Just a few days ago, my seasonal Barnard Magazine came in the mail. I excitedly opened it up and began with the Presidents page. Please take a moment to read "A Stacked Deck," page 3 and continued on 71.
Now, please take a moment to read my response:
What do you think?
Dear President Spar,
After reading your recent essay in the Winter 2011 Barnard Magazine, “A Stacked Deck,” I am compelled to write you and express my concern. At the close you state, “it is critical to remember that this country is still damned by the tragedy of millions of Tonyas - good kids, smart kids, whose access to education is condemned by the circumstances of their birth.” To that statement, I must ask you: What are you going to do about it?
Ask anyone who knows me; particularly my former Barnard professors and mentors, and they will tell you that I am one of Barnard’s biggest cheerleaders. The institution is a place where ambitious young women go to nurture and manifest their dreams into reality. I wish that every bright, independent, ambitious young woman has the privilege that I did to develop in a place like Barnard.
As a current Barnard Alumnae Admissions Representative, former Barnard Student Admissions Representative and Senior Admissions Fellow, I understand that acceptance for all bright young women at a highly selective liberal arts college simply cannot happen. I have witnessed first hand how brutal the decision making process can be when so many applicants are absolutely stellar. What I have always loved about the application process, that I believe sets Barnard a part, is that admissions officers read each application twice and really try to gain a sense of the whole person. Test scores are not all that matter.
Perhaps I feel for Tonya because I too am from Baltimore, and know first hand what kind of underprivileged school she may attend. Perhaps I feel for Tonya because as an applicant in 2003, I did not have a perfect SAT score, or a perfect grade point average. From your description of her situation, I certainly had more advantages and opportunities going for me that helped me get into Barnard (mainly attending and excelling in one of Baltimore’s independent all-girl prep schools), but to this day I believe my acceptance and subsequent thriving academic and now professional career was made possible because my area admissions representative, Bola Bamiduro, fought for me in the admissions office to have the opportunity of a life time.
The tone of your essay leaves one to believe that because Tonya does not have certain privileges associated with being of a better class she is utterly a lost cause i.e. living in a better neighborhood instead of her “poor, crime-ridden corner of Baltimore,” coming from a two parent home instead of just with her immigrant Puerto Rican mother, and being financially stable instead of “virtually no income.” Perhaps it is just the idealist in me, but this does not have to be true. We do not have to live in a caste system, especially when women who are in your position of power have the opportunity to make and encourage significant change for young women like Tonya.
Tell me, is it better to continue the cycle of privilege by only admitting the students who have had access and opportunity to the best of the best? Or do you give the young woman who shows so much promise that you choose to write about her in the alumnae magazine, a chance out of her situation? Are you going to give her access to unbelievable opportunity? Will you choose to continue and develop the on campus programming that will support her when she arrives?
I challenge you to do more than take pity on Tonya and the applicants like her. I applaud the plan to bring her to campus to better evaluate her academic potential, but I implore you to remember that Barnard is not a place that has to perpetuate the educational ills of our country. I want to see the institution that provided me with the tools to advocate for change, to do more than observe and note how messed up the education system is. Please, set the example.
Sydnie L. MosleyBarnard Class 2007