Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, has declared that sexual misconduct of students warrants exposure. The message came on Jan. 29 when Bollinger said the reprimands will go beyond the requirements of the Clery Act, a federal law that obligates colleges to make campus crimes a matter of public record. The names of students disciplined for sexual misconduct will remain anonymous. Bollinger plans to take things beyond what the law requires. The decision comes after numerous complaints from student groups and women advocates denouncing sexual violence against women. This past weekend, 29 student senators exercising their political power, along with staff senators backing a request already in from Democrats for Columbia calling for anonymous data on the outcomes on cases of sexual misconduct, won.
As an Ivy League institution Columbia has a long legacy. Graduates are connected to a large pool of resources upon graduation. The legacy of students who attend have access to alumni who give generously in support of the school. What administrators and donors do not want is scandal attached to the name of their beloved institution. Time has run out to impose sanctions without real meaning. Thee student senate and campus group leadership has pushed an important issue. The heinous nature of rape and sexual misconduct, says it warrants the exposure of not only those at Columbia University where the president is finally speaking out, but on campuses everywhere.
Something had to be done to make sure that co-eds were not being abused and used, with perpetrators being allowed to get away with sexual crimes and then having that information covered up. Like most wrong doers when things happen those guilty want to keep it under wraps. Knowledge of information surrounding criminal conduct and certainly that of rape, can halt job interviews and the potential for economic success and well-being.
The stigma attached to being charged and found guilty of rape is strong. Rape survivors often face worse stigmatization as they work to regain their lives. Perhaps, the top at Columbia is realizing this through the efforts of its student leaders.
Like most colleges, Columbia has student groups composed of students on the leadership track. They take the business of academia seriously. Many, also embrace a strong commitment to social responsibility. In addition to full class loads they spend hours in committee meetings planning, addressing, and doing their part as peer advocates. With this type of proactive leadership, it behooves the governing bodies of colleges and universities to encourage the leadership development of students by making campus life safe for all students. This is done by dealing with issues that impede student success.
At Columbia, 29 student senators and student groups stand unified in making sure that annual observances and calls to end sexual violence against women and students are not taken lightly. It is purposed activism. The vigils where female students, and as of late, their male counterparts march dressed in black with candles and bull horns as they “Take Back the Night.” very serious business. The vigils are held to send a message that violence against women will not be tolerated. Courageous speakers take the microphone and share their stories of date rape and being coerced into unwanted sexual act and violent assaults.
This pressure from student groups prompted President Bollinger, to take notice at Columbia and he now declares action on sexual misconduct, agreeing with student leaders that it warrants exposure. He says anonymous information related to sexual assaults and other gender-related misconduct will be released this year. Bollinger is lending support to the student senate as long as students who have been disciplined, remain anonymous. Having access to the data will give those in charge of making policy changes needed information that can be used towards reforms. This is a step in the right direction that makes it harder for students to get away with sexual misconduct.
Editorial By C. Imani Williams