The administration at Columbia University strives to maintain safety and also a campus that is free from any forms of harassment. Complaints regarding the actions of students, faculty, and staff are promptly investigated. The Title IX Coordinator assumes responsibility when the complaints involve sexual assault, harassment based on gender, dating violence, stalking and other potential violations of Title IX. The guidelines are maintained in the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies and Procedures. These provisions were created for conformity with Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act, and New York's Educational Laws (129-B).
Title IX Overview
Enacted in 1972, Title IX provisions prohibit sexually-based discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funds. The rules govern discrimination to ensure equality in the areas of admissions, athletics, academics, and more. Title IX does prohibit employment-based discrimination at these institutions; however, some of these complaints are the responsibility of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for initiating reviews of institutional compliance. The OCR seeks to make sure that schools are adhering to their requirement for providing adequate means of filing any grievances.
Students at Columbia are encouraged to seek assistance and report instances of gender-based misconduct. The school strives to maintain privacy and confidentiality in the matters. In addition, the policies prohibit acts of retaliation relating to these matters. Reports may be submitted online to the Title IX Coordinator (contact information below).
Rights and Responsibilities
All parties are to be treated in a dignified and respectful manner. The administration will attempt to maintain privacy and confidentiality. All parties will be afforded sufficient time to prepare for a hearing and to review any documentation. The University will make efforts to avoid any potential conflicts of interest among those involved in the process.
According to state law, engaging in sexual conduct requires affirmative consent. This means that those involved are doing so knowingly and voluntarily. Giving consent may be done verbally or through actions that suggest a willingness to participate. Consent may not be the result of intimidation, physical force, or other forms of coercion. A party to a sexual encounter may later withdraw consent. The meaning of consent is the same regardless of gender, the status of a relationship, or orientation.
Parties to a complaint have a right to attend meetings or hearings while accompanied by an advisor of their choice. An advisor functions in a support role and those wishing to change their advisor amid the process must do so in writing. Advisors that attend meetings should communicate to the party quietly to avoid disruption. An advisor may speak with those involved in the investigative phase of the process, but are not to engage others with questions or statements during meetings. Parties may choose to have an attorney serve in this role and retain them independently. Parties may also request that the University assists with coordinating help from an attorney-advisor.
When the parties both agree that they wish to avoid the traditional investigation and hearing process, they may elect for an alternate resolution. In these situations, the University administration may assume a basic role as a facilitator or mediator. One example is through a Restorative Justice Conference. In these meetings, both parties will communicate in a collaborative effort to mutually resolve the matter. Penalties or sanctions are not imposed in any forms of alternative resolution.
All parties may identify those with knowledge of the allegations. It is possible that a single witness may be on the list of both parties. Any adverse actions including threats or intimidation in efforts to have an influence on witness testimony will lead to further disciplinary actions.
Burden of Proof
The standard used in these actions is by the “preponderance of the evidence”, as is common in civil matters. This means that the evidence must show that the violations occurred “more likely than not”. This is a lesser standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is used in criminal matters.
The hearing begins with both the Complainant and the Respondent making opening statements that will not exceed seven minutes. Next, the parties have the opportunity to ask questions. This includes inquiries by the panel to both parties. Both sides will conclude the hearing with closing statements that also will not exceed seven minutes.
The following sanctions may be imposed for violations:
- A “no-contact directive” that the accused does not have contact with their accuser
- A period of disciplinary probation is imposed
- Ineligibility for honor or award programs
- Restrictions from University organizations or activities
- Ineligibility for employment at the University
- Being removed from University housing
- A temporary period of suspension or permanent expulsion
Those wishing to appeal a ruling must notify the Gender-Based Misconduct Office within five days. Appeals are permitted only for the following reasons:
- There is evidence of errors in procedure
- The sanctions imposed are believed to be excessive
- Some new relevant evidence has emerged
Columbia Title IX Coordinator Contact
Marjory D. Fisher, Associate Vice President
208 Philosophy Hall
New York Defense Attorney for Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct
Allegations of sexual misconduct can lead to penalties or sanctions that can dramatically alter your educational goals. Those who are accused are therefore encouraged to consult with an attorney soon after becoming aware of the allegations. The U.S. Department of Education has recently made a host of proposed changes to the Title IX guidelines. Some of these pending changes include redefining the way sexual harassment is defined and the standards of evidence. During these volatile times, it is critical that you have proper guidance throughout the process.
Are you are a student or parent of a student at a New York college or university that has been accused of sexual misconduct? Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience necessary to ensure that your rights are protected in these actions. These matters generally have time restraints that must be adhered to; for example, those wishing to appeal a decision will generally have only a few days to do so. For this reason, it is critical to retain legal representation quickly! Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.