Big Problems: Making Sense of 2020
A New Course for the Class of 2024
2020 has been and continues to be a year unlike any other in recent memory. The COVID-19 crisis has both triggered and exacerbated massive social, economic, political, and environmental upheaval, highlighting the systemic inequalities that movements for racial and social justice have long cited. Black Lives Matter protests have reignited across the United States to demand justice and accountability for antiblack police violence. Wildfires, caused by record-breaking heat waves and droughts associated with the climate emergency, have destroyed much of the western part of the United States. And one of the most fraught presidential elections in U.S. history is fast approaching in November.
This course, specially created for the Class of 2024, is designed not only to help make sense of our current moment, but also to provide the Barnard community with critical analytical tools to imagine a world through and beyond this time of massive global upheaval. Through a special public lecture series and small group discussions, the course puts our current moment into multiple intellectual contexts. We will ask: What does this moment reveal about existing power structures, value systems, and the institutions that (re)produce them? What forms of destabilization might we actually welcome as part of a long history of antiracist and feminist activism? How do we care for and center communities who experience the pain and injustices of this moment most directly? What might our world look like as we move forward? The speakers—whose work and perspectives model different forms of sustained engagement with the big problems of 2020—will help us respond to these big questions.
The goals of this course are to:
- Foster community among first-year students and connect first-year students to the broader Barnard community, such as sophomore/junior/senior Discussion Leaders, the Barnard Library and Academic Informational Services (BLAIS), and Barnard administration and staff.
- Encourage dialogue through small discussion sections to help students make sense of and think critically about major issues that we face in 2020—issues with deep historical and political roots.
- Address via critical analyses and broader perspectives how the connected crises of antiblack violence and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated social, economic, political, and ecological upheavals.
- Feature a diverse slate of thinkers who will contextualize our current moment via multiple intellectual lenses.
- Facilitate collaborative zine projects that will be preserved in Barnard’s Zine Library.
This course has three key components:
1. Public Lecture Series
Over the course of the semester, all first-year students will attend a series of public lectures by leading thinkers from a variety of disciplines. These lectures will be live on Zoom and are open to the entire Barnard community. Each lecture will feature a brief talk from the speaker, followed by a Q&A session featuring questions exclusively from first-year students.
2. Discussion Section Meetings
All first-year students are required to sign up for a one-hour discussion section meeting. Discussion section meetings give you a special opportunity to prepare for each public lecture beforehand, discuss the lecture afterward, and develop the capstone project for the course: a zine. Each discussion section is led by a pair of Undergraduate Discussion Leaders—Barnard students who have been specially selected and trained to facilitate class discussions.
3. The Zine Project
A few weeks into the semester, you and your classmates will start working on the capstone project for this course: a zine. You will work on this zine in small groups from your discussion section. At the end of the semester, you’ll submit your zine to Barnard’s Zine Library, one of the most extensive zine libraries in the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
You will sign up for your discussion section during the September 4-5 registration period. In order to accommodate far-reaching time zones and to minimize conflicts with other popular course times, we’ve scheduled all the discussion sections at a variety of times, including early mornings, evenings, and weekends. Just as you would for any other course, choose a meeting time that works well with your schedule.
You can find a list of all discussion section times in the Columbia Course Directory. The course number is FYSB-BC1000.
To allow first-year students more flexibility in the shopping period, we have decided to leave the discussion sections open for change until the end of the shopping period on September 18th. You may change your section during your registration appointment times, but always within the limits of what is available. Please note that this change does not apply to First-Year Writing and First-Year Seminar courses, the enrollments of which are now set.
Your first discussion section meeting will be on Google Meets. On the first day of classes, you will get an email in your Barnard inbox with link information and instructions.
You do not need to register for a lecture; just register for your discussion section. The dates and times of the public lectures will be announced during the first week of classes.
Students are expected to attend the live lectures, but if you are unable to because of a course conflict or extreme time zone difference, a recording of the lecture and Q&A will be available to you shortly afterward.
Yes; this course is required for all Barnard first-year students enrolled in the Fall 2020 semester.
Of course! The course is worth 1 credit.
This course is offered Pass/Fail ONLY. In order to pass this course, you must attend all discussion section meetings, attend/watch all public lectures, complete short readings as assigned in your discussion section, and substantively contribute to your group’s zine project.
This is where we defer to our extraordinary zine experts at Barnard’s Zine Library. They use the following definition: “A zine, short for fanzine or magazine, is a DIY* subculture self-publication, usually made on paper and reproduced with a photocopier or printer. Zine creators are often motivated by a desire to share knowledge or experience with people in marginalized or otherwise less-empowered communities" (Barnard Zine Library, "Zine Basics").
You will learn more about zines in your discussion section meetings, which will include zine workshops designed by Jenna Freedman, Curator of the Barnard Zine Library.
If you are a current Barnard first-year student with a question about your discussion section, please email Sylvia Korman (’18), the Graduate Fellow Coordinator for the course, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a Barnard alum wishing to register for the public lectures, please email the Alumnae Relations Office at email@example.com.
For all other inquiries, please email Haley Schoek, Coordinator of International and Special Projects in the Provost's Office, at firstname.lastname@example.org.