway. [42]

Whatever the explanation, and it may have been a combination of the above and still others,  Mattfeld was out after four years as Barnard’s fourth president. Hers was the shortest tenure of any administrative head of  the College. She remains the only one of its six past presidents not to have her portrait in Sulzberger Parlor. From New York she proceeded to administrative posts in the South, Southwest and West, later earning an M.A. in gerontology and consulting about the theories and experiences of late-life development. She retired in 2014 as Executive Director and Director of Public Programs of The C. G. Jung Center in Evanston, Illinois, at age 89. [43]

  1. Faculty in Flux

Barnard has had its own faculty since 1900, consisting of both men and women, with the latter becoming the majority of the instructional staff in the mid-1920s. Equal gender representation in two of the three faculty ranks  — assistant and associate professors — had been achieved in the 1950s, if not yet in 1970 in that of full professor, where men remained in the majority.  This, of course, placed it in sharp contrast with the Columbia faculty, which tenured its first women in the late 1930s  and as of the 1960s had only a handful of tenured women among the 600 members of its three arts and sciences faculties. In other ways the two post-WW II faculties were much alike. Both institutions favored hiring those whose graduate training was acquired at Columbia, or, failing that, one of the other Ivies. Also, and even more with Barnard than Columbia,  a substantial portion of their faculties had been undergraduates  on Morningside Heights. Both faculties looked first to their own junior ranks when filling tenured positions, although Columbia  made a higher proportion of outside senior appointments than did Barnard. Until the 1950s, a senior appointee at Columbia usually  stayed on to retirement. At Barnard, however, mid-career male senior faculty regularly transferred to Columbia.  Nine did so between 1945 and 1970, whereas only one senior Columbia faculty member during those same years transferred to Barnard. [44]

Several practical considerations helped account for the one-way direction of this interaction. Columbia’s salaries were higher than Barnard’s, some years by as much as 20%. Columbia’s teaching programs were lighter than Barnard’s, by a course or two each year. Moreover, Columbia faculty had some choice in their teaching programs, whether they exclusively taught graduate students (the cases of Richard Hofstadter and  Robert K.  Merton), mostly undergraduates (Lionel Trilling, Jacques Barzun) , or a mixture of both; a Barnard faculty member taught undergraduates, with the occasional graduate course available only at the invitation of Columbia as its needs dictated. Beyond these considerations,  a tenured position on the Columbia faculty simply conveyed higher professional status than did one on the Barnard faculty. The first meant identification with a world-class research university; the second with a first-rate undergraduate women’s college. [45]

These contrasting institutional circumstances produced equally distinctive internal secondary effects. Standing within the Columbia faculty was primarily a function of one’s scholarly eminence in one’s field. Teaching effectiveness, especially at the undergraduate level, was a lesser consideration  and where the scholarly eminence was of star quality, dispensable. (Nobel laureate I.I. Rabi was by all conventional standards  a poor classroom teacher.) Ditto institutional service, with some of Columbia’s  faculty luminaries successfully eluding turns serving as department chairs. What made one Columbia faculty member more valuable than another in the eyes of his (the gender attribution still valid)  colleagues was the perceived quality of his scholarly output as measured by citations and the prominence his  graduate students acquired in a given field. Contributions to institutional wellbeing were welcome but  optional.. Trilling’s comment in the midst of the ’68 protests is suggestive: “You see, I still can’t understand why [students] give a good god damn about how the University runs. I didn’t. Why should they?” [46.]

Barnard’s heavier teaching programs and higher expectations of service cut into time available for scholarship. But other limiting factors included the absence of graduate students and,  especially in the case of Barnard’s science faculty, the lack of research laboratory space.  Scholarly productivity did not go unrewarded at post-WW II Barnard, but it also carried with it in some quarters the suspicion that it had been achieved by shirking one’s responsibilities in the classroom or departmental and college service. A Barnard professor’s internal standing derived as much from her reputation as a brilliant classroom teacher, a beloved adviser, a devoted department chair or long-serving committee member as it did from her publications.   Promotion to full professor sometimes was accelerated for the most scholarly active associate professors, but more often came as a function of years-in-rank. Similarly, with the exception of the holder of the College’s single endowed professorship, faculty salaries were  keyed to years-in-rank with increases in fixed amounts, rather than by individual considerations, such as the publication of a well-received book, the receipt of a research grant, or even an outside offer. [47]

Another post-WW II development that widened the gap between the scholarly profiles of Barnard and Columbia faculty was a declining involvement in the Barnard tenuring  process by the cognate Columbia department . In the absence of this oversight,  some Barnard tenure appointments were made to junior faculty whose teaching effectiveness and departmental service were more demonstrable than their scholarly productivity. The subsequent involvement of these faculty with modest scholarly records in determining who among their junior colleagues should be nominated for tenure could only have the effect of keeping scholarly expectations modest.  [48]

The shift during the McIntosh administration  of the College-wide Faculty Committee on Appointments and Tenure (ATP), which advised the president on all departmental  nominations of junior faculty to tenure, from appointive by the president to elective by the faculty, likely further attenuated the committee’s commitment – and the College’s — to the expectation that ongoing scholarship was expected, if not required, of Barnard senior faculty. To be sure, many Barnard senior faculty in the post-WW II era continued to pursue  publishing agendas beyond tenure, with several of the men who did so transferring to Columbia or taking up university appointments elsewhere. But as long as Barnard’s women faculty had few prospects for doing either, the incentive to keep up their publishing was personal and went professionally unrewarded. [49]

Thus, when Columbia department members  in the early 1970s at the urging of economy-minded administrators  turned their serious  attention to their Barnard counterparts as future colleagues, they saw professional profiles markedly different from their own. In the first instance they, mostly men, saw mostly women.  And second, they saw men and women whose careers  had been largely shaped by the needs and rewards of an undergraduate college.    While, should departmental mergers occur,  the prospect of  an infusion of young women faculty had its attraction for departments such as art history and anthropology,  conspicuously male-dominated even where their  graduate students were mostly women, that of acquiring  tenured faculty of either gender who lacked  sufficient professional visibility to advance the reputation of their Columbia department was dispiriting. It was this concern, even as no decision had yet been made to merge departments, that prompted Columbia in 1972 to insist upon having a much more active role in  the future hiring of Barnard faculty and a determinative role in the tenuring of Barnard faculty, against the day when a merger might happen.   While not set to become operative until academic year 1974-75,  two  Columbia departments weighed in to attempt to derail the last pre Ad Hoc Committee nominations going forward at Barnard. [50]

The Barnard constituency most  affected by the new  Ad Hoc procedures was the faculty. Some senior faculty welcomed the change, with their place as tenured members of the University confirmed, if only by being grandfathered (or-mothered) in.  Others  saw their opportunities for graduate teaching enhanced and normalized. But some senior faculty, particularly women, saw a university with a history of discriminatory practices toward women now determining the composition of Barnard’s faculty. And, should merger occur, Columbia faculty  would be dictating  their teaching programs. They had cause for concern. [51]

Still more immediately affected by  the new tenure provisions were junior faculty of both genders now  subject to them.  Again, a  few welcomed the change, for the same reasons as those senior faculty who saw them validating their standing in the university and who looked forward to the higher salaries, more varied teaching program and higher professional standing.  Other junior faculty, especially those nearing the end of their probationary seven years  and about to be evaluated under arrangements that privileged scholarly productivity more than did the departments in which they had labored and been mentored for several years, the prospect was  career-threatening. [52]

The first four nominations forwarded by Barnard to the Columbia provost’s office for consideration by an ad hoc faculty committees in the spring of 1974  resulted in three tenure approvals and one initial rejection,  that of Catharine Stimpson, a popular assistant professor of English  and already a nationally  known feminist theorist.  When President Peterson invoked the formal  appeal mechanism included in the agreement on Stimpson’s behalf,   President McGill overrode the negative decision of his provost, but said he would not do so again. From that point on, the internal reviews   conducted by Barnard’s Appointments and Tenure Committee became much more focused on  a  nominee’s scholarship. Cases that  earlier  would have sailed through  faced increased scrutiny. Rejections of  Barnard nominees at the University ad hoc committee level or by the provost became annual springtime events and cause for consternation throughout the entire Barnard community, not least among the College’s students and recent alumnae who saw some of their most admired teachers obliged to leave. [53]

Responses to a faculty survey conducted  by this author in June of 1974 suggest the several fault lines that characterized the Barnard faculty at the implementation of the  ad hoc tenuring procedures.   The survey consisted of 23  seeking to elicit information sufficient to construct a social profile of the faculty and then to  array faculty by their primary self-identification as an undergraduate teacher or as a publishing scholar. A secondary purpose was to elicit  the range of faculty views  on the prospect of closer cooperation and possible merger with Columbia. [54]

The survey  consisted mostly of questions for which specific  responses were indicated.
For example,
21. Which of the following most closely approximates your attitude toward the tenure system as it now obtains at Barnard?
1. Favorable, but requirements should be stiffened;
2. Favorable as it now operates
3. Favorable, but qualifications should be somewhat relaxed;
4. No attitude;
5. Unfavorable (specify why (_________________________________). [55]


The question that most directly allowed  respondents to be arrayed along a scholar-teacher continuum was the following:

“Scholarly publication, teaching effectiveness, and service to the college – the three traditional criteria for tenure at Barnard – ought to be ranked in the following descending order of priority:
1.  Publications –  teaching – service
2. Teaching – publications – service
3.  All ranked equally
4. Teaching-service – publications
5. Service – teaching – publications” [56]

From their responses faculty were assigned  a composite ranking which then allowed them to be arrayed  into six groupings, what sociologists call “ideal types”

Role Ascription of 1973-74 Barnard Faculty Respondents

Role Male # Male % Female # Female % All # All %
Scholar 8 20% 6 11% 14 14%
Primarily Scholar 9 22% 9 17% 18 19%
Scholar-Teacher 6 14% 8 15% 14 15%
S/T Sub-Totals 23 56% 23 43% 46 48%
Teacher-Scholar 5 13% 8 15% 13 13%
Primarily Teacher 6 15% 11 20% 17 18%
Teacher 7 17% 12 22% 19 20%
T/S Sub-Totals 18 44% 31 57% 49 52%
Totals 41 100% 54 100% 95 100%


The aggregated results allowed the following conclusions:
– Barnard faculty pretty evenly divided between those identifying primarily with  their scholarly role
(48%) and  their teaching role (52%)
— Barnard male faculty more often  self-identified as  “scholars,” primarily scholars” or “scholars-
teachers” ” (56%)  than did female faculty  (43%);
— Social science faculty more often  self-identified as “Scholars” and “Primarily Scholars” (53%) than did
those in the Sciences (35%), the Humanities (28%), or Modern Languages (10%);
— Tenured faculty self-identified  as “Scholars” and “Primarily Scholars”(41%) more  than did untenured
faculty (27%);
— Members of small departments  (e.g., physics; anthropology; religion) closely linked with their
Columbia cognate department more self-identified as “Scholars” and “Primarily Scholars”  than
members of large departments  operating in isolation (English, Spanish; psychology ). [57.]

More than four decades later, the most striking  overall picture to be drawn from this novice polling exercise, which in its  intrusiveness and transparency could likely not  be replicated today, was of a faculty in the midst of an identity crisis that would take years to resolve. [58]

We know in retrospect that  the seemingly imminent merger of the faculties in the 1970s did not take place. But the imposition of the ad hoc procedures in anticipation of that non-event nonetheless  has had a significant effect on the subsequent composition of the Barnard faculty. Before the 1970s Barnard faculty consisted  mostly of long-serving and devoted  “teacher-scholars,”  along with the occasional “scholar-teacher” who, if male, often moved on, and if female, likely stayed.  Since the 1970s the faculty   has come increasingly to consist of “scholar-teachers” irrespective of gender, field or rank.  While faculty   commitment to classroom teaching and  service remains essential to the workings of the College,  it is  demonstrated scholarship that wins  them a permanent place in the faculty and  ongoing scholarship that secures them additional  recognition.  Virtually every new faculty policy adopted since the early 1980s has confirmed and reinforced  this shift in professional  identity.  A similar shift has since  occurred at other leading liberal arts colleges, but, I have argued, later and  less completely than  at Barnard. [59]

One last surmise on the evolution of the Barnard “scholar-teacher”:  In occurring  concurrently with  post-’68 Columbia coming to focus more on its undergraduates and, since the 1990s,  requiring  all its faculty to provide undergraduate instruction, the respective professional identities of Barnard and Columbia faculty, once diverging, have of late converged.