Columbia and Barnard named 26 times in sexual harassment survey

Only two of the 26 cases saw justice

Columbia and Barnard have been named 26 times in a public Google doc detailing more than 2,000 alleged cases of sexual assault and harassment in academic settings. Of these reports the majority, 15, of the subjects of the harassment or assault were graduate students at the time of the incident. The doc, titled “Sexual Harassment In the Academy” was started by Dr. Karen Kelsky, a former tenured professor at the University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, now the lead author of the advice blog for Academic The Professor is in. Dr. Kelsky states her aim in creating the document as allowing victims to find a safe way to anonymously report their experience of sexual harassment in an academic environment.

The testimonies of the graduate students commonly reflect abuses of power in the form of harassment and assault from professors considered “mentors” and who the students work for. One testimony details the experience of a graduate student TA: “He [the professor] invited me out to talk about ‘class business,’ but would want to meet at a martini bar, and would spend the time pushing drinks on me and telling me things like ‘surely you must have slept with your professors before' and 'I bet your professors hit on you all the time'". The second largest quantity, a further eight of the reports, are by undergraduates and three are by employees of Columbia or Barnard. 

Of the 26 entries only eight say that they reported the harassment or assault. Out of these, only two testimonies say that they saw consequences against the abuser, in both cases the abuser was a faculty member and the consequences didn’t include loss of a job. One entry describes an undergraduate student being repeatedly harassed by an employee of Columbia: “A guy who I met up with two or three times stalked me. He called me over 20 times in one day even though I repeatedly told him I wasn't interested. He would see me at the gym and follow me around the facility and out of the facility as well". This description is followed up by saying that when this student reported the incident to the university denied it was stalking. 
Other entries list fear of retaliation and a lack of confidence in the system of reporting harassment.

One entry describing a graduate student experience with a Columbia professor described as a “a famous poet and infamous creep” exemplifies the lack of confidence that many students have in reporting sexual harassment. The testimony describes a system of intimidation by other graduate students as well as complacency by the university. One testimony claims a rumor “was [that] the university and department knew of this behavior, had received complaints for years, and had chosen to allow it".

A theme throughout the document and in the cases at Columbia is the long-term impact of sexual harassment and assault on the mental health and careers of those harassed. Of the 26 cases at Columbia or Barnard, 14 explicitly state that these experiences had an impact on either their personal lives or careers. Multiple testimonies report that the experiences they had at Columbia resulted in them switching careers, suffering from PTSD or anxiety, and leaving school. 

Columbia University