News | Administration

Students’ Coalition Against Sexual Violence to present recommendations to administrators

  • NEW COALITION | University Senator Marc Heinrich, CC ’16, is part of a new student coalition that will present a set of policy recommendations to administrators Monday to improve the way the school handles sexual misconduct.

Updated, 7:20 p.m.

A new student group called the Coalition Against Sexual Violence will present to administrators on Monday morning a list of policy recommendations intended to improve the way the University handles sexual misconduct, after holding an open forum on Sunday.

Representatives of the coalition will meet with a number of senior administrators, including Executive Vice President of Facilities and Operations Joseph Ienuso, to present a set of proposals that will be updated as discussions over policy continue over future months. Ienuso recently replaced Jeff Scott as co-chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault after Scott’s position as executive vice president for student and administrative services ended this semester.

The coalition’s proposals include hiring a permanent clinician to staff the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center 24 hours a day and seven days a week, reorganizing PACSA to involve wider and more diverse student representation as well as more frequent meetings, and restructuring the sexual misconduct adjudication process to ensure that complainants are made fully aware of how proceedings work and what resources are available to them in the interim period. 

A comprehensive list of the coalition's proposals presented to administratiors was made available on Monday evening. 

Many of the proposals are in line with an earlier senate Student Affairs Committee statement on reforming the adjudication process and come after immediate changes to the adjudication process were announced at a Columbia College Student Council meeting last week.

Representatives from the coalition, the Columbia University Democrats, and the University Senate have been meeting regularly with administrators, who asked them at the beginning of the semester to create a list of proposals.

“The content of this document has been in the works since last semester,” Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, CC ’15 and a coalition member, said. “But we’re really making an effort to get more voices into this conversation.”

The coalition, organized in part by CU Dems President Sejal Singh, CC ’15, and University Senator Marc Heinrich, CC ’16, has been meeting regularly since the start of the semester.

“We want to recognize that issues of sexual violence are very personal experiences, but at the same time we want to encourage sharing. We’re working on ways to facilitate a culture of conversation,” Ridolfi-Starr said. “We want to make space for more and more students to join in this—everybody is welcome.”

One area on which the group has begun to focus specifically is the mandatory consent education all incoming students receive during the New Student Orientation Program—an aspect addressed in the second part of a widely-read Blue and White series examining University policies on sexual misconduct.

“As a [Consent 101] facilitator, I have a lot of concerns about the tone of the discussion in the workshops,” Sarah Weinstein, CC ’16 and a coalition member, said. 

“It’s also just the fact that a lot of students didn’t show up. I was supposed to facilitate two workshops but nobody showed up to the second one. I know a lot of other Consent educators had similar problems, and based on that, I would guess that between one-third to one-half of the freshman class didn’t get consent education,” Weinstein said.

Singh said the coalition has been communicating regularly with the administrators in charge of NSOP.

“The administration has been very receptive to student concerns,” Singh said. “They’re particularly interested in reforming the consent education process, and we’re very confident that we’ll see changes implemented in time for next year.”

Abby Porter, CC ’17 and the CCSC liaison to the coalition, said reforming Consent 101 is just part of the plan for a safer campus. 

“Ideally, we really want to be educating continually about sexual violence,” she said. “This shouldn’t just be limited to NSOP—we really want to keep the conversation going.”  |  @ebbogz


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Anonymous posted on

Clearly this coalition means well, but they have focussed on the wrong audience. The right audience must be NYPD and New York City itself.

Columbia University continues to mislead its community members, that it should have any business whatsoever in the adjudication process. It says adjudication, but in practice the university aids, abets, and protects criminals.

Coalition Member posted on

Survivors can actually pursue both/either/neither option for reporting--the coalition certainly does not want to discourage anyone from reporting to the police if that's what would make them feel most safe. However, there are many reasons why survivors might want to pursue other options for justice than the NY criminal justice system. Firstly, the NYPD and criminal justice system are complicit in violence against many communities, particularly African American and Latino communities and queer and trans* folks. This could make the this option feel very unsafe for students who come from or feel connected to those communities/identities. Others may feel that the inherent violence of the prison system exacerbates power dynamics or mental health issues, and is an inappropriate, or even counter-productive response to sexual violence.

Secondly, having to testify, report to the police and DAs office, go through trials and hearings, and other processes associated with formal prosecution can require people to tell their stories over and over, to be questioned, and can be very traumatic for some survivors.

Thirdly, getting adequate legal support can be far too expensive for some students.

Fourth, in cases of Intimate Partner Violence or other kinds of domestic violence, there are often financial, marital, familial, and other considerations for survivors that make criminal prosecution an unappealing option.

And lastly, by going through the internal reporting process at Columbia, survivors can get access to important campus support options, like having the perpetrator banned from residence halls or removed from their classes.

We want to make sure that there is a safe, strong, and supportive process for handling sexual violence here on campus for students who, for these or other reasons, want to report sexual violence internally.

Additionally, the coalition is working on a broad package of reforms to the resources, policies, and community practices related to sexual violence on campus--this work is much more comprehensive than simply changing the adjudication processes.

Anonymous posted on

Good luck - with Columbia University, that is.

Anonymous posted on

Why did those stupid girls make that silly topless movie?

Student Leaders posted on

on the front page photo? seriously?