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Barnard College: Are You Kidding?

April 22, 2019

Here’s another example of academic racial folderol, this time at Barnard College, where past historical grievance collided with a more benevolent present.

We’ve all — well, many of us — come to realize that black Americans were denigrated, delegitimized and discriminated at every turn of American history.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialBut in attempting to right past wrongs, the largely white academic establishment can’t get it right.

Up at Barnard — a sister school to Columbia University but independent of it, with its own campus, faculty and security staff — a minor incident involving a black student and the college’s security staff has roiled the campus.

According to news accounts, Columbia senior Alexander McNab, who is black, entered Barnard’s gate after 11 pm. To protect student safety, a rule, in effect since 2013, states that after 11 pm all visitors to Barnard must show their IDs.

McNab, who says he had been stopped several times on campus, refused. He told CNN that someone — presumably a security officer — shouted at him, “Hello, sir, hello, sir,” numerous times but that McNab ignored him.

When security guards caught up to him, he says that one of the officers “placed his hand on my shoulder.”

Apparently, that was the only physical contact he says he had with the security staff.

He later told CNN, “I raised my voice to communicate what was happening to me. I said, ‘I am not going to show you my ID’” Asked by CNN interviewer Don Lemon why not, he offered no credible explanation.

In the end, McNab showed his ID.

Now comes the interesting part: the reaction of Barnard’s and Columbia’s administration.

“The confrontation puts into stark relief what some members of the Barnard College community, particularly people of color, have been saying about their relationship with the Office of Public Safety and the lack of trust they have in it to keep them safe,” said Barnard president Sian Beilock. “We must ensure that public safety officers act equitably toward all and that the community trusts this will occur.”

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittAt Columbia a separate statement was issued by Mary C. Boyce, dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science; Lisa Rosen-Metsch, Dean of the School of General Studies; and James J. Valentini, Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education.

It read: “As many of you are now aware, last night a black Columbia College student was the victim of a disturbing incident at Barnard College in which the student was confronted by Barnard’s Public Safety officers.

“We recognize there is a continued legacy of anti-black racism that has existed in our country since its founding. The more recent climate of racism and inflammatory rhetoric in both the country and the world at large continues to demonstrate a rising trend that targets marginalized populations. We are disturbed that such incidents continue to occur so close to home, and share in the hurt and pain many of you may be feeling.”

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialThere was no mention of whether such a hue and cry would have occurred if McNab had been white or Asian, as are most Columbia students. Nor was there mention of why McNab refused to show his ID. There was no mention of why the safety rules had been put in place or what might have happened if the security staff allowed unidentified visitors to roam through Barnard. In short, you can’t have safety rules if rules are not followed. Not using common sense makes no sense.

Instead, Barnard placed its security staff and its supervisor on administrative leave — for doing its job.

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