News | Administration

University Senate releases statement calling for action on sexual violence adjudication process

  • Douglas Kessel / Senior Staff Photographer
    SENATE SUPPORT | Akshay Shah, SEAS ’14, and Matthew Chou, CC ’14, co-chairs of the University Senate's Student Affairs Committee. The committee released a statement Sunday calling for change to the university's sexual violence adjudication process.

Updated, Jan. 27, 7 p.m.

The University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee released a statement Sunday night calling for action regarding the University’s sexual assault adjudication process.

In the statement, SAC said there is “a lack of confidence in Columbia’s approach to handling allegations of gender-based misconduct and violence,” after the publication of a widely-circulated Blue and White article about several students' experiences reporting instances of sexual violence and the announcement of a new website by the University to explain policies.

The committee called for a statement from University President Lee Bollinger on the “University’s position and priorities regarding sexual misconduct, harassment, and retaliation,” a town hall to discuss the topic, and the release of anonymous data related to gender-based misconduct on campus—mirroring a Columbia University Democrats petition. SAC also urged for the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault’s proceedings and membership list to become “more transparent.”

The statement said such actions would  “restore confidence in the system, given that the only other form of recourse for students is [currently] to turn to law enforcement—or remain silent.”

Both Matthew Chou, CC ’14, and Akshay Shah, SEAS ’14, co-chairs of the committee, said afterwards that they plan on continuing to push for changes through the Senate.

“We feel that this would be issue that is appropriate for the University Senate to take on as it deals with a university office following a process that the university has put in place to comply with Title IX [sic],” Shah said in a statement.

A statement issued by the University on Monday said, "The safety and well-being of every student and each member of the Columbia community is our foremost priority, and we recognize that confidence in the handling of allegations of gender-based misconduct and sexual assault is an essential part of ensuring that safety."

"In the days ahead, we look forward to sharing additional steps intended to sustain our campus dialogue and to ensure that students' voices inform the ongoing development of the university's gender-based misconduct policies," the statement continued. "We therefore welcome the broad conversation occuring on campus involving Columbia's leadership, the University Senate, Columbia University Student Democrats and a large cross-section of concerned students in the expectation that it will increase awareness and identify opportunitites to imrpove current practices."

PACSA is one of Columbia’s most opaque advisory boards—only the members know who and how many they are, and very little has been disclosed about proceedings.

The CU Democrats petition called for the release of this information in addition to general anonymous data about the number and outcomes of sexual assault cases at Columbia.

emma.bogler@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ebbogz

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