Protest against sexual assaults on campus
Yesterday, a large group of students gathered at the plaza outside the Low Memorial library to protest against the university’s handling of sexual assaults on campus. This came after senior Emma Sulkowicz started carrying a mattress around campus as a form of protest against how the university handled the situation when she was assaulted by a fellow student, and until the student leaves the school.
Students brought out several mattresses to the plaza and held up placards bearing messages of support and solidarity for Sulkowicz and other sexual assault survivors on campus.
The university’s policies to handle sexual assault on campus was called to question after an unnamed student was cleared of charges accusing him of raping Sulkowicz. The decision attracted national media attention after Sulkowicz, along with 23 other Columbia and Barnard students, filed a federal Title IX complaint earlier this year against the university, in which they accuse Columbia of mishandling their cases. Since then, several other students have reportedly come out accusing the same unnamed student of similar sexual misconducts against them.
After the Obama Administration introduced new measures earlier this year, making universities more accountable for looking after the safety of their students, there has been mounting pressure on the university to make reforms and update their policies. This was later supplemented by a bill from the Senate aimed to curb sexual assault on campuses across the country. To be fair to Columbia, the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct has been making changes to their policies both to prevent and to handle sexual assault. Whether it bears fruit in protecting students is yet to be seen.
Meanwhile, many student groups recently co-signed a letter that was sent to the university administration highlighting some of the changes they would like to see with regards to sexual misconduct on campus. The dominating theme in the letter was a call for greater transparency in how the university handles each situation and to ensure adequate support is given to every student to cope with the trauma. The letter can be read here.
Huffington Post published a response from Columbia here (scroll down near the bottom).