President Rosenbury Breaks Week-Long Silence in Email to the Barnard Community 

With the subject line, “Care During Challenging Times,” Rosenbury sent an email at around 7:00 p.m. “to affirm two key aspects of Barnard’s mission and to provide more information about ongoing events and our plans for the future.”

Photography by Samantha Candelo-Ortegon

On April 22nd, Barnard President Laura Rosenbury broke her silence after one week of no communication with the Barnard community.

Until now, the last communication from Rosenbury came on Monday April 15th, with the announcement of Rebecca L. Walkowitz’s appointment as the next Provost of Barnard College. 

Rosenbury writes that she affirms “Barnard’s commitment to open inquiry and expression while also stressing that free expression for some should not mean that others feel unwelcome, unsafe, or threatened in the place we all share.” 

This email comes four days after the NYPD sweep of the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on April 18th, which was followed by the suspension and eviction of over 50 Barnard students. In her email, Rosenbury writes, “Although many of our student protesters are using their voices in a peaceful manner, some protests on and surrounding the Columbia campus have become intimidating.” 

With regard to the on-campus encampment, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell, who was present at the April 18th sweep, said that “the students that were arrested were peaceful, offered no resistance whatsoever, and were saying what they wanted to say in a peaceful manner.” As of today, the sixth day of the encampment, the student coalition organizing the encampment’s community guidelines establish the values of “respect” and “grace” in their mission of “keeping everyone in this space safe.”

In the email, Rosenbury also reinforces Barnard’s “long articulated rules of student conduct and other policies to structure the ways we live and learn together.” “Nearly all of our students follow these rules, but other students have chosen to push boundaries or break rules in furtherance of their advocacy,” Rosenbury writes.

“We provide notice of the consequences of such decisions and seek prompt and compassionate resolution of such matters as part of our educational mission,” Rosenbury continues. “I want you to know that this is exactly what happened, and is happening, with respect to the students placed on interim suspension last week.” Notably, the Barnard students on “interim suspension” were given 15 minutes to gather their belongings upon eviction.

Kristen (BC ‘24), a Barnard student suspended on April 19th after being arrested on April 18th, says she was not given “parameters of suspension” by the college. “We were not told we would lose food and housing,” she says. “In our suspension notice we were told we cannot enter campus or attend class and we never received clarification that we were permitted to join zoom class today.” 

Rosenbury’s email follows public student and faculty critique of the suspension and eviction policies. A Barnard CARES Responder, as well as three Student Admissions Representatives resigned from their positions on April 20th and 21st, respectively. Today, Barnard faculty and members of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) delivered a message to Dean Leslie Grinage about their “horror” that the administration’s policies have left “eighteen and twenty-something year-olds to fend for themselves.” 

In the email, Rosenbury says that the Dean Leslie Grinage is “helping students find alternative housing arrangements when needed.” One student who was suspended and evicted received an email from Dean Grinage, who wrote, “Please let me know if we can help book a flight for you to return to Georgia, which I see as the state listed in your permanent address, or help arrange travel to another safe location.”

Rosenbury also addresses Barnard professors in light of an increase in student absences, writing that students “may be absent from class because of an interim suspension or because they do not feel safe being on campus” and that she “strongly encourage[s] all faculty members to provide students with maximum flexibility.”

“I strongly believe that exposure to uncomfortable ideas is a vital component of education, and I applaud the boldness of all of our students who speak out, but no student should fear for their safety while at Barnard, and no one should feel that they do not belong,” says Rosenbury. “We must always respect and protect one another, especially when we disagree.”