Will the Columbia administration help carry the weight?

Columbia statue

Student organizers have put sexual violence at Columbia University on the national agenda through federal complaints, graduation demonstrations, investigative journalism, and performance art. Will the administrators now join the rest of the campus to help carry the weight for survivors like Emma Sulkowicz, the senior carrying her mattress with her until she no longer has to go to school with her rapist?

Today, the Columbia community will gather to demand that the administration work with students to stop sexual violence, rather than blocking the way to change. A morning press release from organizers detailed the administration’s failures to date:

  • Twenty-eight students allege in federal Title IX, Title II, and Clery Act complaints that administrators “mishandl[e]cases of sexual and domestic violence, fail[] to provide survivors with critical resources, [and] discriminat[e] against LGBTQ students.”
  • Last year, “[a]fter students called for more transparency around the sanctioning of rapists and other perpetrators, University President Lee Bollinger publicly promised on January 29th to release aggregate data by the end of the academic year on the sanctioning and appeals decisions made by Deans in sexual and domestic violence cases. His office is still withholding this data.”
  • “[A]dministrators promised to work with student leaders and survivors to revise the failed policies. However, after months of ignoring student requests, Columbia released a new policy on August 15th that was developed without student input. The new policy fails to address many of the serious concerns students raised, makes it harder to bring cases against serial perpetrators, and allows Deans to maintain complete control over the sanctioning of rapists.

The Columbia organizers see a new way forward, detailed in a letter to President Lee Bollinger delivered earlier this week. The proposed structural changes include mandatory consent education for all students, guaranteeing survivors federally-required accommodations, and the inclusion of students in future decision-making.

Let’s hope Bollinger listens. The student press release ends with a promise: “Student organizers plan to escalate their actions if administrators continue to ignore their demands for a safer campus.”


Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing, a founding co-director of Know Your IX, and a student at Yale Law School.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com. During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com.

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