Columbia University and Barnard College: Adopt a Title IX Policy that Upholds Civil Rights

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Caroline Mullooly
Caroline Mullooly signed this petition

To ​Lee Bollinger, Sian Beilock​, EVP of University Life Suzanne Goldberg, Columbia Title IX Coordinator Majory Fisher, and Barnard Title IX Coordinator Madeline Camacho,

On May 6th, the Department of Education issued its Final Rule changing the Title IX obligations of all schools receiving federal funding. Consistent with the harmful rhetoric and anti-survivor ideology Secretary DeVos has brought to the Department, the Rule contains dangerous provisions that go against best practices, tip the scales against survivors, and jeopardize tens of thousands of students’ civil right to an education free from discrimination.

This rule will have devastating consequences for students and their families. Specifically, the rule will require schools to only investigate the most extreme forms of harassment and assault, require schools to ignore most violence that occurs off-campus, require live hearings and direct cross-examination of complainants and respondents by each of their chosen representatives, and allow needless delays in the completion of Title IX investigations. Altogether, these changes will discourage survivors from coming forward and utilizing the Title IX process at their schools, resulting in rampant sexual violence going unaddressed.

We, as students and community members, are calling on ​Columbia University to uphold the civil rights of all students on campus. Multiple sections within the rule give schools discretion to choose how policies are implemented. We urge ​Columbia University to commit to taking sexual violence seriously by choosing the options that would create the least harm for student survivors.

Below, we have listed our call to the University, which asks for your clear commitment to maintaining the safest and fairest policies that are legal under the Final Rule.

We, students ​and alumni of ​Columbia University ​call on the University to commit to:

1. Maintaining the preponderance of the evidence as the standard of evidence in all campus sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination cases. ​Preponderance of the evidence is the only standard that values the education of both complainants and respondents equally.

2. Establishing a time limit of sixty calendar days for the completion of sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination cases, with exceptions only for substantial extenuating circumstances.​ Lengthy investigations are emotionally taxing on survivors, often causing students to drop-out before their cases are complete. Drawn-out timelines are bad for complainants and respondents alike, leaving them uncertain of where things stand with their schools.

3. Continuing to respond promptly to reports of and carrying out existing investigations into sexual misconduct during the global health crisis. ​The new rule makes clear that Title IX processes may continue remotely in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rights of student complainants and respondents alike hinge on schools maintaining their commitment to prompt and equitable investigations even during these unprecedented times.

4. Guaranteeing all students access to reasonable interim measures regardless of where or when the violence or discrimination they experienced took place. ​The serious effects of violence and discrimination merit accommodations whether a student was harmed on-campus, on a study-abroad trip, or in their private apartment.

5. Creating and following sexual misconduct procedures for investigating otherwise not covered instances of off-campus and study abroad violence and sexual harassment previously covered under the 2016 guidance. While the rule does not allow formal Title IX investigations of off-campus violence, schools can still create separate sexual misconduct policies that ensure students can report off-campus violence. ​Whether you are raped in your on-campus dorm room or in another country, having to see your rapist in class equally interrupts your education. Schools can also create sexual misconduct policies for "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" including harassment that creates hostile environments as the rule leaves behind many students with its severe and pervasive standard. 

6. Barring school officials from initiating a discussion about informal resolution mechanisms including but not limited to mediation in cases of sexual assault, rape, dating and domestic violence, and stalking. It is widely agreed upon that mediation can be an inappropriate and even unsafe measure for many in these types of situations, and administrators suggesting such measures could come across as coercive to complainants.

7. Create a memorandum of understanding with a Restorative Justice Facilitator for any students who wish to pursue informal resolutions including but not limited to mediation. This will ensure any restorative justice practices happen through a trained third party not owned by the university. 

8. Following the Department of Education’s rescinded ​2016 guidance​ on protecting LGBTQ+ students in order to ensure all students have equal access to a safe learning environment, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

We call on the University to issue a written public statement on the Sexual Respect Website declaring its commitment to these eight policies by July 15th. 

As dedicated members of this community, we believe in holding our institution to the highest standards. With a federal government that is failing students, it is up to institutions to assume leadership in defending our education by protecting our civil rights. We look forward to seeing ​both Columbia University and Barnard College issue its public statement on the Sexual Respect website in the coming days.

With power, The Undersigned

Black Students' Organization

Graduate Workers of Columbia - UAW Local 2110, Organizing Committee

No Red Tape

Columbia-Barnard Young Democratic Socialists of America

Columbia People's COVID Response

24/7 Columbia

Sunrise Columbia

Columbia University Students Against Gun Violence

Columbia University Democrats

Take Back the Night