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.

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

Letter to Professor Goldberg

March 29, 2016

Dear Professor Goldberg,

Poster of NRT demands made in collaboration with the Guerrilla Girls Broadband

Poster of NRT demands made in collaboration with the Guerrilla Girls Broadband

Last fall, we publicly launched our SAAFE demands, which are now being supported by the Barnard Columbia Solidarity Network. Soon after, we met with you on December 3, 2015 to present you with student testimonies and receive meaningful engagement with our requests, particularly our demand for a 24-hour Rape Crisis Center at Columbia.

It has been over five months since we first presented you a copy of our demands and you have yet to demonstrate to us that you have taken meaningful action in response, including researching and allocating funds for a 24/7 Rape Crisis Center. Every day, students at Columbia continue to be harmed as a result of your negligence. Survivors must continue to deal with extremely long wait times, triggering commentary from untrained nurses, and culturally insensitive staff as they attempt to get the direct services they need. Columbia has an  endowment of over nine billion dollars, and yet you and other administrators have not seen fit to allocate resources towards an essential service on campus. It is unacceptable that you appear to prioritize your professional titles and meaningless initiatives over the safety of the campus community.

We are requesting a public response from you by Monday, April 4, 2016 regarding specific steps you will take to create a 24/7 Rape Crisis Center as we outlined in our demand.


No Red Tape

SAAFE Protest Demands

Want to support these demands? Sign our petition!

October 28, 2015

To the Columbia Administration:

Despite the recent update to the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy and the new Sexual Respect Initiative, survivors on this campus continue to feel unsafe, retraumatized and failed by the administrators that are supposed to support them. To ensure this is an inclusive educational environment and everyone can thrive, regardless of identity (including but not limited to race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, immigration status, and religion), we demand the following changes:


  • Increase culturally responsive mental health services and trauma response staff by requiring the Safe Zone Training offered by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and trainings addressing other issues of including, but not limited to, race and class.
  • Have professional staffing at a Rape Crisis Center on campus 24/7.
  • Allow students to have both moral and legal support throughout the reporting and adjudication process. Students should not have to choose between having a loved one or lawyer by their side.
  • Remove the exception for GBM that requires the Office of Disability Services, Health Services, and all other normally confidential services to report cases of GBM. Survivors should be able to request accommodations without triggering an investigation.
  • Educate all first-responders to be culturally sensitive and aware of resources on campus, including  immediate support to feel safe navigating campus, STI testing and reporting options.


  • Revise the policy language to remove unnecessarily complex and inaccessible legal jargon. The policy’s language should be clear and easily understood by any student.
  • Provide students, especially those who cannot afford an attorney advisor, with more options for legal representation, such as alumni, members of the campus legal community or other volunteer attorneys.
  • Make aggregate data about processes available to all students, including instances of repeat offenders and specific information about accommodations granted.
  • Revise policy language to clarify procedures for requesting academic and other interim and post accommodations and grant students more agency over academic and other accommodations by:
  • Removing the Student Conduct and Community Standards Office from the decision-making process around academic accommodations, such as exam extensions and course withdrawals.
  • Allowing for increased coordination between the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct, Disability Services and the various CU schools to increase access to accommodations for student survivors. Academic accommodations should be handled by same university offices that handle these issues in other, non-sexual misconduct contexts.


  • Allow a wide variety of students to be consistently involved in the revision and oversight of campus policies and programs.  
  • Revise Clery Crime Alert protocols to include information about on-going threats posed by university-affiliated individuals. Additionally, revise language of the alerts to include trigger warnings and replace victim blaming “tips” with resources for survivors.  
  • Explicitly recognize students’ right to record all interviews and meetings with Student Conduct and Community Standards staff to ensure the accuracy of all parties’ accounts and the legitimacy of the overall process.
  • Increase transparency around employee training and qualifications, especially for legally mandated reporters, GBM investigators, and hearing panelists.
  • Establish a feedback mechanism that allows students to share their experiences with Columbia’s prevention programs, resources and adjudication processes. This survey should be widely publicized and received by an independent body that does not control any of the previously mentioned programs, potentially composed of faculty, to avoid further conflict of interest.


  • Increase the number of investigators and case managers to ensure appropriate responses to conflicts of interest requests. For example, a student should never be reassigned to his or her alleged assailant’s case manager after submitting a conflict of interest request.
  • Make the SVR peer advocate and peer educator jobs paid positions of at least $15/hour to reflect their value in our community and increase accessibility for low-income students.
  • Fund mental and physical health services so survivors don’t have to face weeks of wait times.
  • Institute and publicize regular support groups for survivors of varying kinds of violence.


  • Clarify enforcement mechanisms to ensure the policy works as written.
  • Remove conflict of interest from adjudication by appointing objective administrators or faculty.
  • Include a process for the investigation and removal of investigators, case managers and other employees, who fail to adequately and appropriately carry out their duties on behalf of survivors.
  • Create and require more robust prevention programs with professional oversight to ensure all students participate in a meaningful way.
  • Allow students to file an anonymous report so it can be counted in Clery Crime Statistics without initiating an investigation process.


No Red Tape, The Black Law Students Association, Empowering Women of Color, GSAS Students of Color Alliance, Take Back the Night, The Latino/a Law Students Association, Columbia Law School’s Domestic Violence Project, Students for Justice in Palestine, International Socialist Organization, Student Worker Solidarity, Jewish Voice for Peace, Columbia Women’s Rugby, Columbia Queer Alliance, Coalition Against Sexual Violence, Columbia Law Feminist Society