No Red Tape’s “Stand With Survivors” Demonstration On Low

“Rape shouldn’t be part of the college experience.”

“Red tape won’t cover up rape.”

Earlier this week, No Red Tape delivered this letter to President Bollinger, proposing further reforms to Columbia University’s most recent sexual assault policy. Today, they’re holding a “Stand With Survivors” demonstration until 3, where student and alumni survivors are sharing their stories.

From their press release:

Frustrated by months of inaction and empty promises by the University, the group No Red Tape Columbia is demanding improvements to the school’s adjudication policies, stronger prevention programs, increased transparency, and comprehensive resources for survivors. Student and alumni survivors will speak out about their experiences of sexual and domestic violence and of mistreatment by the university.

At one point, organizer Zoe Ridolfi-Starr encouraged members of the crowd to stand behind the mattresses with the demonstrators. About 30 crossed sides: “This kind of movement is the type of movement we should see every time a survivor calls for help,” Ridolfi-Starr said to audience applause.

no red tape low

More pictures and video below the jump

Columbia’s New Gender-Based Misconduct Policy For Students


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.”

Read the full text of the email sent, after the jump.

PrezBo Officially Accepts Term Extension
PrezBo secretly wishes he had a balloon animal.

A man of the people

As we reported earlier this summer, we’ll have our dear old President Lee Bollinger at least through 2018, according to a statement sent out to all students this morning.

The chair of our board of trustees noted that “Columbia is performing at a level and achieving a standing it has not enjoyed in many years,” citing the undergrad schools’ selectivity, the growth of Manhattanville, PrezBo’s efforts at globalization, and fundraising success. PrezBo, blushing and internally debating how to redecorate his office in Low, responded: “I am privileged every day to witness the extraordinary accomplishments of our faculty, students, alumni and staff.”

Bollinger has been our president for 12 years, and by the time this term expires, his tenure will have been the longest since Nicholas Murray Butler.

Full statement below.

PrezBo’s Term Extended To 2018
PrezBo too will remain seated, pensive, and probably nude in his office

PrezBo too will remain seated, pensive, and probably nude in his office

According to a rumor, President Bollinger just received a two ­year extension on his contract. On Friday, the Columbia University Board of Trustees voted to extend PrezBo’s contract until 2018.

PrezBo was originally set to leave Low in 2016. Back in 2010, Bloomberg reported that Bollinger had “agreed with the board of trustees” to a contract that pushed the end his term (beginning in 2002, when he replaced George Rupp) from 2012 to 2016.

It seems that this extension came as no surprise to PrezBo. In an interview with Spec last October, PrezBo described the end date of his presidency in loose terms, saying “I’m making no plans about when [I will step down]. I’m continuing to act as if I’ll do this forever, which, obviously, is not true. But the kind of illusion that this goes on and on is the right way to approach this job. It’s a great honor and I’m very appreciative.”

Lately, under PrezBo’s watch, the university has been getting bad press in places like the front page of the New York Times regarding the mishandling of sexual assault. PrezBo was also— rather predictably —criticized by this year’s Varsity Show for his lack of engagement with undergrads.

By 2018, Bollinger will have been president for sixteen years, making his tenure the longest since Nicholas Murray Butler’s 43-year reign.

A younger PrezBo via Wikimedia Commons

PrezBo, On 60th Anniversary Of Brown v. Board, Argues To Renew It
A pretty pale Warren Court

A pretty pale Warren Court

Go back in time sixty years to the date. May 17, 1954—the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional the segregation of African-American students in school, blasting the “separate-but-equal” status quo that existed to that point. Columbia’s favorite affirmative action and equal opportunity advocate, PrezBo, wrote an article in The New Yorker arguing that, while we’ve come a long way as a society, we might recently have forgotten what Brown vs Board really stood, and still stands, for.

The 1978 Bakke decision, PrezBo writes, turned this original idea of affirmative action on its head by declaring these new policies, put in place to establish certain “critical masses” of historically oppressed racial groups, unconstitutional because they disadvantaged other innocent but historically privileged people; rather, the decision allowed for the consideration of race and ethnicity in creating a more diverse student population.

However, PrezBo argues, this decision has required college presidents and other officials to create and follow “hollow and banal” admissions policies that students can see right through. In fact, both university and government officials are hesitant to touch on the topic of race. PrezBo notes the few memorable times a certain other president has spoken up on the issue, most recently regarding the Donald Sterling debacle, supporting his claim with extremely timely and true examples. He counters by including his own defense of University of Michigan’s policies, a case that also went to the Supreme Court and won, but was, in unprecedented Supreme Court fashion, given a time limit before affirmative action could become irrelevant.

Our famed scholar then gets to the good stuff, but we’ll leave that to you to explore.

Warren Court via Wikimedia Commons


A Body-Language Analysis Of PrezBo

Bwog sees things other people wouldn’t notice because it’s Bwog’s job. Who else would keep Columbia update on squirrel antics? Who else would try to do a liveblog of a library? Perhaps most importantly, who else would identify questionable patterns in administrator behavior? While reminiscing and going through old pictures, this gem of a PrezBo photo was uncovered. But other memories were stirring, other photo-ops with Bollinger. In every single one, he makes the same curious pose with his hands in what a cranky dance teacher might call “fig-leaf position.”

Faces changed for anonymity and hilarity.

Upon further research on the internet, Bwog confirmed that our fearless leader pretty much always poses like this. In order to better get into the mind of PrezBo, Bwog attempted a bit of body language analysis:

  • Lack of eye-camera contact: Maybe PrezBo imagines he is emulating the shark from Jaws with his cold, empty stare. But a refusal to look directly at a camera is indicative of something far less intimidating. Instead of seeming like a ruthless force of nature, Bollinger is instead giving an impression of deception or disrespect. The eyes are the window to the soul and you have beautiful icy blues President Bollinger! Allow us to gaze into their depths and see what it is you are hiding.
  • The toothless smirk: Smiling without showing your teeth can mean just about anything. Is this an uncomfortable grin? Is he smiling out of polite toleration? Maybe it’s an attempt at seduction? It is rare to see PrezBo smiling in a photograph so there is no precedent for interpretation. However, we will add that this smile is making us a bit uncomfortable so maybe Bollinger should practice a bit in the mirror?
  • Angled stance: A favorite among sorority girls and the Hollywood elite, standing at an angle to the camera makes you look…slenderer? Bwog supports body positivity, but perhaps PrezBo was feeling a bit self-conscious. It has been several months since the Fun Run.
  • The Hands: By far the most curious and distinctive part of PrezBo’s body language is the hands. They are clasped loosely in front of his crotch, shoulders hunched slightly forward. This is a deeply insecure pose. He is simultaneously hunching up into a tiny ball like a hedgehog and also protecting his junk. But from what, PrezBo! There is not threat. These are your students! PrezBo might not realize that this comfy pose is sabotaging his reputation as a powerful leader of a personality cult President of a Great University. Find your Global Center PrezBo. We would recommend a power stance instead: head held high, hands at your sides or on your hips, and chest thrust forth to the world.


Fireside Chat, Graduate Edition
The venue

The venue

PrezBo held one of his famous fireside chats; this time, for graduate students. He served us pretty good burritos and nachos, as well as the smallest cupcakes Bwog has ever seen. Wonder what he said? Presidential party crasher Artur Renault has got you covered.

People were very confused at my name tag, which said “Bwog,” where theirs stated their school affiliation. My standard answer to “What school is B.W.O.G.?” was “I’m getting a doctorate in squirrel studies.” I got mixed reactions.

Soon we were ushered from the large, old, hardwood-floored room with the buffet into a large, old, hardwood-floored room with chairs specially placed so we could talk to PrezBo.

Here’s what he said.

High Hopes, Low Expectations

Cold, callous Low

Yesterday, PrezBo announced that Low will get a bit more crowded come autumn—a fresh face will fill the newly-created role of Executive Vice President for Student Affairs and report directly to the president.

University Senators Akshay Shah, SEAS ’14, and Matthew Chou, CC ’14, note that the creation of this position is essentially a direct consequence of the sexual assault controversy, which showed the clear need for someone in Columbia’s central administration to become the “primary place of contact for issues relating to sexual assault.”

Joseph Ienuso, EVP for Facilities and Operations, has been picking up the slack, but hasn’t had any student affairs experience in the past. And remember when it took so long to find a time for the town hall? Terry Martinez and deans of student affairs from other schools in the umbrella were left without a central administrator to coordinate the event. Hopefully this new position will centralize the process rather than bog CU down with more slow, unresponsive bureaucracy, and hopefully student voices will be included in conversations regarding the search. To the University Senators, however, it’s already “a big win”—as Akshay noted, we’ll have someone “with the direct ear of the president.”

Peer institutions and the current bureaucracy.

Update From PrezBo On Sexual Assault
"So, here are the updates"

“So, here are the updates”

PrezBo wants us to know he’s serious about handling our concerns about sexual assault. In addition to his previous letter stating his commitment to addressing sexual assault on campus, he sent out this letter giving the following updates on the administration’s progress:

  • PrezBo will create a new administrative position, the Executive Vice President for Student Affairs, who will report directly to PrezBo about issues like sexual assault.
  • The University Senate has passed a resolution which will increase student representation on the President’s Advisory Committee for Sexual Assault.
  • The deans will hold more public forums and respond to the concerns raised at the first one.
  • The administration will improve access and confidentiality for the Rape and Crisis Support Center.
  • Also, it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and there are lots of events coming up.

PrezBo’s letter (bolding by Bwog):

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am writing to offer an update on the progress we’re making in addressing the issues involving sexual assault at the University. There are many complex problems to resolve, so this will not be the last letter or communication I (or others) will write on the subject. It seems better to provide periodic statements about what we’re doing, which, besides showing that things are happening, brings the added benefit of supporting an ongoing discussion within the community.

I want to begin, as I tried to do in my letter earlier in the semester, with the clearest possible statement that we are just not going to tolerate sexual abuse and assault at Columbia. Everything we are doing and will do must be with the purpose of reducing this misconduct to zero.

So, here are the updates:

Get the updates

Fireside Chat: Wellness and PrezBo’s Future
The mansion

The mansion

PrezBo held a Fireside Chat last night, complete with snacks and fancy outfits. Bwog’s Bollinger Buddy Britt Fossum went to chat by his fireside.

I was told that President Bollinger’s fireside chat would begin at 6:00 PM, and so I hurried out of my CC class fifteen minutes early, regretting my decision to exchange midterms sneakers for nice shoes as I stepped in several puddles on 116th. Upon arriving at his home and getting my press pass clipped on, I realized that I wasn’t the only one trying to make a good impression by dressing well. I saw suits, dresses, and even what appeared to be some kind of deconstructed tuxedo. Impressive for college students in the throes of exams. 6:00 was when the snacking and mingling began, not the chat itself. And so I snacked and mingled, and spoke with a friend who has so far won two fireside chat lotteries. She reassured me that the food was better last time, even though I was pretty impressed. They even had scotcheroos, a Midwestern delicacy. Besides the food, the night was relatively tame, the exception being the controversial questions students asked PrezBo. Student mental health, Manhattanville, prison divest, and sexual assault all came up but these discussions were mixed with digressions on Columbia’s Global Centers and Bollinger’s personal development.

At around 6:30 we were steered into a side room filled with rows of chairs and couches, with a single stool in the front awaiting PrezBo’s arrival. After everyone settled down, he entered quietly and took a seat. The other administrators present were announced: Dean Terry Martinez, University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, Media Relations Vice President Robert Hornsby, GS Dean of Students Tom Harford, and Facilities Vice President Joseph Ienuso. Bollinger then announced, as he always does at these chats, that he would answer any question we ask him unless he doesn’t want to.

Ask him some questions and get some answers

Red Tape Around Campus And On PrezBo’s Door

“We demand that you fulfill the commitment you made in your public statement one month ago today. We demand to be heard.” Look around campus and you’ll see the red tape marking the spots, including PrezBo’s door. The group, No Red Tape, is calling for a series of town halls, for decision-makers to be present at them, and for “new and diverse voices” to be included in the conversation. According to the Spectator, PrezBo has finally responded, setting a time for the town hall on March 13 from 5 to 7 pm.

Update (3:22 pm): The group has released a press release (below the jump).

Check out pictures from other places around campus.

PrezBo Announces New Task Force On Personalized Medicine
The next task force will be on making personalized jelly beans

The next task force will be on making personalized jelly beans

PrezBo sent out an email this morning announcing the creation of a large, University-wide task force to help the University plan for new scientific advances in various disciplines towards the creation of personalized/precision medicine. According to the Personalized Medicine Coalition, personalized/precision medicine is “the use of new methods of molecular analysis to better manage a patient’s disease or predisposition to disease.” That sounds very futuristic and we’re glad PrezBo is keeping Columbia at the forefront of it.

The task force isn’t just for scientists. The announcement states that “This broad subject encompasses virtually every part of the University, including areas that explore fundamental issues of human self-understanding and those that seek to develop the legal, policy, and economic implications of revolutionary changes in knowledge and practice.” The task force has around 40 faculty and administrators on it, whose disciplines range from dental science to computer science to sociology.

PrezBo hopes that the task force will produce a report by next fall semester.

Get PrezBo’s whole message and the list of task force members

Columbia Prison Divest Speaks Up
Some members of the campaign speaking with Columbia's deputy something something

Some members of the campaign speaking with PrezBo’s Deputy something something

Members of the Columbia Prison Divest campaign sat down with Bwog to talk about the letter they’d sent around and had publicly submitted to PrezBo.  The campaign has only just started, but it seems the group is focused on success—they want Columbia to get rid of its investments in private prisons and, perhaps more importantly, they seem to want you to want it as well.  

Bwog: Well, let’s start out simple. Who are you guys and what are you circulating this letter about?

We are students and we are the Columbia Prison Divest campaign. We delivered a letter on Monday to President Lee Bollinger asking Columbia to divest from the private prison industry.

B: For those of us who haven’t read the letter, what exactly are you asking for?

Specifically, we are asking for Columbia to divest completely from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), G4S, and provide a negative screen for (i.e. measures to block any future investments in) CCA, G4S and The GEO Group. We are also calling for Columbia to publicly encourage its investment partners to divest from those same corporations. Alongside these calls for divestment, we are also asking our university to be accountable to us, students, and members of its community by way of increasing the transparency regarding its budget since currently we can access only 10% of its investments.

B: Why do you think students ought to care about this? What’s personal about divestment for students?

For some students, the divestment campaign is solely related to holding themselves, and by extension the University, accountable for sound spending practices. For other students, this is a far more personal matter, related to the effects of police profiling on targeted communities and the continued incarceration efforts directed towards communities of color and working class communities. Regardless of what perspective you approach this from, we can all agree that profiting from putting more people in prison goes against what we want Columbia to stand for.

Find out more about the campaign and how you can get more info/get involved

PrezBo Releases Statement On Sexual Assault

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.
Emails from Prezbo and DSpar after the jump.

USenate Releases Statement on Sexual Assault Process

The USenate Twitter account just released a statement from the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) on the Sexual Assault Adjudication Process. In short, the SAC has called for:

  • President Bollinger to release a statement regarding the university’s policy on sexual assault and misconduct,
  • a town hall to act as a forum for students and faculty to speak publicly on the issue,
  • full transparency from the university regarding data related to sexual assaults and other associated violations, and
  • making the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA) more inclusive of the student body and more transparent.

For more information about sexual assault at Columbia, see former Blue and White managing editor Anna Bahr’s (BC ’14) piece. Statement below.

Update (10:05 pm)–The SAC sent out the statement via email to Columbia College students. Matthew Chou, a co-chair of the SAC, added:

We understand this is an incredibly important issue for students, and we are dedicated to reaching solutions in partnership with the entire Columbia community. Through the Senate, we will also continue to actively pursue the implementation of the statement’s recommendations. If you have any questions or would like to get involved, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line at asksenate@columbia.edu.

Akshay Shah, also co-chair of the SAC, noted, “We feel that this is an issue that is appropriate for the University Senate to take on as it deals with a university office following a process that the university has put in place to comply with Title IX.” We’ve reached out to administration for comment and will update accordingly.

Update (1/27, 4:15 pm)–Robert Hornsby, the Associate Vice President of Media Relations, sent us this statement in response to the letter:

Sexual assault and gender-based misconduct are always unacceptable and often criminal.  The safety and well-being of every student and each member of the Columbia community is our foremost priority, and we recognize that confidence in the handling of allegations of gender-based misconduct and sexual assault is an essential part of ensuring that safety.  Over the last few months, Columbia has been reviewing its policies and procedures for the reporting, investigation, and provision of discipline in these matters.  As part of this process, the University’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault has been speaking with the Columbia University Student Democrats and other student leaders whose requests for the disclosure of aggregate data are under consideration.  A new website urging sexual respect in our university community was launched last week.

In the days ahead, we look forward to sharing additional steps intended to sustain our campus dialogue and to ensure that students’ voices inform the ongoing development of the university’s gender-based misconduct policies.  We therefore welcome the broad conversation occurring on campus involving Columbia’s leadership, the University Senate, Columbia University Student Democrats and a large cross-section of concerned students in the expectation that it will increase awareness and identify opportunities to improve current practices.