sexual assault Archive



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img April 15, 20167:34 pmimg 3 Comments

TBTN on Amsterdam

View of the march on Amsterdam from a window

Last night, a group of activists marched to “took back the night,” in our campus’s annual Take Back the Night event to raise awareness to end sexual violence. Bwogger Jessa Nootbaar was there to record the action, and she only wishes she’d been joined by more community members.

When a member of Take Back the Night told the group assembled in front of her, “The excuses end here,” she was referring to the excuses made for those who commit sexual assault. But another kind of excuse came to my mind. Excuses for not participating in the fight against sexual assault.

Earlier in the day, I had received a text from a good friend of mine, a CC ‘19 student. “Weird question,” he wrote. “Since you do all that campus news stuff, do you know what’s being protested outside right now and why they’re making so much damn noise when I just want to take a nap.” Shortly after, an anonymous tipper submitted to Bwog, “what is that noise outside butler uggghhhhhhhhhh [sic].”

Read on



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img November 23, 201510:30 pmimg 5 Comments

A Clery Crime Alert was sent out tonight reporting a sexual assault in the East Campus residence hall on Saturday, November 21st between 3:00 and 4:30 in the morning. The text is included below:

On Saturday November 21, 2015 Public Safety was notified of a sexual assault that occurred inside of East Campus between the hours of 3:00am and 4:30am. An identified student reported being the victim of a sexual assault by two other students known to her. As of this date and time, there is no further information available. If you have any information regarding this crime, please contact the Investigations Office at 212-854-2054.

This crime alert stands out as the first in recent memory to inform the community of a sexual assault that has occurred in a residence hall. This post will be updated if any new information is reported.



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img September 21, 201512:50 pmimg 0 Comments

The study reveals disturbing trends and prompts action.

The study reveals disturbing trends.

The Association of American Universities (AAU) conducted a sexual assault survey at 27 of its member institutions, including Columbia. In the executive summary written by Columbia faculty, topics such as the prevalence of sexual assault, the groups most at risk, the role of alcohol and drugs, and the reporting of assault were explored. In an email, President Bollinger suggests further action will be taken and details the roles of Sexual Respect and SHIFT.

Highlights from the report:

  • 24.4% of female undergraduate seniors reported having experienced sexual assault since starting at Columbia.
  • 81.9 % of female undergraduates thought it would not be likely that campus officials would conduct a fair investigation of a reported case of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.
  • Female undergraduate students who identified as lesbian, bisexual, asexual, or questioning reported a higher rate of nonconsensual penetration since starting at Columbia than female students who self-identified as heterosexual or straight (18.9% compared to 10.9%).
  • Similarly, undergraduate students who identify as transgender, genderqueer or gender nonconforming, questioning, or gender “not listed” reported higher levels of nonconsensual penetration (13.3%) since entering college than students who identified as heterosexual or straight.

The second annual Report on Gender-Based Misconduct Prevention and Response at Columbia has also been released.

Read the full text of the email sent out by President Bollinger below:



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img February 28, 20156:03 pmimg 11 Comments


News Editor Eric Cohn raises some points of concern with Columbia’s new sexual respect program.

Recently, I contacted Dean Kromm asking her whether faculty and staff are required to go through any sort of sexual respect training, as is now required for students. In an official university statement from Associate Vice President for Media Relations Robert Hornsby, I learned that, although staff are required to go through some sort of sexual respect training, faculty are only “recommended” to do so. The university’s full statement can be read below:

“The first phase of the new sexual respect education program is geared to students. However, the University does require awareness and prevention training for staff on harassment and discrimination, which is also recommended for faculty. We are in process of reviewing and updating our training modules regarding this issue to best serve the entire campus community.”

My inquiry began after a tip sent to Bwog by a student who wished to remain anonymous alleging sexual harassment complaints against a particular professor since 2007. In addition to the concerns raised by student groups about Columbia’s new sexual respect program, this tip critiqued Columbia for its lack of a comprehensive sexual respect program for faculty and staff.

The tipster sent us a series of course reviews dating from 2003, highlighting the numerous complaints of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior from the professor. Our tipster requested that we omit the name of the professor and his department out of concern that the department might attempt to retaliate against her.

More on the accused professor and lack of a faculty sexual assault program here.



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img February 12, 20158:02 pmimg 24 Comments

Bwog Editor in Chief Taylor Grasdalen discusses the recent news.

On Wednesday, February 11, Columbia undergraduates received emails from their schools’ deans alerting them to a new sexual respect program. The “University Initiative on Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship,” as Deans Valentini and Boyce refer to it — or Dean Awn’s gentler “Sexual Respect: Engaging the Columbia Community” — requires that all Columbia College, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and General Studies students participate in some way. Barnard College has not mandated its students’ participation.

Dean Awn writes that “since your participation is required — and given the wide range of backgrounds, knowledge and experiences that students bring to these issues — we will propose multiple options for engagement so that all students can choose to participate in the way that works best for them between now and mid-March.” The deadline to complete the program, based in CourseWorks, is March 13. Students new to Columbia this semester already met the requirement during their orientation.

What Awn’s message demonstrates, and Valentini and Boyce’s reiterate (“undergraduates have a range of learning styles, backgrounds and experiences, and preferred ways of engaging, there are numerous options available for you to fulfill this requirement, ranging from workshops to film and talk-back discussions to individual or group art projects”) is that there is no exemption from this program for Columbia University undergraduates — unless one were a Barnard student, of course. Survivors, while presented with a fairly diverse set of options to complete the program, are regardless forced to confront the “sexual respect” material.

One student emailed Bwog, questioning the policy: “Why isn’t there an option to allow a CPS or outside counselor to exempt you? Do they seriously think that someone going to weekly counselling after an assault might not feel comfortable in a room full of people talking about triggering shit? Survivors for sure should be part of the conversation — but not without the option not to be.”

The program seems rushed, on an early deadline. Perhaps due to pressure from a semester’s worth of protests and more than a year’s worth of media attention, Columbia University has chosen to require its students to fulfill immediately a large “initiative.” Seniors must complete the project before graduation, and rising juniors and sophomores must as well find the time before March 13. This places a great weight on students nearing midterms and in the thick of job applications, when it might better have been addressed during the New Student Orientation Program, or through some, any, timelier process.

Survivors — especially those who have chosen not to share their history with their peers — are now subjected to a program from which they cannot necessarily be easily or quietly exempted. There are no statements in the program which outline an exemption process for students triggered by issues of sexual assault and gender-based misconduct, but rather, there are “alternatives.” There are film- and art- and storytelling-related options, but none that allow their rightful exclusion. There are “tell your story,” “post-trauma,” and “mindfulness” workshops.

Although this program represents an excellent step toward “ongoing efforts to prevent gender-based misconduct, strengthen the response to such misconduct when it occurs, and enhance our campus climate,” Columbia’s implementation and rules do not seem to naturally enhance the campus climate. While survivors — those reported and those quiet — are still exposed to material so outright triggering, the issue has not yet fairly been addressed.

Images of the program on CourseWorks may be viewed here.



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img December 12, 20146:40 pmimg 22 Comments

Enter CUMB

Enter CUMB

Two anonymous baby Bwoggers present their review of Orgo Night: Fall 2014 Edition. We sent the freshmen because they didn’t know what to expect. Also they’re less jaded.

Last night at 11:30pm in Butler 209, everyone realized—probably—that they had forgotten to take a shower. Sweaty bodies in sweaty sweaters carrying their sweaty parkas milled around the room, predicting where the band would stand, trying to find somewhere comfortable to sit, and trying not to breathe through their noses. Last night was our first Orgo Night, and luckily we got to perch on the same study carrel as the band, back to back with Mikhail and Edith (though our necks were definitely sore from the end of the night from having to peer around to look at them, and things definitely got awkward when Bwog’s time came).

And what public gathering is complete without the overwhelming presence of Public Safety? Officers were stationed outside of Butler and throughout the main floor in anticipation of protests (in anticipation of what CUMB might say), though apparently said protest was over at the Barnard Midnight Breakfast instead. Despite a push from some students for the administration to cancel the performance due to the band’s not-so-subtle and often offensive jokes, Orgo Night was still on.

At midnight, CUMB came booming into 209, playing the Fight Song and waving their instruments along with a “Wet Floor” sign that was altered to say “Get Wet For Floorgo Night” (and possibly a mop?). “Ladies and gentlemen and organic chemistry students,” they opened, “back despite misguided protests, the most canceled band in the world, the Columbia University Marching Not Your Turn!”

The band’s first target: the police! They began by bashing cops for the recent events surrounding the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, throwing in jokes about CrackDel and how public safety should “focus on what they do best: making pleasant conversation with Barnard girls in the sign-in line.” They followed up their political commentary with “Fuck You, Police” (“Fuck You” by CeeLo Green). No one missed that.

More CUMB antics after the jump.



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img December 04, 20142:45 pmimg 22 Comments

Cover illustration by Angel Jiang, CC '15

Cover illustration by Angel Jiang, CC ’15

Just in time for the release of the December issue of our beloved Mother Magazine, The Blue and White, Bwog is proud to present this overview of recent campus sexual assault activism written by Senior Editor Hallie Nell Swanson, CC ’16. If you haven’t already, be sure to read former Managing Editor Anna Bahr’s two-part coverage of Columbia’s sexual assault policy from earlier this year.

Everyone knows about “the movement”—the name that encompasses those who have banded together to change how Columbia handles sexual assault. Be it on the front page of the New York Times, your Facebook feed, or Low Steps, you can’t avoid it, in Morningside Heights or beyond. For most not directly involved, the movement is a collection of images and ideas: mattresses, angry students, narratives of miscarriages of justice and an uncaring administration. This common understanding primarily results from the work of No Red Tape (NRT), a campus student activist organization. It is the product of a highly coordinated media effort that has ensured regular coverage of the organization. But while this strategy has secured NRT a place in the spotlight, it has also crudely rendered the complex workings of the organization and the individuals involved in it.

“We have to find ways to make them care”

How did we get here? To understand NRT, we must go back to a February meeting in the University Senate’s Low Library conference room. The previous week, an article (“Accessible, Prompt, and Equitable”?) had appeared in The Blue and White detailing the experiences of survivors with Columbia’s adjudication process. As Anna Bahr, BC ‘14 and the article’s author, recalled, “most of the faces that are still important to the movement right now were in the meeting on the first day.” Some had already been meeting and debating how to approach the issue since the beginning of the year, but only behind closed doors. At this juncture, and at several subsequent meetings, the people who had been talking about it were finally all in one room, and had to decide how to move forward.

Making those decisions was hard. Some people in the conversation wanted to tackle the issue through policy based initiatives, while others favored direct action. There was a clear clash, not just of ideology but of individuals, particularly Sejal Singh, CC ‘15, and Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, CC ’15. Ultimately, these differences resulted in a schism. On one side there was the Coalition Against Sexual Violence (CASV) led by Sejal; on the other, No Red Tape (NRT) led by Zoe.

CASV’s membership tends to consist of “student-leader” types, who already have administrative relationships, though Abby Porter, CC ’17, CASV’s co-coordinator for prevention education and CCSC Vice President of Communications, is keen to emphasize that anyone can get involved. According to Abby, it’s “unfortunate” that the “so-called student leaders” get access that not everybody does—but it’s a status quo that NRT can use to their advantage: they agitate, others lobby. The groups also collaborate frequently.

NRT, on the other hand, was born out of opposition and frustration. Much of its membership has been drawn from more radical activist groups, such as Student Worker Solidarity (SWS). According to Zoe, “Really the only things that they [the administration] care about are money and their public image. We have to find ways to actually make them care.” For NRT, without administrative relationships to exploit, this has largely meant securing media coverage.

Inside NRT’s notes, thoughts on outside media, and more after the jump.



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img October 19, 20146:25 pmimg 1 Comments

Bucket List represents the intellectual privilege we enjoy as Columbia students. Take a study break from midterms to check out interesting guest lecturers and special events on campus! Our recommendations for this week are below and the full list is after the jump. If you notice any events that have been left off the list, or a correction, please leave them in the comments.


  • “Political Corruption and the 1st Amendment with Tim Wu” Pulitzer Hall Lecture Hall, Tuesday 6:00 PM. Tim Wu, Steve Coll, PrezBo. (RSVP to
  • “#Ferguson: Reporting a Viral News Story” Pulitzer Hall Lecture Hall, Thursday 7:00 PM. Antonio French, Alice Speri, Zeynep Tufekci.
  • “Responding to Sexual Assault: A Teach-In” Jerome Green Annex Building, Thursday 4:00-6:00 PM. Christina Brandt-Young, Suzanne Goldberg, Dr. Jill Hill, Monica Pombo, Saswati Sarkar.
  • “President Bollinger’s 13th Annual Fun Run 5k Run” College Walk, Friday 8:30 AM. PrezBo.

More ways to procrastinate in the name of education after the jump.



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img October 01, 201411:10 amimg 6 Comments

Feelin' optimistic

Feelin’ optimistic

The school year’s first University Senate meeting opened with a speech by Prezbo where he gave his perspective on the present and future of Columbia. He said that Columbia is in one of its “greatest eras.” He gave compliments to the new and some of the returning deans, praised the architectural changes around Columbia, and commented on the improvement of SEAS. While he cannot right now release financial data, he is confident that Columbia will retain the largest return on its endowment among universities with endowments over $1 billion and will remain in the top 5 of universities in terms of dollars coming in. He also stated that the university’s recent capital campaign was the 2nd most successful in US history.

On sexual assault, Prezbo stated that the there was a nationwide movement around the issue where every school needs to step up, and he believes Columbia has stepped up. He noted that he had discussions with students about sexual assault policy over the summer and wants to have more, but he had to institute a new policy before the beginning of the school year.

More updates after the jump…



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img September 23, 20145:48 pmimg 50 Comments

no red tape

Columbia University has just released updated information pertaining to sexual assault cases on campus. The report details recent developments regarding the new Gender-Based Misconduct Policy, as well as campus resources and prevention education for students, staff, and faculty. An email from Provost John Coatsworth this evening provided more detail into the report and a link to access it from Columbia’s sexual respect website.

The report provides the numbers of specific types of sexual assault complaints filed to Columbia between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014. Most of the information in the report is provided through tables, although other information is scattered throughout. Of note:

  • The report includes details of training for faculty and administration. Sexual Violence Response (SVR) gives 20 minute sessions to administrators on “how best to support survivors of violence.” Administrators involved in the hearing process “will receive enhanced training both annually and then specifically in advance of serving in an individual case.”
  • For cases of intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, and stalking, more cases were resolved through “Informal resolution” than any other outcome. (The report clarifies, “For a case to be resolved in this way, the complainant, respondent, and SSGBSM [Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct] must agree upon the outcome…. Resolution of cases in this manner is not permitted for reported allegations of sexual assault.”)
  • The report states that accommodations (“such as moving a student’s residence, changing a  student’s academic schedule…and/or issuing a ‘no contact’ order”) were requested on 34 occasions, and were “Granted Entirely” all 34 times (as opposed to “Granted in Part” or “Denied Entirely”). No clarification is made as to the distinction between full and partial completion of these requests.
  • “The average time to resolve reports that were fully investigated and then resolved via a hearing was 91 days (not including the appeal).” The average appeal process took 9 business days.
  • No appeal in the time frame of the report changed the finding of the initial investigation it was appealing.

The full email is included after the jump.

Read more



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img September 12, 20141:59 pmimg 70 Comments

“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



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img September 10, 20145:13 pmimg 4 Comments

In a campus-wide email, Suzanne B. Goldberg (or rather, “on behalf of Suzanne B. Goldberg”), the new Special Advisor to PrezBo on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, delineated some of the specific changes at present. The lengthy email details recent resources, such as the new Lerner office for the Anti-Violence Support Center, the transformed Gender-Based Misconduct Office—previously Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct—as well as the changes in orientation. New students in the 2014-15 academic year experienced three hours of training, deans have personally reached out to students, and a poster campaign has taken place over “residence and student activity areas.”

Goldberg acknowledged the work put in last year by students, but mentions “it might be helpful to note” (for whom?) “that University administrators were working through the summer to have the policy ready for the new academic year.” The email also provides details on why sanctions and accommodations weren’t provided, as demanded by student activists, saying that “The University must, both by law and as a matter of fairness, handle each case individually rather than categorically.” Finally, the email provides a quick description of the way cases are handled at present, then defends the supposed lack of conflict of interest, arguing that deans primarily want the best for their students, separate from goals to fundraise.

Goldberg finished by specifically writing that the statement is “not offered in response to any individual or collective student activities and activism that began with the new school year.”

Read the full email below the jump.




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img September 05, 201411:57 amimg 6 Comments

Alma, too

The Deans of Columbia College, SEAS, Barnard and GS just released an email highlighting major points of the gender-based misconduct policy as the academic year kicks into gear. It is a reminder of what constitutes gender-based misconduct and sexual assault, what the potential consequences are for perpetrators, and various related acts.

Notably, the email emphasizes the domestic violence and dating violence provisions.” It also lays out specifically in the text of the email the basics of consent, stating that  “a person also cannot give consent under Columbia’s policy if he or she is incapacitated by drinking, drugs, being asleep, or for any other reason.” The email also includes text from Columbia’s sexual assault policy under the letter.

The full text of the email is below the jump:

Read the Deans’ message



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img September 04, 20147:09 pmimg 12 Comments

From the Health Services page dedicated to SVR.

From the Health Services page dedicated to SVR.

As former Blue and White managing editor Anna Bahr, BC ’14, pointed out in her examination of Columbia’s policies on Gender-Based Misconduct, the NSOP program “Consent Is Sexy” was in much need of an overhaul. In light of significant changes to the program, Bwog sat down with a consent educator (who asked to remain anonymous) to discuss what’s working and where work still needs to be done. We’d also like to encourage any attendees of the new program to write for us about their experience. Send stories to

Bwog: So what’s new?

Consent Educator: The program is longer this year than past years. It included two half hour presentations from SVR [Sexual Violence Response] and the University Gender Based Misconduct Office. This was followed by a half hour portion in small groups with consent educators, including a presentation about resources, and an opportunity for students to ask questions.

Bwog: How did the students respond? Previously the program has been something of a joke.

CE: The tone of the program itself became more serious. Unfortunately, by the time the students got to the consent educators, the time period for the workshop had gone over by an hour already, so many students were pretty checked out. While I’m grateful that the new program actually discusses sexual violence and (briefly) discusses abuse, I’m somewhat worried that students won’t come away from the presentation examining their own behaviors and relationship to consent—presentations on policy can feel very removed from talking through the tools that people need to become better at navigating these situations and creating a culture of consent.

Bwog: What were the main points of the new curriculum?

CE: The new program does a much better job of explaining resources and options to students, which was missing in past years. They also briefly mention in the presentation how identity factors influences who experiences the most violence, which is important. [In terms of the actual workshop,] there were scenarios in the presentation that helped outline some [practical skills], and I’ve heard that some small group discussions were more productive than others. Unfortunately, many of the groups for the consent educator portion were missing students who had to leave since the program lasted so much longer than it was supposed to, which made it difficult to have the conversations about consent as a group that I would have liked to see happen. The handouts the students received were useful, though, it included a pamphlet on how to support survivors, and a clear outlining of campus resources. The LGBTQ+ specific flyers [Ed note: Bwog has heard that previous years of the program have entirely lacked discussion of the queer community on campus] that consent educators were supposed to have for their groups didn’t end up happening, which is unfortunate.

Bwog: Any final thoughts?

CE: It was encouraging to see such drastic changes in resources and presentation from last year, but I hope that they continue to revise the program in this coming year.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. 



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img August 15, 201410:47 amimg 64 Comments


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.

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