Students Pressure Columbia University To Review Sexual Misconduct Policies

NEW YORK -- In recent weeks local media reports and pressure from students has put Columbia University under increased scrutiny for its handling of sexual misconduct on its campus. And now the university appears to be considering whether to release information about how many students at the Ivy League school have committed sexual assault and whether they were expelled.

The Columbia Democrats with support from a university Republican group have pushed for the university to disclose how many students a school judicial process has found responsible for sexual misconduct and the outcomes of their cases. Despite the group's petition, which garnered 650 student signatures, requesting the disclosures, the New York university declined to do so in November.

More recently the administration did not answer several questions about its sexual assault policy posed by journalists at the Blue & White magazine, a student publication.

But now the administration may be changing its tune.

The "University's Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault has been speaking with the Columbia University Student Democrats and other student leaders whose requests for the disclosure of aggregate data are under consideration," the university said in a statement, released through spokesman Robert Hornsby.

On Sunday night the Columbia Student Affairs Committee of the University Senate issued a statement demanding reforms to university policy, including the disclosure of how many students are found responsible for sexual misconduct and their punishments.

"Many students have expressed a lack of confidence in Columbia's approach to handling allegations of gender-based misconduct and violence," the SAC statement reads. "SAC feels that it is crucial to restore confidence in the system given that the only other form of recourse for students is to turn to law enforcement -- or remain silent."

The SAC statement, signed by 29 students, called for a town hall on sexual violence, for the university president to address the issue, and for greater transparency in the judicial process that handles allegations of sexual misconduct.

Releasing anonymous data on the outcomes for such proceedings would bring Columbia in line with two other Ivy League schools, Dartmouth College and Yale University. Cornell University is also considering the disclosure of more information about such cases.

Sejal Singh, president of the Columbia Democrats, said her group has met in recent weeks with the university's Title IX coordinators and other mid-level administrators, whom she described as "receptive, but we don't know whether they represent the administration as a whole."

"What a lot of people are troubled about is the silence on the part of the administration," Singh told The Huffington Post. "I can speak to them in these closed-door meetings, but the student body at large -- they haven't heard from their dean, haven't heard from their administrators, and I think that's something that causes concern."

Singh said she knows of at least 100 students who have written emails to their dean requesting a town hall meeting to discuss the issue with the administration.

"When a student asks you a question about whether or not they're safe on campus, that requires administrators as a person to think about the problem very seriously," Singh said. "The system is the problem, not the individuals. So when they are actually confronted with students who say they are scared, it will spur them to action."