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September 30, 2014

To the individual and organizational contributors to the September 9, 2014 letter to President
Bollinger and others,

I am writing in my capacity as Special Advisor to President Bollinger on Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response to follow up on your September 9, 2014 letter to President Bollinger
and others setting out a number of your current priorities.

As you will see, although many of these issues are best addressed as part of an ongoing
conversation and exchange of ideas, I thought it might be useful to offer initial reactions to the
specific points you have raised and flag several that would benefit particularly from further
discussion. For your convenience, the format I use below tracks your September 9 letter.


1. Ongoing consent education for returning students, including sophomore, junior, and senior

As you know, education has many dimensions.

The first steps in consent education have already been taken through President
Bollingers communication of the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy to all students and
follow-up decanal letters to many students throughout the University that set out, in
detail, the definition of consent as well as the definitions of violations and consent under
the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy.

Additional consent education comes through the ongoing poster-education campaign
developed by Sexual Violence Response & Anti-Violence/Rape Crisis Support Center
(SVR). Posters that focus on consent specifically are on display in hard copy and in
electronic version on screens in all undergraduate and many graduate residence halls as
well as in many areas within the University where students congregate. These
educationally-oriented posters will be changed monthly and aim to educate and spark
conversation. A version of the traffic-light consent-education theme in the initial poster
was also featured in a pre-orientation video provided to all new students at Columbia
College and SEAS, and a related tutorial was mandatory for new students and
recommended to returning students at Barnard.

Additional consent and related education comes through many activities both student-
sponsored and those organized by SVR, academic departments, and others throughout the
school year, including in connection with President Bollingers upcoming Fun Run.

More consent education for all students is currently in development. I look forward to
discussing this with you further.

2. Bystander intervention training annually for all members of special interest residential
communities, including Special Interest Housing and Greek life.

Outreach has already begun to these and other communities for bystander intervention
and other related training. Again, I will be happy to discuss this with you.

3. Work with graduate student and General Studies advocates to significantly improve the
quality and relevance of school-specific prevention programming.

Initial outreach took place during the summer to both graduate schools and General
Studies at the University and additional work is planned for this academic year. If there
are specific advocates who would like to participate in developing this programming, I
would appreciate their identifying themselves to me.


1. The role of deans as appellate officers.

I have already spoken with representative members of the Coalition Against Sexual
Violence as well as numerous other students about this and have also addressed this
concern in an update to the University community that you should have received earlier
this month. I have included a relevant excerpt from that update at the end of this letter
and reiterate here a couple of the points I have shared with Coalition representatives and
others previous conversations.

I appreciate that you have not only raised concerns but also suggested alternatives. With
respect to your suggestion that a special officer be designated within Sexual Violence
Response to handle appeals, I would remind you that SVR is designed to support those
who have experienced violence, including sexual violence, not to serve as a neutral
arbiter in a disciplinary process. You have also suggested engaging arbitrators to review
appeals. As with your suggestion regarding SVR, I am happy to discuss this further but
it is not clear to me why individuals not otherwise affiliated with the University would
be better positioned to handle appeals than deans, who have ultimate oversight over their
students experiences, share a commitment to student health, safety and well-being, and
are responsible for the operation of their schools.

2. Inclusion in the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy of a clear and explicit guarantee of
residential, academic, and other accommodations for survivors of sexual violence.

On this point, I would refer you back to the policy provisions that address
accommodations. I have also addressed this point in my earlier update to the University
community and have included that portion of the commentary below.

The essential point both in the Policy and my update is that the Policy ensures that these
accommodationsresidential, academic, and otherwiseare provided for all
survivors of sexual violence as appropriate. In my view, which I have developed over the
course of many years in consultation with advocates, survivors, and others, a one-size-
fits-all accommodations model would not be respectful of survivors agency or effective
in responding to the range of student needs and preferences.

Accountability and Transparency

1. Release the aggregate data on sanctioning.

As you know, the first annual Report on Gender-Based Misconduct Prevention and
Response was released last week. In your letter, you ask that this report be issued
annually, which it will be. You also ask that information be released regarding multiple
reports against the same person. I have included below an excerpt from my recent
commentary related to the Report in which I directly address this point.

2. A written directive from President Bollinger to strengthen PACSA.

I will be happy to talk with you about your suggestions regarding strengthening PACSA.

3. Evaluation of experiences of complainants and respondents with the Gender-Based
Misconduct Office.

An evaluation system will be put in place. I would be happy to talk with you further
about your suggestions for what this evaluation might include and how best it should be
administered and reviewed. Please see my additional note below.

4. A mandatory comprehensive review of the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy through PACSA.

Again, I will be happy to discuss your ideas about this.

5. A process by which students can provide formal feedback on their experiences with the
Gender-Based Misconduct Office.

This request seems to overlap with the evaluation request above. I will be happy to
discuss both. Please see my additional note below.

6. Creation of clear and concrete avenues for students to express concerns with the Gender-
Based Misconduct Policy and resources at the University that respond to gender-based
misconduct, including sexual violence.

I will also be happy to discuss your suggestions for this as well. Please see my additional
note below.

On points 3, 5, and 6, I would also remind you that multiple mechanisms for feedback,
ideas, suggestions, and more is already in place. On a personal note, I met with
representative members of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence in August and invited
you to communicate your ideas and concerns directly to me. I have met with many other
students as well and issued a similar invitation.

In addition, a much broader invitation has gone out to the entire Columbia community
through the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy and other communications. This
invitation, which appears on the Policys very first page, specifically identifies as an avenue through which students and others are invited to share
their reactions, ideas, and concerns both about the Policy and other aspects of Columbias
work on gender-based misconduct prevention and response.

As a reminder, here is the relevant text from the Policys Introduction:
The Policy and Procedures have been prepared by University administration and
reviewed by the Presidents Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA), the
Presidents Special Advisor for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, and
other University faculty. These groups, student groups and others may provide
additional input throughout the coming academic year. Comments and questions,
which are always welcome, may be directed to

7. Having meetings be more inclusive of other stakeholders in this issue, by prioritizing the
voices of survivors, students who have gone through the process, and advocates and activists
who have been working on this issue, in addition to the Senators and student council members
who are consistently present in these spaces.

As many of you know, shortly after I was appointed to the Special Advisor position, I
invited members of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, including members of No
Red Tape and other student activist groups, to meet with me, and we had an extended
meeting together. In addition, also in August, student representatives, including from the
Coalition, were invited to a meeting to hear about the new policy shortly before it was
released. In addition, President Bollinger held a meeting that included students from the
Coalition on September 9. I have another meeting with Coalition members scheduled
for later this week.

And, as you know, President Bollinger has indicated that he will continue talking with
students directly, including survivors, students who have gone through the disciplinary
process, activists, advocates or others as this work continues.

This is not a comprehensive list but instead a reminder that students from the
Coalition as well as other groups have had a number of opportunities to offer their ideas
and will continue to have opportunities to do so going forward.

I want to reinforce, as well, that there are many students and others at the University who
have excellent ideas and energy to bring to these conversations, both in and outside of
the No Red Tape, the broader Coalition of organizations that have signed the September
9 letter, and student government.

With reference to your proposal, as you know, not all survivors or their supporters
choose to participate in the Coalition, to be public about their experiences, to go through
the disciplinary process, or to engage in public activism or advocacy regarding sexual

For this and other reasons, I invite and encourage all students as well as other
community members to participate in the essential work of sharing ideas and
contributing efforts to creating a climate at the University that does not tolerate gender-
based misconduct, including sexual violence, in any form.

Finally, I want to reiterate my appreciation for your engagement with and attention to preventing
and responding to sexual violence on campus and look forward to your continuing ideas,
suggestions, and participation in helping to create an environment in which all students and other
community members can flourish free from gender-based misconduct, including sexual violence.

Yours truly,

Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg
Special Advisor to President Bollinger on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

As noted above, here are excerpts related to several points discussed above. The excerpts are
drawn from two recent updates that I have issued, both of which can be found on the
Universitys Sexual Respect website (

Regarding Adjudication Point 1 - the participation of deans in the disciplinary appeals
process: (This excerpt is integrated with discussion of other University officials participation.)

Qualifications of Participants in Hearing, Sanctioning, and Appeals

Some students have asked about the qualifications of hearing panel members, sanctioning
officers, and deans as participants in the process. One underlying question in some comments
concerns whether these University employees might have a conflict of interest because of their
roles within the University, including, for some, responsibility for fundraising and otherwise
maintaining the reputation of their schools. Another underlying question has been whether
individuals without formal legal training can be effective panelists or appellate decision-makers.
Ill address both.

On the conflict of interest point, it may be useful to keep in mind that deans of
schools and student affairs officers have as a central part of their role an
interest in creating a learning and living environment free from gender-based
misconduct as well as other harms. That is, deans, as well as student affairs
officers, are fundamentally responsible for helping to shape an environment
within their schools where students can learn, participate in extracurricular
activities, and flourish more generally. Responsibility for determining sanctions
and handling appeals in gender-based misconduct cases flows directly from
rather than conflicts with these roles and responsibilities.
Likewise, a deans responsibility for fundraising strengthens the need for that
individual to play an effective role in implementing the policy by handling
appeals because a schools reputation is linked, in significant part, to the
experiences of its students. For this reason, deans handle appeals in a range of
disciplinary matters. This does not mean that a dean, or any of us, will be able to
eliminate misconduct, including gender-based misconduct, all of the time. It does
mean that a dean will necessarily take seriously his or her role in handling appeals
and in overseeing communications with students aimed at preventing policy
Finally on this point, student affairs officers are, by virtue of their roles, most
directly connected with the impact of gender-based misconduct on students and
with programming that works toward prevention. And deans, likewise, have
ultimate oversight over their students experiences. Consequently, within a
University, these individuals and others who similarly are experienced with
student affairs are best positioned to handle implementation of a policy and
response to conduct that has such a significant impact on students experiences
and lives.
Questions regarding qualifications

Relatedly, the Universitys process for handling gender-based misconduct allegations is precisely
that a university process.

For the reasons just mentioned, University officials who have a student-facing
role and are responsible for significant aspects of student life at the University are,
by virtue of their responsibility and experience, in the best position to implement
the hearing and sanctioning roles in consultation with the Gender-Based
Misconduct Office director.
As the policy explains, each person with a formal role in the process, from
investigators, to hearing panel members, sanctioning officers, and deans, receive
specialized training to enable them to perform their roles with sensitivity and a
commitment to fairness to all parties.

Regarding Adjudication Point 2 accommodations:

Second, some students have raised questions about why the policy does not mandate specific
accommodations or sanctions in connection with violations. Here, several points may be
useful to keep in mind:
Regarding accommodations, students needs and interests in accommodations vary in
relation to experiences with gender-based misconduct; a one-size-fits-all
accommodations model would not be respectful of or effective in responding to the
range of student needs and preferences.
At the same time, the policy specifies possible accommodations and case managers
will talk with individual students directly to help with this process.
Regarding sanctions, the University must, both by law and as a matter of fairness,
handle each case individually rather than categorically impose a particular set of
sanctions when a student is found responsible.
The Director of the Gender-Based Misconduct Office has explained in meetings with
students an additional point regarding implementation that I want to repeat here for
all: The University will respond to the most egregious behaviors under the policy by
imposing the most serious sanctions, including suspension or expulsion.
Also, in addition to any other sanction (other than expulsion or revocation of degree),
the policy mandates that any student found responsible for gender-based misconduct
must receive education and/or training related to the violation at issue.
The Gender-Based Misconduct Office tracks sanctions in all cases involving student
respondents and provides consistent information related to sanctions imposed
throughout the University.
Regarding Accountability and Transparency Point 1 data in the first annual Report on
Gender-Based Misconduct Prevention and Response:

Why doesnt the Report provide information about which sanctions were imposed on
students found responsible for various violations or about the schools where
respondents were found responsible?

There are several reasons for this approach. Most important is that the University
wants students to be able to engage the disciplinary process without fear that the
University will publicly disclose their individual case, either now or in the future.

As readers of the Report will see, during the 2013-14 academic year covered by the
Report in each category of offense there are fewer than 10 respondents (i.e. students
accused of violating the policy) in formal disciplinary proceedings involving a
student accused of any form of gender-based misconduct. You can find this in Tables
3 and 4 on pages 11-12.

Given these small numbers, the University cannot release information about specific
sanctions or respondents schools without potentially exposing the identity of these
students and violating both the strong mandate of the Presidents Advisory
Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA) and its own commitment not to speak
publicly about individual students involved in disciplinary proceedings.

The data in the Report thus are presented with this delicate balancing of
confidentiality and transparency, as President Bollinger has said. For these reasons,
the Report is not and cannot be an accounting of facts in individual cases but
instead is an additional contribution to the important discussion of how we can best
prevent and address all forms of gender-based misconduct, including sexual assault,
in our community.

o Why doesnt the Report indicate when a respondent has been accused of gender-
based misconduct by multiple complainants?
The student confidentiality concerns are similar here. The University wants to encourage all
students who experience sexual violence to seek help. It is vital that students not be
discouraged or dissuaded from accessing resources, including the disciplinary process, out of
concern that the University might some day comment publicly or release information that
would identify their complaint. Given the small numbers of disciplinary proceedings,
including for sexual assault, the likelihood that further detail about respondents identities
could be used to identify expose complainants, respondents, or both, is very high.

Consider, for example, the number of disciplinary proceedings for Sexual Assault-Non-
Consensual Intercourse: 8 in all. To identify which cases involved the same respondent, if
any, runs a high risk of exposing individual students. Nevertheless, the Report does provide
specific information about the respondents status: three were suspended for violating
interim measures or are not currently enrolled at the University; four complaints are in the
midst of investigation and disciplinary proceedings that have yet to reach conclusion; and
one respondent was found not responsible by a hearing panel. (See Table 3 on p. 11).

Finally, while some of the academic literature shows that a small number of students
deliberately commit serial offenses at their college or university, my own view is that it is a
mistake to think this small group is responsible for all of the sexual violence that occurs on
any college or university campus. Instead, as treating psychologists and other confidential
counselors indicate, the array of factors that result in individuals perpetrating sexual assault
and other non-consensual sexual contact is complex. This is not to say that serial
perpetrators do not exist; rather, the point is that even if a campus, or a broader society, could
remove those perpetrators from a community, sexual assault and other forms of gender-based
misconduct would not cease to occur. (On this point, a future post to the Sexual Respect
website will address issues related to perpetrators of sexual violence in greater depth.)