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Only 2 Students Found Guilty Out of 29 Sex Assault Reports at Columbia

By  Emily Frost and Nigel Chiwaya | September 24, 2014 2:30pm 

 The university released data spanning from July 2013 to June 2014 in a new report issued Tuesday evening. 
Columbia University Releases Data on Sexual Assault
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Columbia University logged nearly 30 reports of sexual assaults on campus dating back to last summer, but the school found the alleged attackers guilty in just two of the incidents, a long-awaited report issued by the college revealed.

The data in the report (shown in full below) shows there were 29 reports of sexual assault filed between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, by undergraduate, graduate or professional studies students attending Columbia, Barnard College or Teacher's College.

Of those 29 incidents, only two ultimately resulted in a finding of responsibility by the assailants for non-consensual sexual contact, which the university defines as "any form of intentional sexual touching, however slight," according to the report.

The report contains two other sexual assault categories — non-consensual sexual intercourse and sexual assault where the type is not specified.

In two other cases, the alleged attacker accepted responsibility for non-consensual sexual contact.

Columbia would not divulge what specific action it took in these cases, citing privacy concerns, but stated that the sanctions included “suspension, disciplinary probation, access restriction and policy education."

Eleven of the 29 cases were thrown out because the victim could not identify the alleged perpetrator or asked that no action be taken, the report noted.

Additionally, there were four cases of reported non-consensual intercourse that are still ongoing and unresolved, and their outcomes will be published in the next report, the university said.

In two of the cases — one for sexual intercourse and the other for sexual contact — hearings determined that there was no responsibility. One complainant recanted.

It was not clear if any cases were referred to the NYPD, which is up to the victim.

The campus group on the front line of the ongoing fight for an improved sexual assault policy at the university called the withholding of specific punishments meted out in each case "disingenuous."

"[P]roviding the number of students suspended, on probation, or given access restrictions would not identify any students involved in the process, and is explicitly permitted in cases of sexual assault once the adjudication process has been completed," the group No Red Tape said in a statement, which was published in the university's newspaper The Columbia Spectator.

The group criticized the university for not including a longer time frame of data that would show trends and provide a more comprehensive look at the issue. 

The university also withheld which schools the complainants and respondents attended, meaning the role of the deans involved in meting out disciplinary action could not be evaluated, advocates said.

No Red Tape also asked that the university show whether any of the respondents were repeat offenders, calling the lack of that information "an unacceptable omission."

The university emphasized that the report does not show the entirety of sexual assault on campus.

"Confidential communications" about incidents reported to the Rape Crisis Center, university clergy, friends and other allies are not part of the data, the report said. In those cases, victims had the option to take their cases forward to the university disciplinary process but did not.

A lengthy discussion of the action the university has taken in the past year in response to student demands, including opening the rape crisis center and hiring three case managers to help students navigate the complaint process, is also included in the report. 

At the start of school, hundreds of students rallied on the front steps of the main library, calling for students they alleged were rapists to be removed from the university permanently and for more student involvement in shaping sexual assault policy.

The university has "embraced this moment of heightened awareness" of the issues, said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, special advisor to President Lee Bollinger on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, in a statement the university issued with the report.

"We believe that by encouraging dialogue and engagement, we are moving closer to the goal of a safe and respectful University environment where every member of our community can flourish," she said.