On the Columbia Wrestling Team

This week, the Columbia community came together as students dealt with the results of the Presidential Election. We created safe spaces, organized rallies, and brought down the walls that normally divide students . We seemed to be taking the advice of Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama when, rather than give into the hate and gloom spurned by this election, we comforted each other and looked to the future.

Bwog’s recent uncovering of GroupMe messages sent by the Columbia Men’s Wrestling team provides a glaring depiction of the reality of hate and ignorance on this campus—a reality that is hard to accept for many of us. The messages, from 2014 and 2015, were examples of the hate that women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and many other marginalized people face daily.

Equally as disturbing is the mockery of sexual assault that the wrestlers make in the messages. Columbia University is tied for the second-most open Title IX investigations with the Office of Civil Rights in the country and is the first school many think of when they hear thinking about sexual assault on college campuses; sexual assault is not a joke and should never be dismissed as one.

No Red Tape condemns the actions and behaviors of the Columbia Men’s Wrestling team and believes they should be held accountable for their words. We hope we, as a campus community, can use this incident to strengthen our commitment to prevention education and having discussions about inclusivity. Our nationwide discourse about justice and liberation begins with the rhetoric of those closest to us, and it is on all of us to hold each other accountable for bigotry.

We are in solidarity with everyone who has been affected by these messages. In light of the events that have unfolded this week, Columbia Psychological Services is holding extended walk-in hours. For more information, you can contact them at 212-854-2878.

Jeri Henry: It's Time to Stop Hiding

It has been over a week since our #RightToRecord rally, but Columbia’s Student Conduct and Community Standards office (SCCS) has not responded to survivors sharing recordings they made of the gender-based misconduct process in violation of Columbia’s recording ban.

While we hope SCCS’s lack of response signals the University is beginning to listen to the petition advocating for the ban’s removal, we demand Columbia formally get rid of the recording ban, not simply ignore violations of it while students fear facing disciplinary action. To not follow through on threats of Dean’s Discipline is cowardly, makes a mockery of the gender-based misconduct process, and further proves the recording ban is a scare tactic.

We call upon Jeri Henry, the Associate Vice President of SCCS, to formally respond to our demand for an end to the recording ban by next Monday (11/14). SCCS’s only response thus far was turning off the lights in their office, presumably to act like no one was there, rather than face students who walked up eight flights of stairs to hand deliver the #RightToRecord petition. Columbia administrators should not literally cower in their offices to avoid fighting the battles they created.

AVP Henry, if you are going to have a policy that disenfranchises students, particularly Black students and students of color who are less likely to be believed when they speak out about discrimination, have the courage to defend your policy publicly. Our #RightToRecord rally signals the beginning of an ongoing commitment to escalation. It is time for you to stop hiding. We eagerly await your response.

Columbia Recording Policy

We were horrified to learn that Columbia University has changed its policies to prevent students from recording meetings and hearings with Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS), the office that deals with gender-based misconduct on campus. The policy, which students and their advisors are forced to sign prior to a meeting with SCCS, threatens disciplinary action if a student records a meeting.

Check out the document below, and please sign our petition to Jeri Henry (SCCS) here:

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.

Solidarity Through Love and Support

No Red Tape is committed to supporting the health and safety of survivors of sexual and domestic violence at Columbia University. We feel that it is equally important to support our group’s members, fellow activists, and their families in times of need. In the face of any oppression and injustice, activist communities must come together in order to build power through love, solidarity, and compassion.

As an organization which fights to end rape culture, we recognize that sexual violence is intimately connected with different systems of oppression and forms of inequality, including limited access to healthcare. We acknowledge that people belonging to marginalized groups, such as people from low-income backgrounds and people of color, are disproportionately affected by health care inequality.

We are calling on the activist community and the greater Barnard/Columbia community to contribute in any way possible (donations, shares, kind words) to help a member of No Red Tape’s family, Nicole Tommasiello. Nicole’s Uncle Alfonso needs life-saving surgery. His doctors have told him that if his tumor is not removed, he will have only a few more months to live, and an even shorter amount of time before he becomes blind. Alfonso must pay out of pocket for all aspects of his surgery, including the equipment and the medical care he will receive after the surgery.

We believe that everyone has the right to live and should be able to receive the medical care they need.

Here’s the link to the GoFundMe! Please support in any way you can.