Columbia's 2015-16 Gender-Based Misconduct Report

On July 29, 2016, Columbia released aggregate data about reports of Gender-Based Misconduct for the 2015-16 school year. This data shows clearly that the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy revisions that occurred last year were not enough to create a safer campus. Columbia is still failing to hold perpetrators accountable and ensure the well-being of its students.

Although more cases of gender-based misconduct were reported in 2015-16 than during the previous school year, fewer perpetrators were found responsible. As students who have extensive experience with the incompetent and self-serving Columbia administration, we firmly believe this discrepancy is a result of an administration and campus culture that routinely protects rapists and abusers while disregarding the experiences of survivors.

According to the report, 115 instances of gender-based misconduct were reported in the 2015-16 school year. While this number alone is cause for concern, it is important to remember that sexual violence is extremely underreported, and official numbers do not truly reflect the extent of violence which occurs on campus. The numbers for this report do not include any reports made to Sexual Violence Response (SVR) and Columbia Psychological Services (CPS); in order for an assault to be counted, it has to be reported to the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct. As we detail in our SAAFE demands, we are calling for reports of gender-based misconduct to be counted anonymously in Columbia’s Clery Crime reports in order to better reflect the occurrence of sexual violence.

We are also extremely disturbed by the lack of administrative response to reports of sexual harassment and dating violence. The lack of support for students who experience violence in their workplaces, residence halls, and other campus spaces contributes greatly to an unsafe learning environment. In the context of these findings, the need for a graduate student union to provide some protection and collective organizing power against sexual harassment becomes even more urgent. Columbia must also invest in extensive and mandatory prevention education about sexual and dating violence beyond the current Sexual Respect Initiative requirements — something it has yet to do.

Additionally, it is unacceptable that students found responsible for rape are allowed to return to campus within two years. We believe that behavior as grave as this necessitates not only permanent removal from the campus community, but extensive and meaningful re-education. Columbia provides neither of those things, instead allowing perpetrators to return after taking a brief hiatus.

To be clear, we know we cannot rely on what is essentially a broken system to keep us safe. Through its administrative apathy, Columbia has demonstrated the issues it is truly dedicated to are profit and public image, not the safety of its students. These findings come as no surprise. However, it is unacceptable that Columbia continues to foster a dangerous and hostile learning environment rather than respond adequately to sexual violence.

Dean Kromm: Apologize for Excusing Perpetrators, Prioritize Student Safety

Trigger warning: sexual violence

We were disappointed to learn that Columbia University’s Dean of Undergraduate Student Life, Cristen Kromm, was quoted on March 2, 2016 in the Columbia Daily Spectator explaining why perpetrators of sexual assault should still hold leadership positions in orientation programs. In the article, Kromm excused perpetrators of sexual assault for their actions, and presented gender-based violence as a “mistake,” an opportunity for “learning, growth and change.”

Like the rest of the Columbia University administration, Kromm is apparently more concerned about the well-being and emotional “growth” of perpetrators than she is about the safety of students on this campus.

If Kromm was truly invested in creating a campus where community members treated each other with respect, she would actively support demands, such as our call for a 24-hour rape crisis center, that would improve direct services for survivors and make Columbia a safer place for all students. Instead, she is continuing to support a harmful status quo which endangers particularly the youngest and most vulnerable among us, and explicitly pardons future occurrences of sexual violence.

We demand that Dean Kromm issue a public apology as well as a statement of support for our SAAFE demands.


NRT Statement on Anonymous Title IX Related Violations

At the Columbia University Senate Plenary meeting this past November, members of the Senate discussed a proposal to disregard anonymous Title IX-related comments on course evaluations. Under this proposal from the Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC), anonymous reports of sexual harassment, racism, and other forms of violence and discrimination would not be investigated if found in Courseworks evaluations. The University has since released a statement about its commitment to fulfilling its requirements under Title IX. As an anti-sexual violence organization on Columbia’s campus, No Red Tape would like to affirm our belief that all reports of harassment or discrimination in the classroom must be investigated and taken seriously.

At the Plenary meeting, the FAC proposed that Title IX complaints should not be anonymous
and should instead be linked to students’ UNIs. However, given the imbalance of power between professors and students, anonymous reports are often the only way students feel safe coming forward about mistreatment they have experienced in the classroom. It is imperative that students have an anonymous channel through which to voice concerns about their classroom environments.

Ignoring these reports would only perpetuate the silencing of sexual violence survivors and other marginalized students on this campus. In the plenary meeting and in an earlier letter, Senate members were preoccupied with the impact that a Title IX investigation could have on a professor’s career. This is an understandable concern, and we do not believe that professors should be sanctioned without complete and thorough investigations. However, little mention was made of the lasting effects that gender-based misconduct and other forms of violence can have on a student’s academic life and wellbeing. If an investigation uncovers wrongdoing on the part of a professor, we hope that such behavior would be seen as an egregious violation of our shared community ideals. Professors’ careers and reputations should never be prioritized at the expense of student safety.

While we agree that classrooms should be forums for the open exchange of ideas, that does not mean that they are beyond the reach of Title IX. Advocating for professors to be accountable for their actions does not encroach on academic freedom. In fact, it enables us to have academic spaces where the contributions of all members of our community are respected and valued. If harassment and discrimination are allowed in the classroom, it becomes impossible to have the intellectually vigorous academic spaces for which FAC members have passionately advocated.

In the interests of student safety and academic freedom, anonymous reports must be investigated by the university. We will not have productive academic spaces unless both professors and students are held accountable for their behavior. We will not have a campus free of violence until every student can walk into classrooms, office hours, and lecture halls without fear of experiencing discrimination or assault.
April 2015 Faculty Affairs Committee Statement on Anonymous Comments in Course Evaluations

Nov 20, 2015 CU Senate Plenary Meeting Minutes