Campus

Undergraduate deans send out email on new sexual assault policy

The four undergraduate deans sent out an email on Friday that highlighted a few portions of Columbia's new gender-based misconduct policy “as reminders of the conduct we expect from all students at the University in their interpersonal relationships, whether on or off campus.” The deans pointed out the policy's prohibited behaviors, definition of consent, and the policy's ten definitions of gender-based misconduct, including domestic violence and dating violence.

Check out their full email below:

Notice: This is a message from the undergraduate deans addressing gender-based misconduct and sexual assault. 

Dear Undergraduate Students:

Following President Bollinger’s announcement in mid-August of the University’s new Gender-Based Misconduct Policy , we want to reiterate how strongly we feel about keeping our community safe from gender-based misconduct and sexual assault.  We are writing to you today to highlight a few critically important points as reminders of the conduct we expect from all students at the University in their interpersonal relationships, whether on or off campus. 

This is a community in which consent is necessary for any and all sexual interactions, and where intimate partner violence (domestic violence), stalking, and other forms of gender-based misconduct are inconsistent with our deeply held academic and community values, our University policy and, in some instances, the criminal law. 

As you know, these and other forms of gender-based misconduct prohibited by the Policy are subject to a University discipline process, and the range of sanctions for students found responsible for policy violations includes suspension and expulsion from the University.  

When it comes to any type of sexual contact with another person, the policy provides that “consensual sexual activity requires unambiguous communication and mutual agreement for the act in which the participants are involved.”  This means that silence is not consent; a person also cannot give consent under Columbia’s policy if he or she is incapacitated by drinking, drugs, being asleep, or for any other reason. 

In addition, because we see some incidence of intimate partner violence in our own student population, we want to draw your attention specifically to the domestic violence and dating violence provisions, which prohibits violence toward and other abuse of a spouse, an intimate partner, or a current or former girlfriend or boyfriend.  For your convenience, we have included below some of the policy provisions.

As members of a University community, we are all responsible for conducting ourselves in accordance with the policy and in keeping with our commitment to foster an environment in which all students can experience the extraordinary opportunities at Columbia free from gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence, as well as other harms. 

We appreciate your membership in our community and look forward to your contributions in these and other ways. 

Best regards,

Peter J. Awn 
Dean 
School of General Studies

 

Mary C. Boyce 
Dean 
The Fu Foundation School 
of Engineering and Applied Science

Avis E. Hinkson 
Dean of the College 
Barnard College

James J. Valentini 
Dean of Columbia College and 
Vice President for Undergraduate Education

 

*****

The Gender-Based Misconduct Policy for Students summarizes the prohibited conduct in this way  (page 5):

Gender-based misconduct comprises a broad range of behaviors focused on sex and/or gender that may or may not be sexual in nature. Any intercourse or other intentional sexual touching or activity without the other person’s consent is sexual assault, which is a form of gender-based misconduct under this Policy. Sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, gender-based harassment, stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence are also forms of gender-based misconduct. Intimidation for one of these purposes is gender-based misconduct, as is retaliation following an incident of alleged gender-based misconduct or attempted gender-based misconduct. Misconduct can occur between strangers or acquaintances, or people who know each other well, including between people involved in an intimate or sexual relationship, can be committed by anyone regardless of gender identity, and can occur between people of the same or different sex or gender. This Policy prohibits all forms of gender-based misconduct.

The policy explains what is—and is not—consent for sexual activity as follows (page 5):

Any non-consensual sexual activity is gender-based misconduct. Consensual sexual activity requires unambiguous communication and mutual agreement for the act in which the participants are involved. Sexual activity accompanied by coercion or force is not consensual. A person cannot give consent if he or she lacks the ability to make or understand the decision because of disability, lack of sleep, consumption of alcohol or drugs, or if he or she is unwillingly physically constrained. A sleeping or unconscious person cannot give consent. The use of alcohol or drugs does not justify or excuse gender-based misconduct and never makes someone at fault for experiencing gender-based misconduct.

The policy identifies 10 forms of gender-based misconduct  (page 19): 

The forms of misconduct are: sexual assault – non-consensual sexual intercourse; sexual assault – non-consensual sexual contact; domestic violence; dating violence; sexual exploitation; stalking; sexual harassment; gender-based harassment; intimidation; and retaliation.

The policy defines these forms of gender-based misconduct as follows  (pages 19 to 20): 

  • Sexual Assault—Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse.  Any form of sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, or oral) with any object without consent. Intercourse means: vaginal or anal penetration (however slight) by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact).
  • Sexual Assault—Non-Consensual Sexual Contact.  Any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object without a person’s consent. Intentional sexual contact includes contact with the breasts, buttocks, or groin, or touching another with any of these body parts; making another person touch any of these body parts; and any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner.
  • Domestic Violence.  The use of physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, stalking, or other forms of emotional, sexual or economic abuse directed towards (a) a current or former spouse or intimate partner; (b) a person with whom one shares a child; or (c) anyone who is protected from the respondent’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of New York. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. Domestic violence can be a single act or a pattern of behavior in relationships.
  • Dating Violence.  The use of physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, stalking, or other forms of emotional, sexual or economic abuse directed towards a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or sexually intimate nature with the victim. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. Dating violence can be a single act or a pattern of behavior in relationships.
  • Sexual Exploitation.  Non-consensual abuse or exploitation of another person’s sexuality for the purpose of sexual gratification, financial gain, personal benefit or advantage, or any other non-legitimate purpose. Examples of sexual exploitation include: observing another individual’s nudity or sexual activity or allowing another to observe nudity or sexual activity without the knowledge and consent of all participants; non-consensual streaming of images, photography, video, or audio recording of sexual activity or nudity, or distribution of such without the knowledge and consent of all participants; exposing one’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances; and inducing incapacitation for the purpose of making another person vulnerable to non-consensual sexual activity.
  • Stalking.  A course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear or suffer substantial emotional distress. Stalking involves repeated and continued harassment against the expressed wishes of another individual, which causes the targeted individual to feel emotional distress, including fear or apprehension. Stalking behaviors may include: pursuing or following; unwanted communication or contact—including face-to-face, telephone calls, voice messages, electronic messages, web-based messages, text messages, unwanted gifts, etc.; trespassing; and surveillance or other types of observation.
  • Sexual Harassment.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
    • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s education, or educational or campus life activities; or
    • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic or student life decisions affecting that individual; or
    • such conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, or offensive campus or living environment.
  • Gender-based Harassment.  Acts of aggression, intimidation, stalking, or hostility based on gender or gender-stereotyping constitutes gender-based harassment. Gender-based harassment can occur if students are harassed either for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic of their sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity. To constitute harassment, the conduct must unreasonably interfere with an individual’s education or educational activities or create an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, or offensive academic or living environment.
  • Intimidation.  Any threat of violence or other threatening behavior directed toward another person or group that reasonably leads the target(s) to fear for their physical well-being or to engage in sexual conduct for self-protection.
  • Retaliation.  Any adverse action, or attempted adverse action, against an individual (or group of individuals) because of their participation in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this Policy, including individuals who file a third-person report. Retaliation can take many forms, including sustained abuse or violence, threats, and intimidation. Any individual or group of individuals, not just a respondent or complainant, can engage in retaliation.

The policy also defines important related concepts  (page 20):

  • Coercion.  Unreasonable pressure for sexual activity. When someone makes it clear that he or she does not want to engage in sexual activity or does not want to go beyond a certain point of sexual interaction, continued pressure beyond that point can be considered coercive. The use of coercion can involve the use of pressure, manipulation, substances, and /or force. Ignoring objections of another person is a form of coercion.
  • Consent.  Consent requires unambiguous communication and mutual agreement concerning the act in which the participants are engaging.
    • A sexual interaction is considered consensual when individuals willingly and knowingly engage in the interaction.
    • Someone who is incapacitated (by alcohol or drug use, unconsciousness, disability, or other forms of helplessness) cannot consent.
    • Consent cannot be procured by the use of physical force, compulsion, threats, intimidating behavior, or coercion.
    • Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Previous relationships or previous consent for sexual activity is not consent to sexual activity on a different occasion.
    • Consent to engage in sexual activity with one person does not imply consent to engage in sexual activity with another.
    • Silence or the absence of resistance is not the same as consent.
    • Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
    • Previous consent does not mean ongoing consent. (For example, consent to certain acts at one point in an evening does not mean consent to the same acts later in the same evening.)
    • How drugs and alcohol affect consent:
      • Individuals should be aware of, and carefully consider, the potential consequences of the use of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and other drugs can lower inhibitions and create an atmosphere of confusion over whether consent is freely and affirmatively given. If there is a question about whether someone consented to sexual activity after consuming drugs or alcohol, the University will examine the issue from the perspective of a reasonable person. Specifically, the University will consider whether the respondent reasonably should have known about the impact of alcohol and other drugs on the complainant’s ability to give consent.
      • The use of alcohol or drugs does not justify or excuse behavior that constitutes gender-based misconduct.
      • The use of alcohol or other drugs never makes someone at fault for experiencing gender-based misconduct.
  • Force.  The use of physical violence and/or imposing on someone physically to engage in sexual contact or intercourse. Force can also include threats, intimidation (implied threats), or coercion used to overcome resistance.
  • Hostile Environment.  A hostile environment may arise when unwelcome conduct of a sexual or gender-based nature affects a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an education program or activity, or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational and/or living environment. A single, isolated incident of sexual or gender-based harassment may, based on the facts and circumstances, create a hostile environment.
  • Incapacitation.  A state where a person cannot make a rational, reasonable decision because the person lacks the ability to understand his or her decision. A person can become incapacitated as a result of disability, involuntary physical constraint, sleep, or consumption of alcohol or other drugs.

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Anonymous posted on

Bollinger tried to sweep the problem away by sending emails. The problem did not go away. So he is having deans send more emails. Is he stupid, or are the deans stupid? Answer: all of them. And they care only about keeping their sorry-assed jobs. Therefore, let us move to fire all of them.

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Anonymous posted on

I wonder why, to date, has Bollinger Administration spent so much resources, including the outside law firm (Proskauer Rose), covering up for these professors/heads of departments/heads of centres and institutes, to the point that he has actually and obviously generated more of a problem than the initial transgression created?

It can't be a lack of intelligence.

Of the several attorneys and individuals I speak with about this we always come to conclusion that it is purely ego driven, i.e., he doesn't want the complaints to be recognized within his tenure/to become part of his legacy. There is no other logical reason. Especially when, at least of several victims I have spoken with, all victims have provided remedy of simply transferring away from the harasser/assaulter.

it also can't be because he believes the professors/heads of institutes/centers against which several complaints have been filed over several years because the complainants were not at the school at the same time, do not even know one another, i.e., Bollinger Administration knows that these complaints are honest.

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Anonymous posted on

Maybe I Missed something, but from my reading of above, the focus is still only on complaints of sex assault and harassment filed by students against other students. This generates a critical concern because a significant number of sex assault and harassment complaints filed against/at Columbia University were filed by students against professors/heads of departments/heads of centres/heads of institutes. The complaints I am aware of were filed over several years against the same professors located at different colleges/schools within the larger Columbia University system.

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