November 3rd, 2013 | University

Columbia’s transparency on sexual misconduct criticized

Columbia University students are demanding that university administrators disclose how many students were deemed guilty of sexual misconduct and the punishments they received.

According to the Huffington Post, the Columbia Democrats began a petition for transparency in sexual misconduct reporting that has received over 650 signatures. Many campus organizations have stated their support for the petition, including the Columbia University College Republicans, the Columbia Political Union, the Muslim Students Association and many more.

“We make it very clear to them we’re not asking for any information that could identify anyone,” said Sejal Singh, president of the Columbia Democrats.

The university’s decision to withhold the information is not a violation of the Clery Act, which only requires that colleges report the number of reported sexual offenses on campus, not the amount of punishments that were issued. Still, the Post reports that students felt disappointed by the administration’s slow response time for mere numbers.

The movement has received support from the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), which maintains that these statistics are not federally protected information because they do not identify the students involved. The SPLC previously held this position when it disagreed with the University of Southern California’s claim that the number of students expelled for sexual assault was “private” and when it endorsed Yale and the University of Connecticut for releasing the information on their own terms.

Yale’s most recent sexual misconduct report, released on July 31 of this year, described 61 allegations of sexual offenses – the largest number of complaints since the University’s first report was issued in 2011. In the aftermath of the report’s release, many students and members of the Yale community said they were dissatisfied with the University’s insufficient punishments, which ranged from written reprimands to year-long suspensions.

Last year, Columbia’s Clery report revealed 16 sexual offenses.