Opinion

The only thing I know about the sexual harassment allegations

Early Saturday morning, The New York Post reported that a former graduate student is suing a Columbia professor for sexual harassment. The former student is alleging that the professor tried to make the plaintiff exchange sex for a good grade, that he accused her of cheating when she refused, and that the administrators contacted by the student to address the situation, who are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit, were uncooperative.

A University spokesperson apparently said that Columbia would not comment, as this is a case of active litigation. Members of the Columbia community, however, are bound to comment. And we need to think about what we're saying if and when we do.

First, we need to remember the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and that we cannot jump to conclusions about anything mentioned above until there is more, and more of substance, to mention.

But second, and just as important, we need to remember that being an accuser does not make one guilty. In the comments of the Spectrum post on this issue, one commenter, under the name of "Anon," wrote, "Why did she wait seven years, never tell anyone, and never file a report? Sounds pretty fishy to me. He should counter sue for slander and defamation." Another, also writing under "Anon," wrote, "She was found to be cheating and now she is trying to take it out on him. An employer probably questioned her bad grades, and now she is looking for an excuse. Yeah, lady, it’s the professors fault you were found cheating."

Yes, there are cases in which people are falsely accused of sexual harassment. That is horrible. There are also cases in which sexual harassment is indeed very real. That, it hardly needs to be said, is also horrible. And there are cases—too many cases—in which women and men are sexually harassed and do not come forward out of fear or shame. That is also horrible. And it will be still more so if our campus creates a culture wherein victims do not come forward and try to get justice for themselves and their community because they fear being judged in the court of public opinion, a trend that is hardly limited to these two comments.

I do not know whether or not this professor sexually harassed this woman. I do know that anyone—on this campus or anywhere else—should feel comfortable honestly coming forward. I do know that to make a comment wherein the accuser is assumed to be in the wrong instead of wronged, to contribute to the creation of a culture of shame and fear, is to make oneself the verifiably guilty party.

Emily Tamkin is a Columbia College senior and a former Spec editorial page editor.

Comments

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anonymous posted on

..."verifiably guilty party." - That's for the court to decide. "He said she said" is not verifiable. It's hearsay. And hearsay isn't admissible evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt ones intent and / or guilt.

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anonymous posted on

She sounds like a brainless slut who lies and cheats her way through life and now when her world is spinning out of control going nowhere, she's desperately trying to rob gold from Columbia in the guise of sexual harassment. The professor's "innocent until proven guilty," yet once a pickle never a cucumber. Her accusations will echo endlessly in his path forever. If he's found to be blameless, Columbia ought to give him significant cash plus an extra year of sabbaticle to wash away the pain.

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Anon posted on

Finally! A voice of reason. It's sad to see the debased quality of comments on the Spec & the Bwog. What is the CU community learning about how to think/write about complicated matters?

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fairness posted on

An accuser falsely accuses and nothing happens to that vicious liar. You get accused in this society and your reputation is tarnished indefinitely.

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anonymous posted on

Exactly. Whether it is true or not true, his reputation is now tarnished for life. The

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you for writing this, Emily. It needed to be said, and especially in a forum that is not so hostile.

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anonymous posted on

What about being falsely accused and having your name dragged through the mud? What reparations can he get? How many men are falsely accused by women on a daily basis to seek revenge?

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Anon posted on

Not that many, in fact.

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Marni posted on

A pealinsgly rational answer. Good to hear from you.

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anon posted on

Oh hai there victim blaming.

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son of a formerly abused mother posted on

in reply to anonymous above me:

and how many women are abused daily by men who are manipulative and biologically stronger by nature?

my mother came out recently after 24 years about a former family member who used to abuse her daily. are you saying "oh, why didnt she say something 24 years ago? SHE MUST BE LYING!!!" ???

i have 2 words for you, ignorant fellow classmate: fck you.

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Anon posted on

Why do feel because your mother was abused by a family member that this professor "abused" this student? That is quite a leap. Because of one incident "all abusers are male." Wow. That is just as bad as saying she abused him. That's called prejudice and bigotry.

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son of a formerly abused mother posted on

no, but why are you so extreme that you think there's no chance in hell she (the CU student) could even be telling the 1% truth??

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Paraphrased posted on

"I'm not saying we should let one self-righteous student ruin a professor's life, but...we totally should."

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anon posted on

If he's guilty, yep.

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So posted on

beautifully said.

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Anonymous posted on

hear hear.

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Anonymous posted on

A 2nd complaint was recently filed in NY Court against the same professor.

The bar to file complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation in NY is very high. The documentation, funds, time and perserverance required is more than most individuals can provide.

Unless you have read the complaints completely and still believe the complaints are not valid, you should not disparage either party in any way.

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anonymous posted on

Columbia University has been confronted with it's reluctance to earnestly handle sexual harassment, assault and retaliation complaints, seemingly, for years.

If this article http://nypost.com/2013/12/11/co-eds-rip-columbia-over-athlete-rape-probes/ in today's New York Post is accurate, it's certain that Columbia University itself is not capable of administering itself and an outside mechanism totally unrelated to The University needs to be brought in. Easier said than done, but necessary because this should not continue to happen in City of New York and not within any institution that receives federal funds.

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