Executive Vice President of the Office of University Life Suzanne Goldberg said that Columbia will remain “vigilant” in adopting policies and procedures regarding gender-based misconduct, following last week’s reversal of Obama-era Title IX guidelines.
Columbia is currently tied for second in the nation for the university with the greatest number of active Title IX federal complaints, with four open Office for Civil Rights investigations. All of the complaints allege the University failed to respond fairly to complaints of sexual assault and failed to provide adequate accommodations for survivors.
Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos overturned a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter sent by the Obama administration that set parameters for how colleges should handle reports of sexual assault, arguing that it “pushed schools to overreach.”
Under the “Dear Colleague” guidance, colleges were instructed to use a “preponderance of evidence”—the lowest standard of proof—to determine whether accused students committed sexual assault. DeVos’ new guidance allows colleges to raise that standard to “clear and convincing evidence.”
In a statement to Spectator, Goldberg also pointed to New York’s “Enough is Enough” law, which codifies much of the “Dear Colleague” guidance (Columbia received the state’s highest rating under its most recent audit under the law). Goldberg was not made available for an interview for this story.
In addition to its open OCR investigations, the University’s stake in Title IX interpretation extends to the courtroom—it is the defendant in a federal lawsuit by a student alleging that Columbia mishandled her reports of rape and failed to provide adequate resources, including disability services and housing changes, following her reports.
Members of anti-sexual assault activist group No Red Tape declined to comment on DeVos’ change in guidance, but posted a statement on Facebook that says the guidance “deprives survivors of life-saving resources.” Last year, members of NRT voiced concern at the prospect of DeVos rescinding “Dear Colleague.”
“It’s going to be up to student activists in particular to hold schools accountable for conforming to any basic Title IX things we’ve had in the last few years,” NRT member Amelia Roskin-Frazee, the plaintiff in the lawsuit against Columbia, said in January. “We’re looking to organize with other campuses around Title IX enforcement and encouraging schools to continue doing many of the things they are doing right now.”