Homecoming 2000



| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
| 5 | 6 | 7 |

Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education Office Opens
By Timothy P. Cross

This fall, Columbia's new Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education (OSMPE) opened its doors. Located in Lerner Hall, the OSMPE will increase campus awareness about Columbia's Sexual Misconduct Policy and Disciplinary Procedure, organize sexual misconduct education and prevention efforts, and administer the University's sexual misconduct adjudication process.

The office was created as a direct result of the University Senate's decision in February 2000 to adopt a revised Sexual Misconduct Policy and Disciplinary Procedure. The policy, which applies to all University students, not only prohibits sexual misconduct by any student but also requires a comprehensive program to educate students, faculty and administrators about the issue. As described in FACETS, a handbook distributed to all Columbia students, the policy requires that "standards of sexual conduct be observed on campus, that violations of these standards be subject to discipline, and that resources and structures be sufficient to meet the physical and emotional needs of individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct."

The revised policy marks no change in the definition of sexual misconduct, a return to familiar disciplinary procedures, and a new emphasis on prevention and education. In 1995, the Senate adopted a sexual misconduct policy that contained a different disciplinary procedure for a trial period of three years. A 1998 Senate task force, which held meetings and received input from across the University, determined that the procedures were not working and that a revised approach was necessary, with more extensive education and prevention activities and a disciplinary procedure more in line with traditional University practice.

Charlene Allen, the executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center for the last five years, has been hired as the OSMPE's first program coordinator and is already planning "widespread education on campus." The OSMPE will partner with other campus offices, including deans of students and the Columbia-Barnard Rape Crisis/ Anti-Violence Center, in its work. "This is an area where education can make such a difference," Allen says.

In addition to its educational mandate, the OSMPE is responsible for providing resources and explaining options to students filing complaints as well as accused students in an adjudication procedure. The disciplinary procedure, which applies to all Columbia students (including Barnard and Teachers College students) except those in the Law School, provides for a disciplinary hearing about a specific charge before a panel made up of two deans and (unless both parties object) a student. The hearing panelists, who are not prosecutors and have no stake in a particular outcome, must be unanimous in deciding that a student is guilty of sexual misconduct and must lay out their reasons in writing. Selection and training of staff and student panelists for the disciplinary procedure is under way.

Procedures have been established to ensure fairness. Confidentiality requirements apply to the hearing itself and its outcome, but do not constrain participants in presenting cases or defending charges. Accused students have the right to written notice of a charge, to present evidence, and to rebut evidence. Any participant in a hearing can have the advice of a lawyer; while the lawyer is not allowed to attend the hearing, a participant can have a supportive University member attend. A student found guilty of sexual misconduct may appeal the decision to the dean of his or her school within 30 days.

The sexual misconduct disciplinary procedure is similar to those at many peer institutions and closely resembles other Columbia disciplinary procedures in use for many years. University officials believe that non-adversarial procedures such as this one are the best way to discipline and educate students.

The disciplinary procedure is just one option available to a person who wants to file a complaint of sexual misconduct. The person can use this process, Dean's Discipline procedures available at the school of the accused, or mediation. An accuser can also pursue criminal prosecution, in which case any University proceeding is suspended.

In adopting the sexual misconduct policy, the University Senate also recommended the creation of a standing committee made up of faculty, staff and students to oversee the new policy and procedure.

More information about the University's Sexual Misconduct Policy is available at the OSMPE's website: www.columbia.edu/cu/sexualmisconduct.

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
| 5 | 6 | 7 |


Search Columbia College Today
Need Help?

Columbia College Today Home
CCT Home

This Issue
This Issue


This Issue
Previous Issue

CCT Masthead