Creative Protests Shine Spotlight on Columbia’s Inability to Deal With Sexual Assault
When Ken Starr was demoted recently at Baylor University, it wasn’t the first indicator that America’s universities and colleges were beginning to take sexual assaults seriously.
Backed into a corner by years of protests by students and faculty, centers of higher learning are learning that silence is not golden.
In recent years, two creative forms of protest have helped drive the issue of sexual assaults — with a focus on how the schools deal with the complaints.
Visual Arts Student Carries a Mattress
Sulkowicz was raped during her sophomore year and reported the attacker to the university. The case was dismissed. “During my hearing, one faculty member insisted on asking how it was plausible for anal rape to occur,” Sulkowicz said. “I was placed in the spot of having to justify how this occurred to me.”
For over twelve months, Sulkowicz carried a mattress everywhere she went on campus. The Visual Arts student’s intention was to bring focus to a federal complaint that the school has failed to property address cases of campus sexual assault.
Columbia is one of 90 schools under federal investigation for violations of a law that prohibits gender-based discrimination which includes sexual assault.
The Writing is On The Wall
Columbia hasn’t learned its lesson. Nevada criminal attorney points out several other stories.
“Phantom” protesters have been posting identities of supposed rapists in restrooms at the school. The protest has grown since 23 students complained about the management of their sexual assault cases.
Flyers listing the rapists’ names were distributed in toilet paper containers as well. The flyers list one “serial rapist” in addition to three rapists who were deemed “responsible” by the school.
In October 2015, alleged rapists were named on a list inside the stall of a Hamilton bathroom. The list was removed but was later discovered in a Lerner bathroom.
An informant sent an image to Columbia-Spectator, the school newspaper. The photograph was taken in a second-floor woman’s bathroom in Lerner Hall. The informant pointed out the existence of multiple instances of the names showing up in the same bathroom.
By the time authorities arrived, the bathrooms had been cleaned and all traces of the names removed.
Public safety officers, standing close to the restrooms, said that the listings would be viewed as an act of vandalism. The “vandals” may get away unidentified. Students are not required to use their IDs to access the restrooms; only video footage may be able to identify the writers.
The previous list, written in various colors and handwriting, is different than the latest. Judging by the writing, the current list appears written by the same individual. The events bring to mind a similar list of alleged rapists that showed up inside the stalls of a variety Brown University bathrooms in 1990. Brown, like Columbia, tried to remove each list, but it was re-copied faster than they could be erased.
Columbia University’s Executive Director of Communications, Daniel Held, said the previous incident was being treated as graffiti.
The lists started appearing just a few weeks after a 100-page federal grievance was registered by Columbia and Barnard students against the University. The complaint cited several violations.
If found liable, the Columbia and the other 89 schools could lose federal funding.