Columbia University

Over 450 Columbia students sent school administrators a “letter of noncompliance” regarding the school’s “sexual respect” program — which all students were to have completed by March 13.

Students complained that the program “did not address failures in the University’s sexual assault policy and was unclear in its overall purpose.”

A day before the official due date for completion, the Columbia Daily Spectator had detailed the frustration many had with the new mandate.

This latest turn of events, however, has activists focused more on the (supposed) shortcomings of the college’s sexual assault policies, rather than the hassles many had experienced in attempting to fulfill the obligation.

The Spectator reports:

“We’re being asked to participate in these requirements by a University administration that has not acknowledged that it’s under federal investigation, let alone apologized for the failings for which it’s under investigation,” Alix Rule, a sociology Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences who drafted the letter with other students in her department, said.

“Overall, it puts responsibility on the individuals, but it takes away responsibility from the institution,” Olivia Nicol, a sociology Ph.D. student in GSAS who helped draft the letter, said. “The problem is that Columbia has not recognized clearly what happened, logically publicized it, or admitted any guilt.”

Andrea Crow, an English and comparative literature Ph.D. student in GSAS, said she signed the petition because she saw the program and its use of phrases such as “sexual respect” as a way of sweeping existing issues under the rug.

Rule added that “The people who signed on are not lazy or evading the issue. They [administrators] should regard our non-participation as the conscientious expression of our position on the institutional handling of the issue of sexual assault. We’re disappointed.”

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A month ago Columbia University revealed its “sexual respect” education program — a requirement designed “to reinforce that community citizenship is a critical part of being a Columbia student at any school, and that sexual respect is integral to what it means to be a member of this community.”

There are several ways for students to meet the requirement, even including submitting an art piece.

But it seems the program wasn’t put together very well, which is bad thing considering students were to have completed it by yesterday.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports that “a number of issues have surfaced with the program’s implementation, from technical difficulties with signing up for workshops to student complaints about the content of some workshop options.”

For example, eight survivors of sexual assault had showed up for a workshop back on February 25, only no one from the university was there to run it.

Some other concerns are more of the PC variety: Some students of the “working group” that helped put together the program are upset that an option of watching a video and “reflecting” on it was added early this year:

“The content being discussed in these workshops and in these videos and these reflections is so specific and so complicated, and people will have so many misconceptions about that going in that students will benefit most from a workshop,” working group member Abby Porter, CC ’17, said.

In other words, “we’re upset because the video option doesn’t allow us to ‘re-educate’ students and to direct them to the ‘proper’ mode of thinking.”

If you’re skeptical of my bit of editorializing there, then check out how these working group folk felt about the art option: “Some student members of the working group expressed concerns that the arts option was a less effective and less educational way to learn about sexual respect in comparison to the workshops.”

How dare these leaders diminish the learning style of those who prefer to express themselves artistically!

The Spectator’s Dan Garisto says that even the very definition of “sexual respect” can be found nowhere on the school’s website, nor in any university press release.

Looks like he’s right — here’s Columbia’s Sexual Respect website.  Maybe they’ve added a definition since Garisto’s column, but I don’t see it.

And as Garisto says, “… how about we actually define ‘sexual respect’ and stop using it as a buzzword?”

But perhaps most embarrassing is this ridiculous video about the program. Tell me President Lee Bollinger doesn’t look like he’s thinking “What the &*%@ am I doing here”?



He’d rather be rearranging his sock drawer.

Not to mention, the production value of this thing seems to rival that of any public middle school. Hell, the academic “rigor” of this entire program appears to rival that of a middle school.

At best it’s akin to the material from a typical ed school or an assorted “studies” class.

Check it:

“This is an opportunity to create art about the connection between sexual respect, and membership in the Columbia University community”? and “We encourage the expression of all identities and all … ‘villages’?

“Villages”???

This is from the Ivy League, folks.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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IMAGES: airsoenxen/Flickr, YouTube screencap

It’s great to see students who are part of the majority defend the rights of the minority – especially those who show healthy skepticism toward idols.

By doing so, Columbia University student Cameron Fegers has put a big fat target on his back.

He isn’t siding with Paul Nungesser, the exchange student accused of raping a fellow student, Emma Sulkowicz, who turned the encounter into a performance art project wherein she carries her mattress  around campus and then complains about the media bugging her.

But Fegers writes in the Columbia Spectator that he’s tired of the “brazen political climate on campus” in which Sulkowicz supporters feel free to harass and shame those who don’t “believe Emma” or just don’t care, “giving a far-reaching platform to one person”:

These days, students are asked who they believe in the “Emma story” in exactly the same way as friends asking each other if they have seen an iconic movie like The Godfather. If you’ve seen and enjoyed it, you’ll scream in euphoria about its awesomeness, but if you haven’t, you blankly stare back, wondering why seeing such a movie is a prerequisite for gaining additional “cool points.”

Fegers is no right-wing ideologue – he’s a former executive board member of the College Democrats and currently sits on the Student Health Advisory Committee. He blogs at the Huffington Post and his LinkedIn profile pic shows him with the (embattled) head of the Democratic National Committee, for heaven’s sake.

CameronFegers.LinkedIn

Yet he sounds like the winning team at George Washington University’s campus debate this week on whether “liberals are stifling intellectual diversity on campus”:

Students may not know what they believe, because, once removed from the classroom, they aren’t given the space to believe anything outside the norm and can be disenfranchised by their peers from forming any opinion at all. The extent to which we actively drown out dissenting voices on this issue symbolizes a judgment call from the masses—that the opinions of those who don’t believe Emma are inferior and unworthy of consideration. Students are afraid to disagree with what is considered by the “perceived” majority to be a noble and just cause for fear that campus peers will categorize them as pro-rape. Students are afraid to stand up and ask, “why?” We will never know if the number of students with a different perspective outweighs the opinion of the “perceived” majority because enough student activists within the “perceived” majority have made it inappropriate and undesirable to criticize the merits of sexual violence activism.

Fegers is worried that Sulkowicz and Nungesser will continue trading public barbs “until the Cubs win another World Series,” marginalizing the bigger movement to stop sexual violence on campus:

[Sulkowicz] has become a larger-than-life international and campus figure. Some may say she is a hero, others a propagandist. I believe she has an important message that everyone should hear. But I am also very doubtful that time spent debating the truth of her story and allowing Paul a platform is constructive. In spite of their unintentionality, the media continues to polarize our campus to extreme perspectives based on a figurehead’s individual experience instead of on the merits and flaws of an internal campus movement.

We need to focus our discussions and energy on fostering a community dedicated to combating sexual violence. Encourage others and their ideas, however unpopular, that they may join the discussion to end sexual violence.

Well said, Cameron. Enjoy the “rape denialist” label.

h/t Daily Pennsylvanian

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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IMAGE: YouTube screenshot, Cameron Fegers/LinkedIn

Joann Baney, a professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, was arrested last week and charged with misdemeanor assault.

The “staunch defender of women’s rights” and “outspoken critic against domestic violence” punched her boyfriend, Walter Frey, while he slept. How come?

He allegedly cheated on her.

The New York Daily News reports:

“I hit him because he cheated on me,” Baney told a cop who responded to the Saturday night assault, the court documents show.

Frey suffered cuts to his left ear and the right side of his neck.

The 5-foot, 125-pound Baney was taken into custody without incident at the luxury West End Avenue building, police said.

Baney is the faculty director of the FDNY Officers Management Institute and sits on the faculty of the NYPD’s Police Management Institute, which offers professional degrees through Columbia’s Executive Education program. Elite FDNY and NYPD personnel who are considered to be the future leaders of their departments are selected for the program, the source said.

The professor was released on her own recognizance at her arraignment on Sunday, but a judge authorized an order of protection for Frey. The professor then left town, according to a man at her apartment that identified himself as her brother.

Baney’s duties at those institutes include training cops and firefighters on “how to tamp down heated situations.”

Go figure.

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h/t Bwog.

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IMAGE: Floyd Brown/Flickr

Columbia recently instituted a (mandatory) “sexual respect education” program in which students have several options to fulfill the requirement.

One of these options, “consider[ing] the topic of sexual respect through various artistic mediums,” has left some wondering about its “ability to teach students about sexual assault prevention.”

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

According to Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg, the arts option is meant to appeal to diverse learning styles while yielding material that can continue a conversation about sexual respect.

“Every student has a capacity to create a piece of art,” social work professor Rogério Pinto—who co-chairs a committee formed to design the arts option—said at a Columbia College Student Council meeting two weeks ago. “We can express a lot of thoughts and feelings by critically thinking about a particular subject and then creating a piece of art.”

Still, some students on a working group of students, faculty, and administrators that advised Goldberg on the program have expressed concern that making a video, writing a poem, or creating a painting are less effective ways to teach students about sexual respect than other workshops.

“There’s really no mechanism to say whether or not a student actually digested the material,” working group member Abby Porter, CC ’17, said. “It’s not that students at Columbia aren’t incredibly smart, it’s just that talking about this requires a dialogue.”

Well, it seems the “learning style” craze has reached beyond the realm of lower education.

Another member of that working group, Nick Wolferman, agrees with Ms. Porter on the “need for required dialogue”: “For our purposes, to self-impose a community standard revolving on self-respect—the workshops should have been the sole and primary means through which we did that.”

It isn’t enough, you see, that the school required this new program; you have to fulfill its mandate the “right” way!

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As promised, Columbia unveiled its new “sexual respect” program today via emails sent out by various college deans.

Students will have approximately one month to complete the program through various options, and failure to do so can result in holds in future registrations or even one’s diploma.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

“The essence of this initiative is to reinforce that community citizenship is a critical part of being a Columbia student at any school, and that sexual respect is integral to what it means to be a member of this community,” Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg, who spearheaded the program’s development, told Spectator in an interview.

One option includes a series of hour-long workshops facilitated by Sexual Violence Response that will each focus on one theme, such as intimate partner violence, healthy relationships, or support for survivors of sexual assault.

“Students are at different levels of interest, experience, and engagement with these issues already,” Goldberg said. “The initiative offers a variety of participation options to, in effect, meet students where they are.”

In addition, a “media initiative” will provide students with prompts and questions in order to consider the topic of sexual respect through various artistic mediums.

According to Goldberg, this choice will allow students to engage with sexual respect issues in a creative way, enable further conversation by discussing the resulting artwork, and create material that can be used in future prevention programming.

Projects must “represent a good-faith effort to address the topic,” may not be sexually explicit, and may not comment on specific individuals without their consent, Goldberg said. Student participants will also be required to submit a statement alongside their works.

Before creating their own projects, students will be required to view three artistic representations listed on CourseWorks, including “A Needed Response,” a video made by two University of Oregon students in response to the Steubenville rape sentencing.

The program was constructed by a group “comprised of students, faculty, and administrators from across the University, including members of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence and No Red Tape.”

There’s no word if there will be any workshops about false (rape) accusations, basic due process rights, and/or comprehensive reviews of the Duke lacrosse case and the recent University of Virginia imbroglio.

Interestingly, the Columbia-affiliated Barnard College, an all-female institution, has opted not to participate in the program. Two of its deans said they needed “more information about the requirement’s content and implementation before making it mandatory …”

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IMAGE: Floyd Brown/Flickr