#sexual assault
King’s Crown Recipients Tackle Sexual Assault

The King’s Crown Leadership Excellence Awards are coveted by some, as they are given to “students which have offered outstanding leadership to their community/ies with exemplary commitment and energy.” The awards ceremony began tonight at 6:30 in Roone, and some of the students being recognized are wearing red tape on their wrists in solidarity with recent attempts to fix Columbia’s sexual assault policy. Those wearing tape signed the following statement:

To the students, faculty, and trustees of Columbia University and Barnard College:

Tonight we are all honored, thankful, and humbled to have been nominated by our peers for King’s Crown Leadership Excellence Awards. Your support and recognition means a great deal to us. We are also deeply grateful for the work that so many others have done this year to make Columbia a safer, more supportive place.

This past year, students have pushed the University to take several important steps to reform the University’s inadequate, opaque services and policies for preventing sexual violence and supporting survivors on our campus. We want to recognize the years of work that both students and staff have spent and the positive changes that have taken place this year. But as we receive these awards, we need to say, unequivocally, that those steps are far from sufficient and that this work is far from done.

The system has been slow to change.

Town Hall On Sexual Assault
Bwog is always early.

Bwog is always early.

***Trigger Warning: Discussion of sexual assault policy, and issues of sexual assault and gender-based sexual misconduct on campus.***

This afternoon, Taylor Grasdalen attended the Town Hall on Gender-Based Misconduct and Sexual Assault for Bwog. She reports on the administration, the students, and the newest concerns.

Today brought Columbia’s latest installment in its series of Town Halls on “Gender-Based Misconduct and Sexual Assault,” though that name itself was thoroughly questioned. Conducted—almost inaccessibly, perhaps—at noon today in Havemeyer 309, we heard from Senators Matt Chou and Akshay Shah, Michael K. Dunn, Senator Marc Heinrich, Terry Martinez, Sharyn O’Halloran, La’Shawn Rivera, Lisa Mellman, and Teacher’s College student Barry Goldberg, who were all consequently subjected to another fine Q&A session.

Despite the event’s significance on campus and to campus, it was not well attended in any regard. After experiencing the first Town Hall, where so many students wanted to partake that some were unable to even enter the space, today’s Town Hall had the exact opposite problem. Fewer than half the seats were filled; at noon, when the event began, there were maybe only fifty people in the audience altogether, the majority even obviously not BC/CC/SEAS undergraduates. I have to wonder if students were precluded based on the event’s time, as its lunch break timeliness certainly allowed many adults administrators to attend (Barnard’s Amy Zavadil was in the audience, and many other faculty and staff faces).

Sharyn O’Halloran moderated today’s meeting, eloquent despite inexperience with speaking into a microphone. Matt Chou and Akshay Shah were the first to speak, breezing over the details of data that will soon be released — data of aggregate anonymous statistics, a number of interim measures, reported information on the responsible parties, and sanctions on such responsible parties, upcoming changes in sanctions, and the average number of days that each case takes. I wish I could have heard more of these details, but we quickly moved on  to hearing from Terry Martinez. She really wanted to let us know—to paraphrase the best I might—that it is neither truthful nor helpful for us to question the commitment of the “people in this room” to the cause we’d gathered for today, which may or may not have been a problem at the previous Town Hall.

This did not set a very positive tone.

University’s Statement On No Red Tape
no red tape

No Red Tape

Robert Hornsby, Associate VP of Media Relations of Columbia, sent out the following university statement regarding No Red Tape at Days on Campus this past weekend. He notes Columbia’s commitment to “protecting the rights of all in our community to express their views,” but that, more practically, No Red Tape was blocking an entryway and not staying at their designated tables. Emphasis ours:

Freedom of speech and peaceful demonstration are core university values and claiming an “altercation” does not accurately describe what happened here. Briefly, these are the relevant facts: The Office of Undergraduate Admissions attempted to accommodate student protesters seeking to distribute information at a student activities fair organized for prospective students and their families and attended by approximately 500 invited guests and 300 leaders of registered student groups. Given the number of people there who were seeking to circulate freely, we asked—in accordance with standard practice—that all 100 student groups make themselves available for conversation at assigned tables. The students who have now expressed concern about their treatment originally were standing at an entryway to the fair, blocking the entryway. Despite not being registered for the event, they were offered the opportunity to distribute their materials and talk to guests at the table of a registered student group that some were connected to. While some of these students accepted the offer and were able to distribute their material at the table, others declined and were asked to move to a different building entryway that was less congested, where they distributed fliers and talked to the invited guests without restriction or incident. Columbia remains steadfast in its commitment to protecting the rights of all in our community to express their views.

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

Former President Carter (Basically) Endorses No Red Tape

Only a few Columbians were lucky enough to snag tickets to the Women in the World Summit this weekend, but all of Columbia got called out by former President Jimmy Carter during Friday’s event. The former president discussed many women’s issues, among them the rampant problem of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses. He denounced universities like Columbia for discouraging survivors from reporting rape in order to preserve the school’s public image. (His whole interview is worth hearing, but skip to minute 24 if you’re just itching to get to that Columbia mention.)

No Red Tape released their response to President Carter’s views:

We could not agree more with the serious concerns Jimmy Carter raised about the flawed sexual violence policies here at Columbia. Allowing deans to decide the sanctions for rapists and determine whether appeals are granted is a central flaw of the University’s formal reporting policy and makes our community unsafe. Firstly, deans are currently allowed to serve as sanctioning officials with little or no training. This is both unacceptable and illegal under Title IX legislation. Furthermore, regardless of the deans’ training or intentions, their responsibilities for fundraising, athletics, Greek life, other student groups and activities, and especially for protecting the public image of the University make it impossible for them to fairly and impartially decide cases of sexual violence. As Jimmy Carter points out, students cannot expect support, justice, or safety from this kind of biased system.

Deans have proven they are unfit for this role by repeatedly making decisions that put survivors and all students at risk. Our deans have allowed rapists and serial rapists to remain on campus in multiple instances, and have failed to implement any meaningful education or counseling programs to prevent perpetrators from committing future violence.

Policies like this–in addition to our vastly inadequate resources and preventative education program–make our community unsafe and demand immediate attention. We need impartial, well-trained, dedicated professionals making sanctioning and appellate decisions, as well as supporting students and survivors in other roles like staffing the Rape Crisis Center full-time and providing counseling at CPS and Furman.

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

Town Hall: CU Sexual Violence And Rape Culture

***Trigger Warning: Discussion of sexual assault policy, and issues of sexual assault and gender-based sexual misconduct on campus.***

Taylor Grasdalen updates for Bwog on tonight’s Town Hall discussion of policies at Columbia University, held at the Law School. Updated below with the transcript.

5:02 pm: We’re in Jerome Greene Hall, room 103. Things are quieting down. We’re getting started. The room is completely full of students and students in suits, as well as the table of administrators.

5:04 pm:  Terry Martinez and Matthew Chow have just introduced themselves, and Dean Valentini now speaks. He wants to thank the students for their input and concerns. The purpose of tonight is to listen and share information of the current policies on campus, and answer students’ submitted questions. Deantini hopes to answer questions as fully as possible, only limited to the protection of students’ identities. Dean Awn, Dean Boyce, Dean Hinkson, and Dean Hartford introduce themselves and each thank the crowd, mention the importance of education. Dean Hinkson brings up the recent efforts of the SGA.

5:15 pm: Student speaker emphasizes privacy of tonight’s space, protection of identities, and protection of students’ statements. Dean Martinez mentions the counseling services especially available today during and after the event. Amy Zavadil, Michael Dunn, Melissa Rooker, Jeri Henry, Samuel Seward, and La’Shawn Rivera — those administrators who will be mainly speaking — introduce themselves.

 5:20 pm: Amy Zavadil, the Associate Dean for Equity and Barnard’s Title IX coordinator, speaks about expanding prevention education. She says that the school is absolutely obligated to help student survivors of assault, and explain the process of help and the school’s complete accommodations available to survivors. She emphasizes understanding of the process.

Michael Dunn discusses the current policy, and students start asking some questions.

USenate Update On Sexual Assault Policy And Town Hall

Update (12:01 am): The @CUSenate has released information about the town hall meeting.   See it below the jump.

In a press release this afternoon, the Columbia College delegates to the University Senate gave an update on the work they and others have been doing concerning sexual assault policy and education at Columbia.  You can see the full text of the statement after the jump.

The statement was sent along with a reminder that the town hall on Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct will be held this Thursday from 5-6:30 pm in 103 Jerome Greene Hall with a star-studded cast of deans and university officials.  PrezBo agreed to hold a town hall meeting in response to pressure from student leaders, organizations, and the discussion created by Anna Bahr’s examination of sexual assault on campus. His statement also coincided with No Red Tape’s campaign.

The USenate has already responded to student concerns about Columbia’s sexual assault policy.  On January 26, the Student Affairs Committee on the Sexual Assault Adjudication Process released a statement calling for increased institutional transparency for issues of sexual assault.  A few days later, PrezBo, DSpar, and several university deans—including Deans Valentini, Boyce, Awn, and Martinez—all released statements expressing their commitment to this cause.

We urge our readers to take advantage of the town hall on Thursday evening, or the town hall submission form. Backing your opinions and ideas with your physical presence could effect real and significant change in campus sexual assault policy.

Here is the statement from USenators and the release from the CUSenate twitter account:

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.

Coalition Against Sexual Violence Release Comprehensive List of Suggested Reforms to Sexual Assault Policy

it's a power colorIn a press release this evening, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence has released a list of comprehensive reforms they’d like to see made with respect to the sexual assault policy here at Columbia.

This comes after yesterday’s community forum in Lerner where participants were asked to make policy suggestions and proposal edits.

The proposals constitute “a living document that will continue to change with continued input from the community and as we continue to discover solutions to the concerns raised by survivors at Columbia” and call for better staffing of the Rape Crisis/Anti Violence Support Center, changes to Consent 101/Keeping Sex Sexy, a reorganized PACSA (Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault), and increased transparency about the process in general, as has been requested in the past. Several of the issues addressed in the proposal have also been highlighted in Anna Bahr’s series of investigative reporting for The Blue and White.

Full statement from the Coalition is after the jump.

USenate: PACSA to be Reviewed
it was like this

it was like this

Plenary Pal Maud Rozee attended the University Senate’s most recent plenary. It reminded her of The Simpson’s parody of the Star Wars prequels, because both involved boring senate meetings. If you came to this article looking for thrills, well, you should probably go outside and get a taco or something. Just a friendly warning.

Unfortunately, PrezBo wasn’t at the USenate Plenary because there was a death in his family. Instead, the Chair of the senate’s Executive Committee, Sharyn O’Halloran, read a statement from him, including a letter on the success of the capital campaign, which raised more than $ 6.1 billion. The letter had the word “redound” in it, which was exciting. Then O’Halloran read his statement on sexual assault, and added that, in accordance with PrezBo’s statement, the USenate would move forward with reforming the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA). The USenate will collaborate with the Committee on the Status of Women and Student Affairs, among others, to make changes that will ensure transparency in PACSA’s membership and decisions.

Akshay Shah, co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee (SAC), reiterated that the SAC, supported by PrezBo, was considering modifications to PACSA to promote student participation. The SAC has reached out to other committees, including the Commission on the Status of Women, to build a coalition within the Senate to address concerns about and changes to the University’s policies on sexual misconduct. Shah thanked PrezBo as well as all the students and survivors who contributed to getting these changes underway. The SAC hopes to present a resolution to codify changes to PACSA at the next plenary meeting.

Next, Matt Chou, also co-chair of the SAC, gave an update on the quality of life survey. The survey’s results have been presented to the trustees and the SAC hopes to have a report on them out by the end of the month. He also said that the SAC hopes to institutionalize the survey at a future plenary meeting so that it is conducted regularly.

Then the USenate approved two proposals for new graduate degrees, a Master of Science in Environmental Health Sciences and an M.D./Master of Biomedical Science Dual Degree Program.

Finally, a very nice librarian gave a presentation about how having fun isn’t hard with a library card and how Columbia has access to bajillions of resources.

 Sweet senate via Shutterstock

“Fallen Through the Cracks” An Examination of Sexual Assault at Columbia, Pt. 2
Illustration by Alexander Pines, CC '16

Illustration by Alexander Pines, CC ’16

After the flurry of responses from administration and national media alike to recent writing and activism on campus surrounding sexual assault, we present the second installment of a two-part series by Anna Bahr, BC ’14 and The Blue and White‘s recently retired Managing Editor, who spent four months reporting on and writing these pieces.

The first installment of this series on sexual assault at Columbia told the stories of three students who independently filed against one alleged offender, Tom. These cases highlighted the investigative and disciplinary processes outlined in the University’s Gender-Based Misconduct Policy and the frustration of students who felt betrayed by what they considered compromised standards of professionalism, promptness, and diligence promised in the Policy. **TRIGGER WARNING FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE ON A COLLEGE CAMPUS**

The second half of the series focuses on additional University resources established to support alleged victims of “gender and sexual misconduct.” These services are part of a network of education and advocacy that help students navigate issues ranging from sexual consent to sexual assault.

But according to student leaders and assault survivors, these critical additions to the on-campus assault support system are fragile and often fall short of their goals. And when survivors go beyond counseling resources to seek sanctions against their assailants, the outcome rarely fits the expectation of the “complainant.”

The five alleged respondents whose identities were disclosed to me over the course of research for this series declined requests for comment. Columbia officials denied my interview requests. Thus, this story is written solely with the cooperation of the alleged survivors. The names of all students involved have been changed to protect their privacy.


“Consent is sexy. Sex without consent is sexual assault. The Consent Campaign is a student-developed effort to change the way college students think and talk about intimate activity…The message of the campaign is that consent makes for healthier, safer, and sexier intimate interactions.” — Consent Campaign, Columbia University’s Sexual Violence Response Website.

The Consent Campaign is a student-developed curriculum used to educate all incoming Columbia students on the do’s and don’ts of healthy, consensual sexual interactions. Its message? Consent can be creative. As one promotional poster states, “Asking for consent can be as hot, creative and as sexy as you make it.” The program should have kept Catherine, CC ‘13, safer on campus.

But Catherine was raped by her “Consent Educator” in the fall of 2009, a week before her first class at Columbia. It was the first time she had sex.

He was a junior at Columbia and a leader of “Consent 101” (also known as “Keeping Sex Sexy” or “Consent is Sexy”), a mandatory workshop for freshmen students. Catherine never learned his name.

Consent 101 woes, troubles with access to the Rape Crisis Center, and more after the jump.

Anonymous Statement Regarding the Sexual Assault Policy at Columbia

Bwog was just tipped a link to a statement commenting on the current discussion of the sexual assault policy on campus. The authors, who claim to be “survivor/victims, organizers, students, and alums of Columbia University,” are significantly not publicly affiliated with any big-name student organizations or leaders. We reached out to Sejal Singh, head of the Columbia Democrats, who responded by saying that it isn’t something with which she or the Democrats as an organization are affiliated. The authors state that they are writing in response to part one of Anna Bahr’s Blue and White article about the policy (look for part two later this week) and the subsequent comments on both that post and others that make reference to the campus discussion. Bwog has decided not to publish their full statement, here’s an excerpt from the end:

tl;dr: You want to advocate for survivors/victims and prevent sexual assault but will not even invest the time it takes to read this article to educate yourself on how best to do that.

Read the full post here.

SGA Meeting: Guess Who’s Back
SGA reunited

SGA reunited

Ah, the first SGA meeting of the New Year. After introducing a few new faces and sharing some semester-ly goals, SGA listened to the CU Dems present a petition addressing Columbia’s handling of sexual assault. Bwogger Lauren Beltrone reports.


Armed with their trusty placards and note-taking devices, SGA was ready to get down to business on Monday night. Barnard’s President Maddy Popkin, BC ’14 proposed that the reps start the meeting off by discussing goals, visions, and ideas for the rest of the year. 

Popkin and the rest of the Senior CC plans to flesh out SGA’s relationship between other student government groups, be more involved in the curriculum review, make a smooth transition to the next executive board, and work to make the seniors’ last semester of college the best ever. Popkin also hopes to focus the upcoming Town Hall Meeting on gender inclusivity at Barnard.

The Junior CC strives to continue promoting class community and school spirit through apparel sales and career dinners. They also want to keep up the blog for juniors studying abroad.

Sophomore CC officially and emphatically declared sophomore slump a thing. In order to alleviate the pitfalls as much as possible, the council plans to aid the job/internship search and promote the “single university theme” by working closely with the other undergraduate colleges.

The First-Year CC vow to put in 110% and want to remind us that Winter Wonderland is this Saturday. According to the Facebook event page, “This semi-formal event is a Columbia tradition for first-year students.”

Finally, the Arts and Culture Council’s schedule is jam-packed with artsy going-ons. They’ve already received 10 proposals to plan for and paint to Diana Center mural in March, and will soon narrow the pool down to 3 finalists. You should also expect to be seeing a monthly newsletter from the Council, complete with a list of art events and a featured Barnard student.

After all the respective councils shared their ideas, the Columbia University Democrats entered the room to discuss ways to improve Columbia’s sexual assault policy. The group emphasized that, because the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center is located in Hewitt, Columbia students must state their names and intent to gain access to the center. Additionally, the center is only open from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm, but sexual assault can happen at any time during the night. To make seeking support less uncomfortable, the Dems asked SGA to endorse their petition to extend the hours of the center and change the protocol for entering the building.

In response to the presentation, SGA released the following statement to Bwog:

We wanted to update you on the direction that SGA has decided to move in light of the presentation that the CU Dems made at Rep Council this evening about sexual assault response at Columbia University. Given the gravity and the sensitivity that this issue demands, we want to be thorough and genuinely engaged with the student body regarding the efforts being taken to combat and respond to sexual assault on campus. This issue deserves thoughtful and serious attention, and as the Barnard Student Government Association, we hold ourselves accountable to the students we represent. Therefore, before we vote on Rep Council’s endorsement of the petition, we want to hear from Barnard students. We have decided to hold a vote regarding Barnard SGA’s endorsement of the CU Dems petition and initiatives at next week’s Rep Council on Monday, February 3rd. In the mean time, we will send an email to all Barnard students regarding the request from CU Dems. This email will provide information surrounding the CU Dems petition and broader efforts and also a Google Form that will allow students to send us their thoughts and concerns, anonymously if desired. Finally, though all Rep Councils are open to the student body, we will especially encourage all Barnard students to attend Rep Council next week on Monday, February 3rd if they are interested in joining this conversation and expressing their opinions and experiences. As always, Rep Council will be held in the Diana 2nd floor dining room at 8pm.

Not actually the SGA via Shutterstock.