Will Columbia’s new sexual respect program solve its assault (and image) problem?

Last week, students at Columbia University received an email from the Dean of Columbia College, the Dean of the Engineering School, and the Dean of Undergraduate Student Life announcing a mandatory sexual respect program to be completed by all students over the next several weeks. Immediate criticism of the program has arisen, particularly among activist organizations, who have made accusations that Columbia’s new initiative is “poorly designed and demonstrates a willful neglect of empirical evidence and student feedback [and] will not prevent sexual or dating violence.” Harsh – but not without truth. The details of the program, including what degree of student effort is necessary to complete it, hardly inspire faith in sexual assault education.

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At Brown, alcohol service has been banned in all residences

It’s been all over the news for the past few days that two Brown University fraternities have been sanctioned as a result of instances of sexual assault that took place on their premises. (One, Pi Kappa Psi, is the same frat where a female student tested positive for GHB after being drugged at an unregistered party in October.) The less publicized and more widespread disciplinary action, however, affects all students outside of Greek life: Brown has banned any residential events serving alcohol, whether in frats, special program houses, or regular dorms. Brown’s reply, from anonymous comments to an official editorial board response, has been one of skepticism and dissatisfaction.

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Guilty of Title IX Violation, Princeton Will Reexamine 11 Sexual Misconduct Cases

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced on November 5th that Princeton has been found guilty of a Title IX violation, prompting the university to review all of its sexual assault cases from the past three years. The OCR’s verdict stated that Princeton had not “promptly and equitably responded” to complaints of sexual violence, including harassment and assault. Along with the guilty verdict, the OCR announced a resolution for an agreement with Princeton to ensure further compliance with Title IX. Princeton’s policies and procedures in place to respond to cases of sexual assault at the time of the investigation were also not compliant with Title IX’s requirements. Much like Columbia’s Title IX complaint filed in April, OCR’s investigation was a response to complaints filed on behalf of students.

Princeton was prepared for the verdict.

Columbia, where correlation equals causation

The administrative heroes over at Columbia decided that the best way to solve the university’s major sexual assault crisis and amend for their general mishandling of assault cases is to cancel a school-wide concert. Most publicly-reacting students have recognized this as yet another misguided move, and likely part of the school’s continuing War on Fun. The concert was supposed to be held this fall and artists were already secured; now the school has to pay the unnamed artists $55,000 for nothing.

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Dartmouth prof doesn’t hold back

Following the Isla Vista shooting this week, Jeff Sharlet, Dartmouth English prof (and author, Harper’s contributing editor, etc.) took to Twitter to discuss the tragic event. Like others, he linked Elliot Rodger’s shooting to the pervasive destructiveness of misogyny. Unlike others, he compared Rodger to sexual assailants at Dartmouth:

We followed up with Sharlet for further explanation of the tweet’s idea, and he went in on both Rodger and rapists.

Rape and murder are different crimes, of course, but rape and Rodger’s decision to kill women seem to me likely rooted in the same pervasive misogyny, a sense of some or all women as less than human. I’m distressed by those who’d dismiss Rodger as nothing but a monstrous outlier. The logic of hate he took to its most extreme end is the same of that of the rapist, and, yes, of that of those who apologize for rapists. 

Dartmouth’s attempts to change their culture appear to be working, at least for the professors.

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“Enough is enough”: Dartmouth reformulates approach to campus life

Dartmouth has always been the problem child of the Ivy League, but President Hanlon’s summit last week on the “extreme behavior” plaguing the university is an unexpectedly candid admittance of the many toxic and harmful practices that characterize parts of student life on the Dartmouth campus. The school is notorious for its Greek life antics and threats of sexual violence on campus—the acquittal of Parker Gilbert, formerly D’16, now a former Dartmouth student, accused of raping a fellow classmate, has been the subject of nationwide media attention.

Hanlon’s summit (and accompanying op-ed in the Boston Globe) comes on the heels of an announcement about proposed changes to the College’s sexual assault policy. Read the rest of this entry »

BREAKING: Students file Title II, Title IX, and the Clery Act complaint against Columbia and Barnard

A startling twenty-three students collectively filed Title II (Americans with Disabilities Act), Title IX (Higher Education Act), and Clery Act violation complaints against Columbia University and Barnard College. The violations, handled by a group called Our Stories Columbia, included in the complaints filed with the Department of Education include survivors discouraged from reporting, perpetrators allowed to remain on campus, inadequate disciplinary sanctions, and discrimination based on sexuality and mental health and wellness.

The press release (which can be found at the bottom of this post) includes stories from survivors, which range from a queer trans* survivor having their story doubted due to their gender identity to a survivor denied mental health accommodations and threatened with expulsion.

The complaint follows a year of raised awareness and discussion at Columbia and other Ivy League schools — along with an increase in the national discussion — and Harvard students filing a Title IX complaint at the beginning of this month.

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Ivies under attack for sexual assault policies

Ah, springtime at an Ivy: students descend on the quad, thesis writers emerge from their caves, and — best of all — high school seniors attack campus with naïveté, un-jaded excitement, and a myriad of questions all boiling down to: Can my host get me alcohol? Is this the school for me?

Columbia’s first Days on Campus program — prospective student visiting weekend — for the Class of 2018 began today. Prospies were treated with a beautiful spring day and  blue and white balloons blanketing College Walk. But they’re also getting another dose of classic Columbia: protests.

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DARTMOUTH: Targeting Begets Targeting

Amanda Childress, coordinator of Dartmouth’s Sexual Assault Awareness Program, is facing backlash over comments made earlier in the month where she argued that a sexual assault allegation should be enough to see a student expelled.

Speaking as part of panel on sexual misconduct at the University of Virginia on February 11th, Childress is quoted as asking, “Why could we not expel a student based on an allegation?”

“If we know that a person is reasonably a threat to our community,” Childress said, “why are we not removing them and protecting the safety of our students?”

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YALE: Sexual Assaults at Secret Society S&M Party

Last week, Yale students received two university-wide Clery Act emails informing them that two Yale students were victims of “sexual assault by an acquaintance, who is also a Yale student” at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house on February 8th. February 8th was the night of the annual “Dom” party thrown by the Women in Power Society (WIPS), a secret society, which was held in the SigEp house.

The “Dom” party is an infamous, no-cellphones-allowed event. From what we hear, people dress up in BDSM gear and porn is projected on the walls as hot freshmen guys pass around drinks. Interestingly, it’s also generalized as one of the safer party SigEp hosts: there is a closed guest list with doors closing at 11 pm and everyone (besides those hot freshmen boys) is over 21-years-old.

For two assaults to happen on a night that typically gets by without major public notice is surprising–but only considering its history of safety. Dom is a party full of porn, S&M, and lots of alcohol, after all. In a statement, SigEp said that the assault allegations are not against brothers of the fraternity, consistent with rumors we have been hearing.