Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Campus Climate Survey

April 02, 2015

Dear Columbia students:

I have been writing to you at the start of April for several years now to call attention to Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to reiterate our goal of ending gender-based misconduct in our University community. This year, the context in which we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month is quite different. New policies, additional resources, and enhanced prevention training are evident at many universities, including Columbia. As a nation, we are decidedly in the early stages of addressing a problem overlooked for too long, but progress is undeniable. The test for us as a University is whether our own effort is sustained and strengthened over time, after the attention of press and public has turned elsewhere.

With this in mind, I want to encourage you to participate this month in the first-ever, comprehensive survey of Columbia students designed to appraise your experience and perception of sexual misconduct. The survey will be emailed to all Columbia students on Monday, April 6, under a subject line that reads, “Campus Climate Survey.” We would like everyone to take part. To portray our community accurately, the survey results must represent all your perspectives: those of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, as well as students of every gender, sexual, racial, and cultural identity. Columbia is conducting this survey as part of an effort led by the Association of American Universities (AAU) involving 26 other schools, a collaboration that will result in the largest quantitative study of campus sexual misconduct ever produced. We will share the survey results publicly in the fall in a manner that protects student privacy (no personal identifying information appears in the survey data files), and AAU will release the aggregate results from across all the participating schools.

The survey is one of many complementary steps taken by Columbia over the past year. Executive Vice President for University Life, Professor Suzanne Goldberg, continues her work on the innovative Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative launched earlier this semester. Columbia Professors Jennifer Hirsch and Claude Mellins are leading a major research initiative sure to advance prevention programs called SHIFT, the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation. Two additional Sexual Violence Response & Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Centers established during this academic year—one in Lerner Hall and the other at CUMC’s Bard Hall—are fast becoming part of the fabric of our community. The Gender-Based Misconduct Office is operating with an expanded staff of highly experienced investigators and case managers dedicated to supporting students in need.

This month, there are many ways for you to get involved. In addition to completing the survey, I urge you to join Take Back the Night on April 26, attend one of the award-winning Step Up trainings, connect with the Men’s Peer Education group, or visit the exhibition on April 21-22 at Faculty House, which will feature creative student works prepared for the Arts Option of the Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative. To learn more about how you can help prevent gender-based misconduct, contact the Sexual Violence Response Center. There is also a full schedule of Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities that provide opportunities for thoughtful conversation and meaningful action.

I have long believed that this is an issue that tests our own capacities as a community to respect and care for one another. To meet this challenge, everyone must take responsibility.

Please do your part this month and throughout the year.


Lee C. Bollinger