Columbia administrators are working to address the issues of racism and homophobia that dominated campus conversations at the end of last semester—but no formal investigation will be made.
Student leaders called for such an investigation after Columbia football player Chad Washington, CC ’15, was arrested for a hate crime last May.
Washington, who was accused of calling an Asian student racial slurs before shoving him into a wall, remains on the football roster for this year and is currently enrolled as a full-time student.
Terry Martinez, interim dean of student affairs, said that Washington and other football players who posted racist and homophobic tweets were “held accountable for their behaviors,” but declined to discuss specifics.
And football players had a separate, modified version of Under1Roof during the New Student Orientation Program this year.
But despite the urging of former student council leaders, no action was taken to investigate the incident.
In the week after Washington’s arrest, council leaders at the time posted an online petition called Fix Columbia, which called for an independent commission formed by University President Lee Bollinger and Provost John Coatsworth to investigate the case and whether or not the problems were systemic in the athletic department.
The petition, which was co-written by all the ranking presidents of Columbia’s student councils and governing boards, was signed by 392 people.
Yet no task force has been formed to investigate the athletic department—nor has the University released any reports in regards to the case itself.
Martinez said that the student leaders who wrote the petition never sent it to her office for review. She said that she knew there was such a petition, but none of the students ever officially submitted it to her.
“I never heard anything back from those students,” she said. “To me, that’s not good practice. If you want to share a concern with someone, you sit down and you share that concern.”
Current student leaders have no plans to follow through on the petition, said Engineering Student Council President Siddhant Bhatt, SEAS ’14.
“We don’t have an outcome in terms of us setting up a committee right now or we’re going to take certain actions X, Y, or Z,” he said. “Now, I think, what we’re more focused on doing is asking the right questions to the administrators.”
Martinez said that Washington and all the parties involved in the incident went through a fair judicial process.
“I do believe we have a very good judicial system in place, and we follow that judicial system,” she said. “We follow through and we make sure that students are held accountable for their behaviors. I can assure you that that, in fact, has happened in this particular case with all the students involved.”
Martinez added, “Those who were found responsible have received their judicial sanctions. Of course, you know, I’m not going to share those judicial sanctions. But you can figure that out by looking at rosters and such, who’s here and who’s not.”
Going forward, Martinez said that she is working with the athletic department to address the issues that the case brought up.
In addition to the separate Under1Roof session for football players, Martinez said Student Affairs also worked with athletic coaches to make sure that all student athletes were able to attend their Under1Roof sessions.
Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy said in a statement that Columbia athletics provides social media training for all the student athletes on the 31 varsity teams.
“We encourage all student-athletes to exercise good judgment and responsibility in all their behavior, whether online or off,” she said.
Martinez also said that there will be a workshop on bystander intervention in this year’s First-Year Transition Program, a yearlong program already in existence that helps student athletes deal with issues of stress and time management.
“It’s been a really willing partnership on both sides,” Martinez said. “It was really a good opportunity for us to see what we have on campus and what we can improve on.”
Still, some students said that they would like a formal investigation to be made about broader issues of racism and homophobia on campus.
Vivian Tsai, BC ’15, said that these issues should be discussed campuswide, and that they are much bigger than Washington and the athletic department.
“I don’t know if it’d be a good idea to target him specifically,” she said. “I think it’s more important that it brought the issue to the table.”
Xavier Jarrett, CC ’15, agreed that the administration and the student councils should do more to promote a more open and honest dialogue.
“We have Under1Roof during orientation,” he said, “but it’s not a continued discussion for everyone … We shouldn’t let it get swept under the rug.”