Barnard College, the all-women companion school to Columbia University, has announced that its students will be exempted from mandatory sexual assault education at the school on the grounds that its female student body “[doesn’t] need it as much as much as Columbia students do.”
Columbia has been under a harsh spotlight for the past year over its handling of sexual assault. The school is under investigation for possible Title IX violations, and last fall student Emma Sulkowicz attracted national attention when she began carrying a mattress around campus to protest failures in the school’s judicial system that allowed her alleged rapist to go unpunished. In response, Columbia has decided to require students to take part in one of five sexual assault education program or else be unable to graduate. (RELATED: Columbia: Attend Rape Workshops, Or No Diploma)
The decision was reported Tuesday by The Columbia Daily Spectator, which quotes Barnard’s Dean for Equity Amy Zavadil.
“It seemed premature to require something that took a hold on registration or a hold on a diploma, because we didn’t feel we had enough information,” Zavadil told a meeting of Columbia’s student government.
This non-involvement comes despite the fact that Barnard students have helped to craft Columbia’s new sexual assault policies. In addition, Barnard is under a federal investigation for potential Title IX violations based on the mishandling of sexual assault, so it is hardly exempt from any problems pertaining to sexual assault at Columbia. Its decision to opt out is unlikely to quiet critics who worry that campus crusades against sexual assault are simply turning into the vilification of men.
Barnard student Michela Weihl, who helped create Columbia’s new policies as part of the group No Red Tape, said Barnard’s lack of participation had nothing to do with a lack of resources or preparation.
“The working group was totally ready to provide these workshops for Barnard students—that was not the issue,” Weihl told the Spectator. “[Dean Zavadil] said that if you require people to take classes, they’re not going to learn as well, and she thinks that Barnard students don’t need it as much as Columbia students do.”
Of course, just how distinct Barnard’s climate is up for debate. The school is right next to Columbia, students can freely enroll in classes at either school, and social life at the two institutions is heavily intertwined.
“Socially and romantically and academically, students are mixing all the time,” Weihl said.
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