Columbia: Commit to Enforcing Title IX

[CW: sexual/dating violence mentions, mental health issues, racism, other discrimination mentions]

Anti-discrimination protections are crucial for our survival. No Red Tape CU includes members who are queer, genderqueer, Black and POC, Muslim and Jewish, low income, not-able-bodied, survivors of violence and discrimination, and international students. The Trump administration formally or informally rolling back Title IX enforcement is personal to us.

Title IX protects our members from experiencing homophobia.

Title IX prevents our members from being misgendered or denied access to facilities based on gender identity.

Title IX guarantees our Black, POC, Muslim, and Jewish members assault investigations and school experiences free from racial and Islamophobic violence.

Title IX provides our low-income members with free counseling, medical services, and academic support.

Title IX gives our members with disabilities the accommodations they require to be students at Columbia.

Title IX demands Columbia protect all of us from sexual and dating violence.

Title IX gives our international student members and all undocumented students the same rights as those who are U.S. citizens.

Title IX stops Columbia from retaliating against us for fighting for our rights, as Columbia has tried to do countless times before with written threats of expulsion.

The impact of these protections applies to countless other students who have benefited from Title IX. Without the protections Title IX has afforded survivors of violence and students with one or more marginalized identities, many of us would no longer be in school.

In March, we held a #CantTrumpOurTitleIX day of action in which we demanded the Trump administration enforce Title IX protections. Unsurprisingly, they are refusing to do so.

Now we call upon Columbia to commit to enacting and upholding our Title IX demands. The demands, which we released in March with 100 signatories, require little effort on Columbia’s part — slightly altering policy language and procedures, committing to expanding upon existing accommodations, etc. However, Columbia has yet to respond.

We asked EVP Suzanne Goldberg to collaborate with us on our Title IX demands before we released them. Thanks to an internet browser extension, we could see that she and her assistant, Don Harrison, opened the email five times. Neither bothered to reply. While we have been working to make Columbia safer, EVP Goldberg has denied Black and queer survivors meetings with her, defended the Columbia administration’s homophobic policies, and refused to improve the ineffective mental health resources that have been in place through multiple of our classmates completing suicide this year.

EVP Goldberg is not alone in being deliberately indifferent to gender-based violence on campus; Student Conduct and Community Standards, the office investigating campus violence under the direction of AVP Jeri Henry, locked their door and turned off their lights to prevent us from delivering a petition to them in the middle of a workday. AVP Henry told a survivor that she should leave Columbia because she asked for accommodations, adding to a documented history of AVP Henry bullying survivors of violence. And Title IX Coordinator Marjy Fisher, despite adamantly claiming she fights equally for all students regardless of identity, agreed to take a white survivor in our group to the Manhattan ADA to report her assaults but refused to take a Black survivor who asked to report as well, and has shown general anti-Black racial bias in her daily treatment of survivors in our group.

Now, more than ever, Columbia employees — particularly EVP Goldberg, AVP Henry, and Marjy Fisher — need to put our needs ahead of their egos and commit to enforcing the Title IX demands we have put forward.

We have fought for survivors every day since our group’s inception in 2014, exposing ourselves to constant harassment, discrimination, and in some cases, actual violence. Where have you been, Columbia? What will it take for you to do your job?

Graduate Student Unionization

[CW - sexual harassment]

It has come to our attention that Professor Julia Hirschberg sent an email to Computer Science TAs arguing graduate student unionization would not help students fight sexual harassment on campus. Professor Hirschberg also contends EVP Suzanne Goldberg stated Columbia University is the only school in the country to provide legal support to students going through the gender-based misconduct process.

We were very confused to read this alleged assertion from EVP Goldberg, as it is not grounded in reality. Title IX encourages schools to provide students the option of having an attorney-advisor throughout the gender-based misconduct process, and many schools in the nation provide students with optional attorney-advisors. 

We further find the legal support Columbia offers insufficient. Columbia employs the services of Sanctuary for Families. However, Sanctuary for Families has a history of discouraging survivors from pursuing complaints, preventing survivors from documenting their cases, and relaying confidential information disclosed to them to Columbia in violation of attorney-client privilege (with the justification that Columbia is the “client”); Sanctuary for Families’ interest lies in protecting the University, not students who come to them for help.

In contrast, union legal representation for students during the gender-based misconduct process would have one person’s interest at heart: the best interest of the student seeking help.

As an organization that advocates for survivors of sexual harassment, we fully support graduate student unionization. A union is necessary to combat the sexual harassment Columbia has allowed to run rampant on campus. Professor Hirschberg and EVP Goldberg’s assertions that Columbia is sufficiently addressing sexual harassment on campus are insulting and categorically false.

We encourage all graduate students and undergraduate TAs to vote for unionization on December 7th and 8th. For more information on unionization, please click here.

Goldberg's Appointment to Interim Title IX Coordinator

We were disturbed to discover yesterday morning that Columbia’s Executive Vice President of University Life, Suzanne Goldberg, is now Columbia’s acting Title IX coordinator. Title IX coordinators are supposed to help students exercise their Title IX rights, but Goldberg has time and time again cast sexual and dating violence survivors aside in favor of protecting Columbia’s image.

We find Goldberg’s appointment to Columbia’s interim Title IX coordinator, however temporary, to be an outrageous conflict of interest. In addition to creating and defending policies that fail to adhere to Title IX in their implementation, Goldberg serves as Columbia’s Rules Administrator, a job which gives her the power to discipline students who protest the gender-based misconduct policies she oversees. Now Goldberg is also the person students are supposed to turn to if Goldberg herself, or any offices she oversees, violate Title IX.

We demand Goldberg immediately step down from her role as acting Title IX coordinator and appoint an interim coordinator who has no vested interest in discouraging or inhibiting students from exercising their Title IX rights.

Columbia Response to Our Demands

"This current demand for on-campus 24/7 staffing is not a trauma-informed best practice."-Suraiya Baluch [head of SVR] in an email from Suzanne Goldberg.

Today, Suzanne Goldberg and the Columbia administration proved once again that they have no regard for the safety of students on this campus. In an email sent by Suzanne Goldberg, Suraiya Baluch (the interim head of Sexual Violence Response) provided an "analysis" of our demand which claimed that a 24/7 rape crisis center would not be a necessary resource for our campus. This will soon be posted on the Office of University Life website. Here are a few of the ridiculous claims made in the analysis:

1. Our demand for a 24/7 RCC misrepresents the work that SVR does.
(Note: We highly respect the work done by SVR's student and professional advocates and educators. However, we demand that the administration do a better job of providing crucial services for students. SVR does not currently have a physical RCC open 24/7.)

2. SVR's advocates are available 24/7.
(Note: If Goldberg and Baluch had been listening when we met with them in December, they would have heard from students who had to wait over an hour to speak with a trained supporter after first calling the SVR hotline.)

3. Columbia shouldn't have a 24/7 RCC because the "industry standard" is a hotline.
(Note: "Industry standards" aren't more important than survivors' experiences. Columbia has a $9 billion endowment and should have no trouble leading the way in terms of campus trauma response. Additionally, many colleges, including Dartmouth, have physcial buildings where students can get urgent healthcare 24/7.)

4. Survivors do not need a 24/7 RCC because seeking services can be anxiety-producing.
(Note: We are advocating for both a hotline and a physical RCC, so that students can seek help in whichever way feels best for them. Know what's anxiety-producing? Not being able to access direct services when you need them.)

5. Survivors do not need a 24/7 RCC because most survivors disclose to friends first.
(Note; Regardless of who a survivor discloses to first, students still deserve access to trained healthcare and trauma response professionals.)

The SVR "analysis" also includes footnotes that cite 2 papers from national coalitions and government agencies. It is unacceptable that government-produced data matters more to administrators than the testimonies of students who live and study on this campus every day. No Red Tape will continue to organize and escalate until every student has access to the direct services they deserve.

Email from Professor Goldberg

The following is the full text of the email No Red Tape received today from Professor Goldberg in response to our demand for a 24/7 Rape Crisis Center. This 'analysis' blatantly ignores student testimonies and contains many inaccurate claims, where we address here.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Suzanne B. Goldberg" <>
Date: Mar 31, 2016 12:38 PM
Subject: Re: President Bollinger, Suzanne Goldberg, Jeri Henry, and Melissa Rooker, Demand a SAAFE Campus!

Dear Members of No Red Tape and other supporters of the SAAFE petition,

Thank you for your petition and recommendations.  I am just about ready to send you a comprehensive response to the full petition that follows on conversations we had in the fall regarding these same issues.  In the meantime, since you have raised the issue of a 24/7 staffed rape crisis center on campus as one that is especially pressing to members of the coalition, I wanted to share with you this data and analysis, which was prepared by Suraiya Baluch, Interim Director of Sexual Violence Response.  Because this issue may be of interest to others in the University community, we will also post this analysis to the Office of University Life website.  Please feel free to forward this to interested students.


Professor Goldberg

Executive Vice President for University Life

Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law 

Columbia University


SVR’s professional survivor advocates are available 24-hours/7 days a week/365 days a year for immediate crisis counseling, accompaniment to on and off-campus resources including the hospital, NYPD, District Attorney’s office, courts, medical services etc.  In short, SVR offers comprehensive rape crisis services. We have great concern that the current inaccurate representation that SVR does not offer 24-hour services is harmful to survivors seeking support.  To misrepresent what SVR offers also is a disservice to the many student activists, student peer counselors and advocates who helped create, build and staff Columbia’s Rape Crisis Center for the past 24 years.

Additionally, SVR has responded to demands for longer hours in the past. During the 2014-2015 academic year SVR was open until 10 pm; utilization during the extended hours was extremely low.  SVR peak utilization times are generally 12 pm-6 pm and, in particular for walk-ins, from 3 pm-6 pm. 

The current best practice for sexual assault advocacy is for advocates to be on-call and available to respond immediately.  This is the protocol SVR follows because it allows for a personalized, private response; we meet the survivor when and where they are most comfortable, which is the definition of a trauma-informed response. Community and hospital-based sexual assault services use this model as do other university advocacy programs.  Our peer institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown utilize similar 24-hour advocacy services initiated through a helpline. This is in keeping with the industry standard, which, as just described, is a 24-hour hotline with immediate phone access to certified counselors/advocates who can then respond on-site.

SVR has not had survivors request to meet at the SVR office in person when calling the helpline overnight. Overnight calls are typically for crisis counseling, information about resources and options and/or accompaniment to off-campus resources such as the hospital or NYPD. 

Most importantly, this current demand for on-campus 24/7 staffing is not a trauma-informed best practice.  A trauma-informed response takes into account the need for survivors to first name their experience as a violation, which does not usually happen in the immediate aftermath of an assault. Additionally, seeking services can be very anxiety provoking.  Providing survivors with immediate access via phone to an advocate aids in providing a sense of connection to university services and resources.   Both anecdotal and research evidence demonstrates that survivors will disclose first to friends.  In fact, students are most likely to disclose to a friend rather than to seek services in the immediate after an assault.  According to a Department of Justice survey, two-thirds of survivors disclosed to a friend, not to their family or school (Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000).

We have done due diligence in exploring the question of a brick-and-mortar 24-hour rape crisis center, including by reaching out to the executive director of NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault and to a researcher (Bein, 2010) who examined the best practices of rape crisis centers in 20 states. This research identified no 24-hour brick-and-mortar rape crisis centers in the United States. Additionally, we did a benchmarking study of our peer institutions which revealed that no university has a brick-and-mortar 24-hour rape crisis center.

SVR is also focusing on exploring cutting edge service provision including improving access and service provision through technology (e.g., an online chat system, an app with Health resources and information).


Fisher, B.S., Cullen, F.T., & Turner, M.G. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Bein, K. (2010). Core Services & Characteristics of Rape Crisis Centers: A review of State Service Standards