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Courtesy of the Office of University Life

Sexual respect is a commitment. It is a commitment to communicating and acting with integrity and respect for others. And it is about having an ethic of care in our own University community, even with our differences, to challenge and reject sexual and gender-based misconduct.

The Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative is one part of this commitment. Created by students, faculty and administrators, the Initiative asks all students to examine the link between sexual respect and membership in the Columbia community.

All Columbia students are strongly encouraged to participate. New to Columbia this year? Your participation is required. Didn't complete this last year? You're also required to participate.

We have an engaging and thought-provoking assortment of workshops, award-winning films, and online options, many new for this year—details are on the Sexual Respect website, including an FAQ with all you need to know.

You'll also find the Independent Projects option, which invites you to develop a project on your own or with friends.  Resources for Healing and Resilience is an additional option for students who have experienced sexual violence or supported someone who has, and for students with special interest in trauma and healing.

The first events and workshops begin this week, and film screenings soon after. You are invited and encouraged to attend as many as you'd like. (The first event is Thursday: When Truth is Justice Narratives of Black Women and Sexual Assault Across Generations.)

Did this last year? We want you to participate again! Here is some of what's different for 2015-16:

1. All options are easy to access on the Sexual Respect website; students who are required to participate this year will go to CourseWorks to confirm completion of at least one participation option;

2. More time to complete requirements—from October 20 until March 20 (the end of spring break);

3. Workshops on more topics, including more specialized workshops offered by stellar professional facilitators, chosen by a selection committee that included Columbia students;

4. Award-winning films will be screened on the Morningside and Medical Center campuses;

5. Many new videos in the online option and a web-based tutorial specifically for graduate students.

6. An Independent Projects option for students to pursue their own interests through the arts, peer-to-peer workshops, discussion or reading groups, and much more. For this option, students submit a proposal for review by a working group led by Office of University Life Sexual Respect Initiative coordinator Maria Quinn (Mailman School of Public Health '15), who is also available to help students develop proposals and find resources.

7.  Strong encouragement, rather than requirement, if you completed last year.  Here's why:  We know, from the AAU Climate Survey data released in September, that there are high rates of nonconsensual sexual contact among students.  As the Spectator wrote in an editorial, these data "ought to spur each and every Columbian to act. If our goal is to eradicate violence from our campus, we must not only be able to rely on our peers to intervene in the moment, but also to know that the same is expected of us. Every member of this community has the opportunity and the obligation to help make it safer."  As you are returning students, we count on you to know how important it is—for yourself and for your friends and classmates—to step up and participate.

These changes and others respond to extensive feedback from students following last year's Initiative, which included: participant evaluations (both qualitative and quantitative), professionally-facilitated focus groups, and extensive analysis of reflections submitted for last year's video option, as well as ongoing conversations with students, faculty and administrators all across Columbia.

Take a look at the faculty responses to students' reflections  last year and at faculty commentary on students' creative works in last year's arts option.

Want to get involved in helping with the Sexual Respect Initiative this year and beyond? Sign up here. We'll be happy to have you join in.

We also invite you to share your personal reflections on the link between sexual respect and membership in the University community.  Write to us at We'll be posting a selection to Ideas and Action, the digital conversation space on the Office of University Life website.

Visit to get started!

Suzanne B. Goldberg is Executive Vice President for University Life.  She is also the Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. Read Professor Goldberg's previous posts for the Spectator here and other posts here on the University Life website.

Follow @ColumbiaULife on Twitter and Instagram, and Columbia University Life on Facebook.

Suzanne Goldberg guest blog
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