Inside the Barnard Faculty Vote of No Confidence in President Rosenbury

On April 29th, 77% of Barnard faculty voted “no confidence” in President Rosenbury. The vote speaks to growing frustrations that have been brewing among Barnard’s faculty since the start of Rosenbury’s tenure.

On April 29th, Barnard faculty voted on a ballot of no confidence in President Rosenbury. The vote, which closed at 9 p.m. last night and was open to both full-time and part-time faculty, overwhelmingly passed with 77% of those who voted.

The vote of no confidence was organized by the Faculty Governance and Planning (FGP) Committee after a similar vote was conducted by Barnard’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter last Monday, which passed with a vote of 102-0. 

In the FGP’s ballot, which had a 72.4% response rate, 4.1% of voters abstained, and 19.1% voted against no confidence.

“This vote makes abundantly clear that there is a large majority of faculty feeling profoundly frustrated and distressed with our leadership at this moment,” says Nara Milanich, Professor of History at Barnard.

According to Barnard faculty members who voted against Rosenbury, their concern with the administration’s policies are not newfound, but stem from and have only grown since the commencement of Rosenbury’s tenure at the College. So much so that, according to Milanich, Barnard’s reputation has been tarnished.

“The College prides itself on being a place of bold young women who speak out and lead the world,” Milanich says. “But we have seen that when people speak out on behalf of their beliefs, they are criminalized. I have two sons, but if I had a daughter, I would certainly think twice about sending her to this college.”

The FGP’s memo says that President Rosenbury has failed “in crucial ways” to manage  a “difficult moment” on campus, and does not understand Barnard’s community. The memo outlines the FGP’s main concerns, including disregard for student well-being, violations of the standard of shared governance, disregard for freedom of expression and academic freedom, and administrative dysfunction.

The memo criticizes the Barnard administration’s “harsher” approach to the suspension and eviction of over 50 arrested student protesters involved in the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” last week, as well as the College’s new campus demonstration and campus events policies, and changes in faculty’s Guidance on Political Activity. 

“[Rosenbury] has upended numerous college processes and replaced them with worse ones,” the memo reads. “The faculty, staff, and students of Barnard College deserve better.”

María Rivera Maulucci, Chair of the FGP and Director of Barnard’s Education Program, says that the no confidence vote serves to “take the temperature of campus sentiment among the faculty.”

According to Milanich, Barnard faculty and staff have shouldered through a crisis under Rosenbury’s leadership, and are now conducting “damage control” with little support or guidance from the administration.

“The people I know are exhausted,” says Milanich. Since last week, many Barnard classes have moved to a hybrid option to accommodate students, and on April 25th Dean Leslie Grinage announced that the College is requiring “instructors to provide students with an online final exam option” following ongoing protests on and surrounding Columbia’s campus. 

“[Faculty] are doing things like housing students, accompanying them to disciplinary hearings, standing outside of precincts of the NYPD to give them a hug when they walk out,” Milanich says. “It feels like we are standing out here shouting in the wind and trying to support our students and pick up the reputation of our institution off the floor.”

In an email sent to the Barnard community on April 22nd, President Rosenbury called for “care during challenging times,” acknowledging that many have “strongly criticized actions” of the administration regarding “arrests and interim suspensions of students.” On April 26th, a Barnard spokesperson announced that the College had “reached resolutions” with nearly all of suspended Barnard students, and “immediately restored full access to these students to residence halls, dining facilities, classrooms, and other parts of campus.”

“The reason [students] need care is because [Barnard] has savaged them with disciplinary policies,” says Milanich. “It feels Orwellian. We hear all about communities of care from this administration, but we don’t see anything resembling a community or care.”

The FGP memo outlines concerns regarding Rosenbury’s “non-consultative leadership style.” Rivera Maulucci says that the FGP was not consulted about disciplinary processes for student protestors. She also says that Rosenbury’s revised campus events, website access, and political activity policies were “all quietly posted without prior notice to the faculty, without communication about what the contents would be or what revisions were planned.”

“We discovered them,” Rivera Maulucci says. “That is not how policies are supposed to be made. Since then, there has been no ability to review and revise those policies in collaboration with faculty.”

Frederick Neuhauser, the president of the Barnard AAUP and a professor of German and Philosophy, echoes Maulucci, and previously told the Bulletin that the administration’s policies were put in place “above our heads and behind our backs.”

A Barnard spokesperson says that the College is aware of the faculty no confidence vote, and is “grateful to our faculty for providing such care and support for students all year, especially over the last few challenging weeks.” 

“The administration looks forward to engaging with faculty members as we continue working to ensure that Barnard remains a safe and inclusive community for all,” the spokesperson says.

Milanich says that Barnard’s faculty do not take the no confidence vote lightly –  especially as a women’s college. “We have already seen two high-profile women presidents removed from office. But the faculty think that the current situation is just so unsustainable.” 

Although the no confidence vote may not have a direct or immediate impact on the College, Milanch hopes it will be “a hard reset” that changes the President’s leadership style and her relationship with faculty members. Yet, other faculty, according to Milanich, believe that there is “no way forward” with Rosenbury.  

“The college is falling apart around us,” says Milanich.