Update (1/30, 1:15 pm): Several deans, including Dean Valentini, Dean Boyce, Dean Awn, and Dean Martinez, emailed a statement to Barnard and Columbia undergraduates this afternoon. It’ll be under the jump.
Update (9:50 am): Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, emailed a statement to Barnard College. Find it after the jump as well.
At 9 am this morning, President Bollinger emailed this statement to the entire university. Over the past few weeks and months, there’s been growing criticism of Columbia’s improper handling of sexual assault cases, including an investigative piece by The Blue and White’s Anna Bahr.
Most notably, President Bollinger committed to more transparency throughout the system; he promised to release anonymized statistics on “gender-based misconduct” by the end of this school year, and also expressed his support for a review of PACSA (whose members currently aren’t disclosed) and forums to discuss how cases of sexual assault are taken care of by the University.
While we can’t forget the tradeoff between transparency and confidentiality—and PrezBo doesn’t—there’s few who would say that the current system for reporting and trying sexual assault allegations is ideal. Catch the email after the jump.
Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
Gender-based misconduct and sexual assault have no place in our community. Period. A commitment to increase awareness of such misconduct, decrease its frequency, support survivors of violence, and hold accountable students who violate university policies, has long been a priority at Columbia. I can assure you it will continue to be so.
For the past few months, we have been reviewing relevant policies and procedures, and several initiatives already are underway. These include last week’s launch of a new website that sets forth our policies on gender-based misconduct and explains to members of our community what they can do and where they can turn if they believe they have been harmed by such misconduct. Building on these efforts and on conversations with student leaders, I am directing that the following steps be taken to address each of the proposals put forward by the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) in its statement issued on Sunday night:
First, aggregate, anonymous data related to sexual assaults and other gender-based misconduct will be released beginning with the current academic year. This will require a delicate balancing of confidentiality and transparency. The release of such information will go beyond the annual reporting and publication of criminal complaints required by the Clery Act, a federal law serving as the national standard for disclosure. We will be sensitive to avoiding the creation of unintended impediments to the reporting of gender-based misconduct. All students must be confident that their rights are protected and feel safe when reporting such incidents.
Second, I support the University Senate’s review of the University’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA), established at the Senate’s direction. Such a review could usefully encompass the charge of PACSA, the composition of its membership (particularly with respect to expanding student participation), the nominating process employed to name PACSA members, and proposals for greater transparency consistent with PACSA’s mandate and the confidentiality of student records.
Third, our undergraduate deans and the deans of several other Columbia schools have received requests for forums to be held for the purpose of discussing ways to improve the handling of gender-based misconduct cases. They are in the process of considering how best to convene these discussions in order to reinforce a campus climate of trust and mutual support, and whether these forums are more effectively scheduled before or after a University Senate review of PACSA. It is a process I fully support.
The problem posed by gender-based misconduct and sexual assault across the nation’s college and university campuses is both highly complex and demanding of urgent attention. I am open to new ideas and to student concerns as we strive collectively to meet this unfortunate challenge.
Lee C. Bollinger
Here’s what DSpar emailed to Barnard, agreeing with PrezBo.
To members of the Barnard community,
The following email from President Bollinger addresses the critical issue of gender-based misconduct and sexual assault. I want to reiterate his message of zero tolerance for this type of misconduct, and emphasize that Barnard College is deeply committed to maintaining a campus environment that is safe for every member of our community.
As the broader Columbia University community continues to discuss the policies and procedures for identifying, reporting, and responding to this type of unacceptable behavior, we too will continue to be actively involved in the conversations around this important issue.
From the deans:
Dear Barnard and Columbia Undergraduates,We want to further emphasize yesterday’s message from President Bollinger: gender-based misconduct and sexual assault have no place in our community. We support the actions that President Bollinger has initiated to meet this challenging issue as outlined in his message (appended below).As undergraduate deans, we are deeply committed to maintaining a campus environment that is safe for every member of our community. We thank you for bringing your concerns to us and for your willingness to partner with us to address this challenge collectively.We will be reaching out in the coming days to meet with the student groups that have played a leadership role in increasing awareness of this issue on campus, including the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) of the University Senate, the student councils from our four schools, and the Columbia University Democrats, to determine the best framework and timing for a public forum for all students to discuss this important issue.
We are committed to open dialogue and discussion, and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to foster a safe and supportive undergraduate community.
Peter J. Awn
Dean of The School
of General Studies
Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School
of Engineering and Applied Science
Avis E. Hinkson
Dean of the College
James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education
Dean of Students
School of General StudiesAlina Wong
Associate Dean for Student Life
Interim Dean of Student Affairs
Columbia College and The Fu Foundation
School of Engineering and Applied Science