Columbia-Barnard relationship

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Columbia University and Barnard College are two independent institutions with a long shared history and a close, somewhat unique, relationship.[1] Complications in this relationship often lead to misconceptions and endless bickering among students. The relationship between the institutions has been governed since 1900 by an intercorporate agreement that is renegotiated or renewed every 10 years. Columbia College began admitting female students in 1983, creating a potential redundancy between the schools.A corporate agreement between Columbia University and Barnard College establishes the basic affiliation arrangements that persist to the present. Barnard is to have its own trustees, faculty, and financial responsibilites; the academic head of Barnard is to be a dean in the University, and Barnard graduates are to receive Columbia degrees [2].


Barnard students have the ability to register for almost any class at Columbia, and their degrees are conferred by The Trustees of Columbia University at University Commencement. Columbia has no administrative relationship with Barnard students, and elsewhere flatly states that "undergraduate education at Columbia is offered through Columbia College, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of General Studies."[3] Nor does the University count Barnard in any statistical calculation of enrollment, admission, or expenditure. All of these functions fall to Barnard College.

Simply put, Barnard is institutionally independent, while academically and socially linked to Columbia. Institutionally, Barnard has its own board of trustees (chaired by Anna Quindlen) which oversees the school's operation, its own endowment, its own faculty, its own campus (Columbia does not share ownership of any of Barnard's campus buildings), and its own administration. There are few freebies between the school- Barnard has to pay Columbia for access to utilities, the libraries, and other facilities such as Lerner. Columbia University does not handle admissions for Barnard, nor does it spend money on or collect money from Barnard students. The same goes for Barnard College and Columbia students. Nevertheless, both student bodies typically benefit in some manner when either school spends money, as the schools tend to keep student programming open to all undergraduates, though this is not always the case.

That said, both schools are academically linked by the intercorporate agreement which allows for nearly seamless, open cross-registration between the schools. As part of the agreement to open cross-registration (instigated by Columbia budgeteers in 1973 as a means of opening a new revenue stream by charging Barnard for each credit taken by its students at Columbia), Columbia took partial control of Barnard's tenuring process. They subsequently took partial control of Barnard's hiring process.

The relationship between Columbia departments and their Barnard counterparts runs the gamut. At one extreme are the mathematics and philosophy departments, which are completely integrated. At the other extreme are the chemistry and political science departments, which operate independently. Most departments are somewhere in the middle. The schools generally hire faculty and develop departments with an eye towards eliminating redundancies and maximizing the benefits from limited resources.

Barnard is, for all intents and purposes, part of the same college life as the Columbia schools, despite not being under the Columbia yoke. Though there are practical consequences of Barnard's independent status, in day-to-day affairs the lines between the schools are, in fact, mostly non-existent.

This is ultimately a very ambiguous relationship when attempting to determine who is and is not a "Columbia student". The situation has prompted endless rumination from all quarters, both informed and uninformed on the Columbia side, where students admitted to Columbia take issue with Barnard students referring to themselves as "Columbia students". Many regard this endless argument as petty and unimportant.


Barnard and Columbia have their own housing stock and housing systems. Barnard and Columbia College/SEAS undergrads have historically not had swipe access to each others residence halls. Students on both sides of the street have varying opinions on this policy. Some Barnard students believe they should have access to Columbia undergraduate dorms, but CC/SEAS undergraduates should not have access to the Barnard dorms because only girls (or mostly girls) live in these dorms and thus Barnard dorms have extra security risks. Other students from both CC/SEAS and Barnard believe that neither of the two undergraduate populations should have access to the other's dorms. The two student populations belong to separate schools, these students argue, and thus each should only have access to their own dorms and the resources therein. Finally there are students, both from Barnard and CC/SEAS, who believe that all the undergraduates within Columbia University should have access to each other's dorms. Students of this view generally argue that the two student populations are not really separate and that it is inconvenient for both Barnard and CC/SEAS students to not be able to swipe into each others dorms.

The most recent attempt to enact swipe access between schools was scuttled by CCSC in 2009, citing the fact that Barnard and Columbia have separate security offices and separate swipe access systems, which makes integrating too difficult and costly. Recently there was an SGA campaign for a compromised "Flash Access," in which Barnard/CC/SEAS undergraduates would be able to sign a special security contract and then would be able to themselves sign into the other schools dorm.

In the end, the decision for swipe access falls with the Board of Trustees as part of the Columbia-Barnard intercorporate agreement. This agreement is revisited every ten years, and thus will not be discussed again until 2012. The possibility of changing swipe access does not exist until that time.

Students from each school have the option live in the other's dorms, in which case they are granted swipe access (Barnard students are granted access to all Columbia residence halls, while Columbia students are granted access only to their own building). Columbia students can opt to live in Barnard housing (usually Plimpton), and some students opt to Summer Transfer into Plimpton to get out of a bad Columbia housing choices if they have a really bad lottery number. Similarly, Barnard students can live with their Columbia friends in group housing (they cannot register by themselves for the Columbia lottery, but must register as a group with Columbia students). However, the number of Barnard students allowed to live in Columbia housing is limited, and cannot exceed the number of Columbia students who opt to live in Barnard housing.

Other Aspects

Athletics and the Ivy League

As part of an NCAA approved consortium, Barnard does not maintain an athletics program of its own, but instead women athletes from Barnard compete on University-wide (i.e. "Columbia") athletic teams. There are 3 such consortiums in the nation (such as the one between the 5 Claremont Colleges), and Columbia-Barnard's is the only one in Division I. Barnard athletes figure prominently on a number of teams, including Archery.

Whether or not Barnard is an 'Ivy League' school hinges on the interpretation of this arrangement. The Ivy League is an NCAA Division I athletics conference with 8 member schools. Though Barnard itself is not affiliated with the league, as it has no athletics program, its athletes are represented in the league, though only through its connection to Columbia.


Barnard College diplomas are conferred at the University-wide commencement in May, following a separate commencement ceremony at Barnard. Graduation is not considered "official" until after the Columbia ceremony. Barnard degrees differ from the Columbia College diploma in that they are signed by both the University President and the Barnard College President, and carry the official seals of both institutions. This is possibly a vestige of Columbia policy predating the foundation of Barnard - in 1883, the Trustees resolved to grant a Columbia degree to women to sat for, and passed the requisite exams at Columbia, although though would not be allowed to enroll as students (the "Plan for the Education of Women in Connection to Columbia College"). They would have to study the material on their own. It seems that once Barnard College was founded, this diploma privilege was simply transferred to the new school, and the practice continues to this day.

Single-sex admissions

Barnard's single-sex admissions policy is an issue of some controversy in some circles on Columbia's campus. Some consider it to be outmoded and even sexist. The Barnard administration, as well as the majority of the Barnard student population, believe that its single-sex policy is necessary to the educational mission and general college environment. Generally they point to both the continual existence of sexism within society as well as data that suggests that at least some women work better and are more likely to succeed when they are educated at single-sex colleges. Barnard has a unique relationship with its parent Ivy compared to the other Seven Sisters colleges. For example, before Harvard went co-ed, Radcliffe College was a separate college affiliated with Harvard. Soon after Harvard began accepting women, Radcliffe was subsumed into Harvard College. Barnard has long been concerned about losing its individual identity as a college, as Radcliffe did, and as it most certainly would if it integrated with Columbia.

Endless Debates

Some of the things people will endlessly argue over are as follows.

E-Mail Addresses

Barnard students are given email address at both and There are some who believe this is unfair because Barnard students are only affiliates of the school. However, most would point out this is policy is for academic simplicity. This way, teachers can just email all their students at their Columbia email addresses using Courseworks, instead of having to figure out which students have Columbia email addresses and which have Barnard email addresses. Of course, a simple workaround would be to grant Barnard students aliases that forwarded to their barnard email accounts. In fact, all students with a account can also send their e-mail to and the email forwards to the eBear account.

The issue here is with the specter of the "Barnard student masquerading as Columbia student and applying for jobs." The prevelance of this practice can't be confirmed, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of Barnard alumnae worried about the 'lack of recognition' of the Barnard name using various configurations of Barnard and Columbia on their resumes ("Barnard College, Columbia University", "Barnard College of Columbia University", etc.) if not outright abandoning one for the other.


A related issue is Barnard's presence on Facebook. Specifically, that it doesn't have one. Rather than create overlapping 'networks' like they did for the Claremont Colleges, the Facebook programmers decided to create only one network. Since facebook networks are largely based on e-mail domains (the part of your address), there's really nothing to do. Students are ambivalent about this issue, as there are a number who lament the lack of distinction between Columbia and Barnard students (including Barnard students who want a stronger Barnard identity), though most admit that it would be unfortunate for students at both schools not to be able to stalk each other.

Barnard's administration is acutely aware of Barnard's lack of a presence on facebook and has stated the following:

Why is Barnard part of the Columbia [Facebook] network?
To date, Facebook has been unwilling to allow Barnard to have its own network independent of Columbia University. There are both benefits (such as being able to connect with friends and professors from Columbia) and disadvantages (no independent Barnard network) to our current situation, and we are cautiously evaluating these variables as we consider our next steps in the matter. - Barnard Alumnae - Social Networking


Some Columbia students argue that Barnard students identifying themselves as "Columbia students" cheapen Columbia students' prestige, as they believe admission to Columbia is considerably more selective than to Barnard. They point to figures such as Barnard's somewhat lower median SAT scores and higher acceptance rate. Columbia does not report the high school GPA's of entering students, and there is no evidence of any discrepancy in performance of Barnard students when enrolled in Columbia University classes.

Equal billing vs. separate identity

Typically Barnard's administration is fiercely territorial when it comes to getting equal billing with Columbia. For example, NSOP is the "Barnard-Columbia Orientation Program." Past NSOP coordinators have reported getting shit for failing to make sure Barnard appeared alongside Columbia in all instances.)


External Links

Fall 2004 "Columbia University: A Social History 1754 - 2004"

See also