On Wednesday, March 8, CULR held a teach-in on the ERQ and Navigating Title IX led by Belan Yeshigeta and Sunny Fang.

This International Women’s Day, the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review presented a teach-in on the Equal Rights Amendment and Navigating Title IX. Belan Yeshigeta, Co-founder of GenRatify, and Sunny Fang, CULR online writer, led the event.

This conference discussed the Equal Rights Amendment, initially proposed in 1923. This proposed amendment made it so any citizen could not have their equal rights abridged or denied because of sex. The movement to get the ERA ratified was strongest in the 1970s, but even then there were not enough states ratifying it so it did not become ratified. Because the deadline for ratification has passed, the courts do not have the power to pass the ERA as an amendment, and it is in the hands of Congress or the President to do so instead. 

However, current officials are pushing for the ratification of the ERA in different ways. Representative Cori Bush is establishing a Congressional ERA Caucus, and there is a hearing on the ERA this week. New York is also planning on having its own version of the ERA on the ballot in 2024. 

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. The conference talked about how this policy is enforced at Columbia, how it works as a sort of credibility system within schools, and how students here don’t always have a voice on Title IX disciplinary actions.

The DeVos reforms to Title IX have done more harm to survivors than help them heal. How some of these reforms seen on campus include: 

1) Narrowing the definition of sexual harassment 

2) Narrowing the scope in which the school can take action into places where the school has “substantial control”

3) Making it so schools can only accept formal complaints made to officials

4) Both the plaintiff and defendant must be affiliated with Columbia

5) No set time frame for the report to be processed as long as the school is not “deliberately indifferent”

6) School can choose between “preponderance of evidence” (respondent more likely to have committed the crime than not) or “clear and convincing evidence”

7) Schools need to hold live cross-examination to decide if the respondent is responsible.

There have been some major controversies with these reforms. First, they narrow the scope of what students can report. Second, the fact that the school may not be able to take action in certain areas may discourage victims to report. For example, if an incident occurred on off-campus housing, the location may be unclear enough for Title IX to be inapplicable, and it would fall into gender-based misconduct instead. Third, the “no set time frame” delays the process by which the incident is dealt with. Previously, there was a sixty-day limit, but with this limit disappearing with the new reforms, victims have often had to wait more than sixty days for their reports to be processed and dealt with. Fourth, the mandatory live cross-examination could prioritize due process rights over the survivor’s well-being.

There are also some differences in how these incidents are managed on campus depending on Barnard or Columbia affiliation. For example, the Barnard non-discrimination and Title IX policy only applies when a Barnard student is the respondent. When seeking accommodations, they must go through the Barnard Title IX office. Barnard does not endorse the new Title IX reform policies, while Columbia has not commented.

There are two types of resources when it comes to dealing with an incident, Confidential and Non-Confidential resources. Confidential resources do not share identifying information with anyone except as required by law in emergency circumstances. Non-Confidential resources disclose information only when necessary.

To report an incident, you can call SVR (Sexual Violence Response) for immediate support. Then, you can file a report. Your case will be managed by the Gender-Based Misconduct Office, and you will be assigned a case manager. If you are a Barnard student, you still have a case manager but accommodations must be made via the Barnard Title IX office. 

Some supportive measures you are supposed to receive include withdrawal from classes without penalty, housing relocation, and interim measures such as no-contact directives or restriction of a party’s access to a building. However, some of these measures are not always granted.

During the initial assessment of a report the GBM office will assess and take one of these actions: 1) Contact the Complainant for additional info, 2) Dismiss the report if the allegations do not constitute a violation, 3) Refer to another office if it is outside the scope of the GBM office, 4) Review available options for resolution if the report constitutes a violation. “Preponderance of evidence” is the standard proof to determine if a violation has occurred. 

If the fourth option occurs, there are two types of resolution options available. Non-unitive actions include Administrative Resolution, mediation, and restorative justice. Punitive actions include investigation and adjudication. If the university believes a case is too severe to be handled by non-punitive action, the university can insist a defendant pursue punitive policies, whether or not it is the defendant’s preferred method of action.

Emergency services within the University in case of an incident include SVR (confidential), Barnard Cares (non-confidential), and Public Safety (non-confidential). Medical services available include Barnard PCHS (confidential) and Columbia Health (confidential). Mental health services include Barnard Furman Counseling (confidential) and Columbia Psychological services (confidential). Student groups like Take Back the Night work to raise awareness and support survivors on campus.

In the end, recovery and retaliation should be survivor-oriented. Survivors often decide to report with the intention to heal, reclaim their agency, and feel safe rather than retaliating. If you know someone who has experienced an incident, you could share resources they could find helpful, give them space to heal, and ultimately let them decide what is best for them.

Image Via CULR