The second University Senate plenary Friday featured a packed agenda with University President Lee Bollinger defending an executive change made to the Rules of Conduct, and Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg's reporting on the American Association of Universities' survey on campus sexual assault. Here's what you need to know.
Executive revisions to rules administrator clause
The decision to move the rules administrator from the provost's office to the executive vice president for University life's office was a non-substantive change, University President Lee Bollinger said.
When the senate passed the revisions to the Rules of Conduct—the disciplinary code applicable to on-campus protests—last May, the rules stipulated that the rules administrator would come from the Office of the Provost. However, Spectator reported last Wednesday that the senate's executive committee quietly amended the rules over the summer to stipulate that the rules administrator would come from the Office of University Life.
The rules vest the rules administrator with many powers. The rules administrator decides whether or not a student accused of violating the rules will undergo the adjudication process, and once the process begins, presents evidence to the five-person adjudication board in support of charges. The rules administrator can also appeal the board's decision.
The change will allow for Bollinger's impending appointment of Goldberg to the role of rules administrator. Some students fear the appointment will have a chilling effect on protests directed at policies and programs created by Goldberg's office, which oversees the University's response to sexual assault on campus.
In response to a question from University Senator Andrea Crow, a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Bollinger called the change a "completely obvious" decision with "no substance involved."
"It makes complete sense to take something like the rules administrator, which is overseeing ways in which rules are functional, and to have it with someone who is looking all the time at students and their concerns and their issues," Bollinger said. "So this is something one can say for sure doesn't involve any change of attitudes within the administration about the role of the rules administrator."
The senate rules committee will begin working with the rules administrator on practical issues including record keeping, said University Senator Angela Nelson, a research officer and rules committee chair.
Goldberg shared results of the survey that the American Association of Universities conducted both at Columbia and nationally. The survey is the largest conducted on campus sexual assault to date, with over 150,000 students responding to the the survey nationally.
"What did we learn? We learned a lot," Goldberg said.
University Senator Sean Ryan, CC '17, noted that the survey found that 82 percent of undergraduate women at Columbia "do not think that it is very or extremely likely" that campus officials will conduct a fair investigation of a sexual assault report.
"What are some plans to help make this process more comfortable and approachable for students on our campus, especially with the gender-based misconduct reporting structure?" Ryan asked.
Goldberg said she read most of that data noting that her office was recently created and that all students may not yet be aware of the resources available to them.
"When you think about the group of students who responded to the survey, some of those students were new last year and went through an expanded orientation where they actually learned something about the gender-based misconduct office," she said. "But that means most undergraduates who responded hadn't had that in their orientation."
She also added that, at Bollinger's request, her office is in the process of convening a task force, that will continue to address the topic of sexual assault on campus, and highlighted the University's updated gender-based misconduct policy.
"It reflects a lot of input we got last year from a wide variety of students, also from the lawyers and other advisers who had helped people in the process as well as responding to what you learn when implementing a new process," Goldberg said.
Quality of life survey
Student Affairs Committee Chair Marc Heinrich, CC '16, presented the preliminary findings of the senate's quality of life survey, which aims to assess students' satisfaction with their lives at Columbia. The survey, released last spring, was the second iteration of the assessment, which was rolled out in 2013. Over 9,000 students responded to the survey.
"Across the board, students were more satisfied than they were two years ago," Heinrich said. "Overall satisfaction did go up, and though many categories experienced slight decline, categories that mattered most to students improved."
Heinrich said that categories students expressed satisfaction with included academics and safety, while they expressed dissatisfaction with fitness, funding, space, and accessibility to administrators. Low-income, transgender, and disabled students also reported high levels of dissatisfaction.
"Low-income students in particular felt that their social lives were negatively affected by their low-income status and perceived greater academic struggles than their high-income peers and this led to them performing worse in their classes and examinations," Heinrich said.
In response, two subcommittees will be formed—one on financial insecurity and one on Disability Services. The subcommittee on financial insecurity will work with the Office of University Life and the subcommittee on Disability Services with Facilities and Operations, according to Heinrich.
The full results of the survey will be released in November.