Barnard in the 1970s
New York City
Fiscal problems and crime make NYC a problematic locale for elite higher education; Morningside the site of muggings, rapes, robberies and slayings
Coming off campus disruptions of the late 1960s, those at Columbia among the most publicized and institutionally traumatic. Columbia spending the entire 1970s – and the entire presidency of William J. McGill (1970-80) — trying to get out of the financial hole brought on by financial mismanagement dating back to the mid-1960s and to the costs attendant upon the protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Less immediately affected by the ’68 protests than Columbia (115 BC students arrested in Police bust of 4/30/68); incoming President Martha Peterson given high marks for managing the situation, whereas CU’s president Kirk obliged to retire in summer 1968; finances similarly not as obviously strained as those of CU.
1. Justifying its continuation as a separate women’s colleges when many leading and heretofore men colleges now going co-educational; needs to stress its relationship with CU to set it apart from other free-standing – and at-risk — women’s colleges.
2. Continuing to attract a sufficiency of academically qualified enrollments when NYC a less attractive locale than earlier; especially challenging because Barnard more heavily reliant on tuition income to cover expenses than wealthier women’s colleges or Columbia.
3. To alter its relationship with Columbia but not just to serve Columbia’s perception of Barnard as both an obstacle to its financial wellbeing (by standing in the way of co-education) and as a source of revenue through charging for services once provided gratis (library) and savings through closer coordination of curriculum and faculty hiring.
Barnard Trustees take an unusually outsize role during the decade: the decade’s prime movers?
Negotiations with Columbia at the trustee level throughout the decade
Some (male) trustees in early 70s seeing merger as the inevitable/acceptable outcome?
Trustees fire one president (Martha Peterson in 1975); hire another (Jacqueline Mattfeld), then fire her four years later and put in place one of their own (Ellen V. Futter) with little if any faculty consultation
Internal disagreements as to how far cooperation with CU should extend; when did cooperation become co-optation and de facto merger?
Show growing skepticism as to the reliability of President Mattfeld’s late 1970s budgetary projections;
Some dissent from Mattfeld’s public push to achieve faculty salary at time of deficit budgets
Peterson more highly regarded by CU counterparts than by some trustees;
Cultural mismatch – plainspoken Midwesterner from state university v. NYC sophisticates
Seen as too accommodating to CU??
Liked/respected by most faculty (Brennan memoir) but opposed by some (in English and History depts.)
Her departure abrupt (three weeks between announcement and departure) and likely to some degree suggested/urged/exacted by new Trustee chair (Eleanor Elliott)
Departure required installing a year-long acting president (Breunig 7/75-6/76)
Mattfeld started strong – a credentialed scholar and experienced administrator when few women combined both; early demonstration of her feminist bona fides;
Falling out with CU counterparts by 1978
Ingratiates herself with most faculty with commitment to achieving salary parity with CU
Considerable turnover in her staff
Finance VP Harry Albers – fired – following $225,000 misstatement of condition of budget
Development VP Doris Critz – leaves after two years as capital campaign about to launch
Student dissatisfaction with her over housing problems/shortages/increase in rental costs, brought on in part by her expanding enrollments to balance budget.
Students — most supportive of increased cooperation on housing and cross-registration, but not merger.
Feminist argument supportive of women’s colleges (and suspicions about CU) has resonance;
Increasing frustration with tuition and room rent increases; some pushback on expansion
Barnard Bulletin/Marcia Sells/Paula Franzese all play a role in alerting the trustees to their
dissatisfaction with College leadership in 1979-80 and moving Board to terminate president
Faculty – Divided by their actual/desired degree of involvement with Columbia departmental counterparts;
A few for full merger (B.Barber);
A few ready to contemplate an end to affiliation (D. Robertson)
Anthropology very integrated (already “merged”); true of math, Classics, Oriental Studies
English Department little if any contact; true also of psychology, French
Some departments internally divided, as in History [Baxter/Williamson v. Koss/McCaughey]
New Ad Hoc procedures for tenure both endorsed by some as confirming BC faculty’s scholarly parity with CU, and decried by others as privileging scholarship over effective teaching and placing Barnard tenure prospects in “double jeopardy”); negative decisions in specific cases produce localized consternation among the latter.
Most faculty [Milenkovich/Caraley] appreciative of Mattfeld’s efforts to achieve salary parity and not complaining about enrollment growth (downside of which more on financial aid/student life administrators)
Most faculty surprised/chagrined by Mattfeld’s firing – some relieved by it
Columbia Views of /Plans for Barnard in the 1970s
President McGill – Looks upon the historic relationship with BC as one of the places where some of his financial problems can/must be addressed; by charging more for services – access to Butler Library; for the imbalance in X-registrations (payment had been waived between 1962-1970); also make use of BC faculty to cut size of GSAS faculty by closer department cooperation/coordination
Dean of Graduate Faculties George Fraenkel – To merge the BC faculty with that of GSAS as way of consolidating intstruction and reducing reduntant course offerings; while moving to merger pushing for a determining role for CU in BC tenure cases.
Columbia College deans Carl Hovde (1968-72) and Peter Pouncey (1972-1976) – want green light to begin admitting women into the College; see doing so as enabling the College to overcome it “also ran” status among Ivies in selectivity and to increase the size of the College; Pouncey ready to fault McGill for holding back lest he offend Barnard…
The situation in July 1980;
Columbia effects a smooth presidential transition with McGill leaving to plaudits and Provost Michael Sovern a popular and vetted choice.
Barnard firing second president in five years and installing a 30-year old trustee as acting president
Columbia has put behind it 13 years of deficit budgets and is now on a solid financial footing;
Barnard with a precariously balance budget but a pressing need to build a new dormitory for which the college has neither the funds to pay for or borrowing sources
Both BC and CC admitting close to half its applicants and getting only half its admits to enroll
NYC over the worst of its financial and crime troubles, though less clear in 1980 than in retrospect
Four moving questions for Barnard as the decade ended:
1. Would the 1973 Ad Hoc tenure arrangements destroy the Barnard faculty as an autonomous teaching unit? Either by knocking off its best teachers by so privileging scholarly productivity as to depreciate the value of teaching among its junior faculty?
2. Would x-registrations bankrupt Barnard by BC students taking more and more of their credits at Columbia, while CU students stayed away from BC courses, an outcome for which BC would have to pay CU increasing amounts of its tuition revenue?
3. Were there arrangements short of Columbia College going co-ed that both Columbia and Barnard could agree to?
4. And if not, were there enough academically solid, tuition-paying women ready to come to Barnard with Columbia College co-ed and Barnard next door as a women’s college? And would they come when on-campus housing could be provided for only half of those admitted?