Columbia University

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.


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.

Read the full story.

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 …”

Read the full Spectator story.

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IMAGE: Floyd Brown/Flickr

This coming Monday, Columbia will announce a new requirement: Students will have until March 13 to complete a “sexual respect” education program.

Failure to do so could result in “diploma or registration holds.”

Students will have a choice of four options to fulfill the requirement, “including participating in an hour-long workshop, watching and discussing short films, and submitting anonymous reflection pieces on two separate TED talks.”

Pieces of art or poetry related to the topic can also be submitted.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

The program — which will be officially announced on Monday as the University’s first community citizenship initiative — was announced by Dean of Undergraduate Student Life Cristen Kromm and graduate hall directors in meetings with the staff of each residential area over the past two weeks.

“[Administrators] want to be very effective by having people get something out of it, but they understand everyone is really busy,” one RA said.

While students may fulfill the requirement with any of these options, they will be encouraged to participate in a workshop, which will focus on one of a few topics such as healthy relationships and bystander intervention.

No Red Tape prevention coordinator Michela Weihl, BC ’17, said that while the program should offer choices to students, these options should not differ in how much work they require or how much information they convey.

“A lot of the options being offered are pretty visibly less effort, and when you offer students a choice … unless they’re deeply invested already, they’re going to choose what’s going to take them less time,” Weihl said.

There appears to be some confusion, however, as to the “mandatory nature” of the program. The Spectator notes that Dean Kromm had informed RAs last week that the program would not be required. But later, an RA met with the dean and informed her that “many RAs in the [first] meeting expressed concerns about enforcing student participation without requiring it.”

“The sentiment wasn’t that we, RAs, wanted to add it as a requirement,” the RA said. “We thought that students might not partake if there might not be follow up.”

RAs who had meetings this week said that they were informed the program was mandatory.

The College Fix reached out to Spectator writer Giulia Olsson and the paper’s editor for clarification; however, neither responded.

An RA offers up a money quote for the new program: “Someone who doesn’t understand what rape is and thinks this is bullshit would most likely not participate — and those are the people that need to be reached.”

One might think that someone who has the brains to gain entrance into an Ivy League school would know what rape is.

Then again, based on past and recent evidence, one wonders if even those in charge at our universities know its definition.

At any rate, Columbia sure had an interesting week.

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Mattress-carrying performance artist and alleged rape victim Emma Sulkowicz is complaining to a friendly media source, Jezebel, about her portrayal in Cathy Young’s Daily Beast story about her alleged rapist’s extensive Facebook conversations with Sulkowicz after the incident.

What’s interesting about Jezebel‘s story, though, is another person has come forward to accuse Nungesser of assault: a “queer and black” male:

Adam, a current Columbia senior, tells Jezebel that he was close friends with Paul during his freshman year in 2011. One fall night, in the midst of an emotional conversation in Paul’s dorm room, Adam says Paul pushed him onto his bed and sexually assaulted him.

Adam, who identifies as “queer and black,” didn’t tell anybody about the incident until months later. His silence, he says, was due to issues that face many male survivors of sexual assault—denial, fear that nobody would believe him, fear that even defining himself as a survivor would somehow damage others.

The story says Adam only filed a Title IX complaint against Nungesser three years after the alleged incident (the complaint is pending), though Adam filed a complaint against Nungesser “with a student organization to which both men belonged” just months after the incident. Unlike in Sulkowicz’s case, there’s no description of what specifically Nungesser allegedly did to Adam.

Jezebel fumes that journalists are bothering to interview both sides of the story, once more trotting out the “rape denialist” slur against Young and saying that students who make rape accusations aren’t “public figures; they’re regular people, victims further victimized by media hounding.”

Like a certain mattress-carrying performance artist.

Read the story, and if you want more amusing invective leveled at Cathy Young, check Feministe‘s post.

Young has already responded to some of the earlier hubbub about her Daily Beast piece.

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IMAGE: YouTube screenshot