Columbia’s New Gender-Based Misconduct Policy For Students
Written by Bwog Staff
President Bollinger has announced Columbia University’s newest Gender-Based Misconduct Policy for Students, which can be found here. We’ll try to break down his email, which mostly mimics what was sent out a few days ago by deans, below:
- Goals of the policy: “to strengthen confidence in the University’s handling of reports of sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct, to ensure fairness for all parties involved, and to provide more assistance to students in need.”
- Improving key personnel: students will no longer serve on hearing panels, and advisors or attorneys may now accompany students to any meetings or hearings related to investigations.
- Navigation: Case managers will guide students (both “complainants” and “respondents”) through the process, and help with living arrangements.
- Logistics: They’ve added six new staff members to the Office of Sexual Violence Response and will open a new Rape Crisis Center location on the seventh floor of Lerner. Undergraduate orientation training has been “expanded.” PrezBo reminds us that Suzanne Goldberg is his new “special advisor.”
- Pats on the back: “Today’s new policy is one among many reforms we have initiated to try to deal with what is most certainly a national issue.”
Yes, this is a national issue, and this is a new policy, but much of it is the same. Appeals (page 17-18) will continue to be made to the dean of the respondent’s school, and the timeframe for resolving reports is still 60 days, yet there is no check placed on this (page 12). We’ll be looking into the more minute differences between the new policy and the old policy (as updated in August 2013), and will update accordingly.
Update (11:20 am): The introduction from DSpar’s email to Barnard is also included below.
Update (11:35 am): See a statement from several student groups, calling it “misrepresentative for Columbia to characterize these reforms as a response to student concerns,” below. The letter expresses disappointment that the Executive Vice President of Student Affairs did not get to oversee the process, and that student input was not considered. It continues: “The policy does not guarantee accommodations like housing and academic changes for survivors, it does not establish clear or useful sanctioning guidelines, it does not sufficiently improve the training for staff members who interact with survivors, and it leaves the appeals process in the hands of Deans with no expertise, inadequate training, and a clear bias.”
President Bollinger’s statement:
Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
I am writing today to announce a new University Gender-Based Misconduct Policy for Students and related procedures for responding to such misconduct. This can be accessed at: www.sexualrespect.columbia.edu. Our goals underlying the new policy are principally these: to strengthen confidence in the University’s handling of reports of sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct, to ensure fairness for all parties involved, and to provide more assistance to students in need. The changes we’ve made also reflect recent guidance from the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and federal legislation, as well as our own community’s recommendations. I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to understand the new University policy and the procedures it outlines. Throughout the coming year, we will continue to discuss ways to improve our policy. Everyone’s ideas are welcome and valuable in achieving the ultimate end here, which is to make Columbia a place where students feel safe, respected, and fully able to experience the extraordinary education and social opportunities the institution provides.
A significant component of the new Gender-Based Misconduct Policy, which deserves special note, involves various steps to improve the key personnel responsible for its implementation. Our investigators will be taking on a larger role in determining credibility and responsibility, and they will possess the requisite professional background and training to do so. Individuals serving on the hearing panels will be drawn from a designated pool of Columbia professionals with expertise in student life who have been tasked with this duty as part of their job. (Consistent with federal guidance, students will no longer serve on these panels.) And advisors, including an attorney if a student so chooses, may now accompany students who are parties to the investigative and disciplinary process at all hearings and official meetings.
A related development concerns case managers employed by the Gender-Based Misconduct Office. The presence of these case managers will provide complainants and respondents with a University staff member dedicated to helping them navigate this difficult process, access available support services, and secure necessary accommodations regarding their academic work and residential living arrangements.
Yet, I also want to stress that, as important as the policy and personnel changes are, they represent only one element of a comprehensive University effort begun in the spring semester and continued through the summer to prevent and respond to sexual assault and other forms of gender-based misconduct. Six new staff positions have been created in the Office of Sexual Violence Response (SVR), including an assistant director to be located at the University Medical Center. A new and larger Sexual Violence Response and Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center will officially open later this month on the seventh floor of Lerner Hall (in addition to the existing Hewitt Hall office on the Barnard campus), providing a private yet accessible location for students in need of support and services. The training we mandate for incoming undergraduates on consent, respect, and the importance of bystander intervention has been expanded and will be carried into the school year. Helping to drive these initiatives forward is Suzanne Goldberg, Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law, who last month I named as my special advisor on these matters.
So, today’s new policy is one among many reforms we have initiated to try to deal with what is most certainly a national issue and—of greater importance to us—a Columbia University issue. I have always said, and will do so again, that our responses to this (or any other serious matter) should be guided by our own internal standards of character and basic norms of proper conduct, consistent of course with the law and public policy, but always seeking far more of ourselves than what may be commonly asked.
Lee C. Bollinger
Dear members of the Barnard community,
Below is an important announcement from President Bollinger regarding Columbia’s updated Gender-Based Misconduct Policy. I urge you to read through the information carefully, as it details new and enhanced measures intended to reduce the number of incidents to zero, and to make the University a safer and more respectful place overall.
We at Barnard support these efforts and are optimistic about the plans underway. As a member of the Barnard community, you should know that all of the existing resources and services on our campus remain in place. Amy Zavadil, Associate Dean for Equity & Title IX Coordinator, is our central point of contact and ready to provide guidance and information to any student, faculty, or staff member. Over the summer, she has been working closely with a dedicated subcommittee of the Student Government Association to expand programming and training, such as bystander intervention workshops, that will help our entire community identify and respond to dangerous or unwelcome situations, for ourselves and others. Dean Zavadil will also continue to collaborate with her counterparts at Columbia on prevention, as well as implementation of the updated University policy. You can find more information about Barnard’s policies and resources at www.barnard.edu/doc/titleix.
This issue is a top priority for me and my team, and we remain committed to improving and expanding our efforts throughout this academic year, and for as long as it takes.
August 14th, 2014
Today, Columbia University announced a new policy for responding to sexual assault, domestic violence, and genderbased misconduct on campus. We are deeply troubled that this policy was drafted without input from students and fails to address the serious and urgent concerns raised by survivors and concerned students over the past year. This is unacceptable.
It is misrepresentative for Columbia to characterize these reforms as a response to student concerns. It is clear from both the content of the new policy and the process by which it was developed that this revision was largely an effort to ensure their baseline compliance with the recently enacted Campus SaVE Act and D.O.E. regulations. This policy does not reflect students’ needs, and changes made are not adequate to ensure student safety.
Over the last year, survivors and organizers have made national headlines exposing the systemic failure of Columbia University to support survivors and address sexual violence on our campus. Throughout this period, students have diligently attempted to create an open dialogue with administrators to reform our Gender-Based Misconduct Policy. We have submitted pages of policy proposals, spoken out in town halls, and organized protests. We have made pleas for reform on national television and the front pages of newspapers. We have repeatedly requested meetings with top administrators–the same administrators who collaborated in the development of this new policy. All of these requests and proposals have been rejected or ignored.
Several students were explicitly told by multiple top administrators that a policy review would not and could not take place until a new Executive Vice President of Student Affairs was appointed to oversee the process, but assured us that student voices would be heard once this review began. This did not happen. Ten graduate and undergraduate students were called in to a brief, secret meeting two days before the policy was released and asked to respond to a summary of the already-finalized revisions, thanked for their ideas, and then dismissed.
Our goal is and always has been to work with the administration — including President Bollinger, Jeri Henry, and Melissa Rooker, who were central to the development of this policy to address these critical concerns. Instead, we have been stonewalled, misled, and deliberately excluded from the revision process. Thus far, their refusal to meaningfully engage with students and their failure to respond to our concerns has made constructive communication impossible.
Essential student concerns have not been meaningfully addressed in the new policy. For example, this policy does not guarantee accommodations like housing and academic changes for survivors, it does not establish clear or useful sanctioning guidelines, it does not sufficiently improve the training for staff members who interact with survivors, and it leaves the appeals process in the hands of Deans with no expertise, inadequate training, and a clear bias. Students have been raising these concerns and many others for months, yet this policy does nothing to address them.
These oversights might have been avoided if student voices had been included in this process. With this in mind, we call on the President’s office to meet with student survivors and organizers immediately, openly, and regularly to discuss ways to reform Columbia’s policies and procedures for responding to sexual assault. It is imperative that students have meaningful, accessible, and open channels of communication with decisionmakers, a clear process for formally proposing changes to the policy. We call on Dean of Judicial Affairs Jeri Henry, Title IX Coordinator Melissa Rooker, Special Advisor Suzanne Goldberg, and the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct to begin working with students immediately to develop effective, accessible channels of communication and actively include students in any current or future conversations about policy reforms.
We are currently reviewing the policy in detail and will offer a comprehensive assessment in the coming days. We strongly encourage other students to read and review the changes as well, and fill out this survey to voice their feedback on the new policy.
Each day that Columbia University fails to address pervasive sexual violence on campus, our safety as students and our integrity as a community is threatened. When will Columbia University make ending sexual violence on campus a top priority? What must we do to make our voices heard?
No Red Tape Columbia
The Coalition Against Sexual Violence
Columbia Alumni Allied Against Sexual Assault
Title IX Team
Take Back The Night of Barnard College at Columbia University