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Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer

As huge numbers of students covered Low Steps on Saturday for Bacchanal, there was unwanted touching unmerited by a large crowd.

Your drunkenness is not an excuse to grab my ass. Your drunkenness is not an excuse to assume all women want to have you grind up on them. Your drunkenness is not an excuse to grab my friend and start forcibly making out with her as she stands in line to buy halal. Your drunkenness is not an excuse to disrespect female bodies and demean our strength and intelligence.

Bacchanal is the one time in the year when Columbia comes together and pretends it's a party school. But what does that mean? To some it means the school spirit and community that magically appear on that day. To some, it means waking up early and starting off the day with a bottle of champagne and some jello shots. And to most, it means forgetting work and obligations for a day in favor of letting loose and having fun.

And we deserve this day. We deserve to forget about school and work and the stress of going to Columbia for a day. Columbia is a hard place to go to school. With both the academic obligations of an Ivy League school and the pressures of a campus in the middle of New York City, it does not feel like a traditional college. We deserve our day to pretend that we are a school that provides its students with a fun environment and a strong community.

While Bacchanal might be an excuse to forget homework, it is not an excuse to forget about human decency and respect. The very nature of the event means that personal space will be intruded on by the mass of humanity that squeezes toward the front of the stage. But just because personal space is intruded on does not mean it is OK to violate our bodies.

Under no circumstances is it OK for the random boy whose name I will never know to come up from behind and squeeze my butt. I don't care how drunk you are or how close you are to me—there is nothing permissible about that action. And don't look so confused or surprised when I turn around to call you out and scold you for your behavior. I'm not the unreasonable one—you are.¬†

I don't care if you are smashed up behind me because of all of the people. I do care if you start grinding up on me and then keep trying to do so when I turn and try to walk away from you. But considering other violations that happened at Bacchanal and have happened in the Columbia community, that's only mild harassment. To the boy who unzipped a girl's shorts as she was dancing with him: That is outright sexual harassment. An accepted invitation to dance is not an invitation to get into her pants in public or in private.

And to the boy who grabbed my friend's face and started making out with her: She was simply waiting in line for halal after the show—that is not OK. How could you do that? How could you ever think it was OK to just seize a girl without any form of consent? I don't care that you were drunk. It's not an excuse. Did you even care when the halal guy started yelling at you to get you to stop when you wouldn't let her go? How can you call yourself a true Columbia student?

We are supposed to be open-minded and respectful. We are challenged to think differently and harder and to push one another to become the best possible versions of ourselves. And I am proud to be a Columbia student. I am proud to be learning and living alongside some of the brightest young minds in the world. But I am not proud of this year's Bacchanal. I am not proud of how many people ditched the level of human decency and respect we are known to have. I feel ashamed to be a part of a community where this so widely occurs and is so rarely—until recently—addressed.

But we have the chance to grow and learn. It gives us the opportunity to consider our actions and realize that we are accountable for everything we do, whether or not we are intoxicated. Before college, I thought we only needed feminism for economic equality and respect, but I now know that these things are only part of the problem feminism combats. We can't stay silent and not address the issues of sexism and harassment that are present both at Columbia and in the world. I need feminism because drunkenness is not an excuse to disrespect our bodies.

The author is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in visual arts.

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Bacchanal sexual harassment Sexual Violence Feminism public safety
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