Frequently Asked Questions

I think I may have been sexually harassed and/or sexually assaulted by another student.  Where do I go to file a report against that student?

 
The University’s Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct coordinates the disciplinary process for all reports of “gender-based misconduct” (such as gender-based harassment, stalking, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault) involving matriculated Columbia University students. Reports can be submitted by calling the Assistant Director for Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct at (212) 854-1717, or by submitting a report in writing via a secure Web form.
 

Can I file a report with the police?

 
Yes.  Students may choose to file a report with the New York City Police Department or the local law enforcement agency where the misconduct occurred. The University system and police/legal system work independently from one another. Students can file reports with the University, with law enforcement, or with both systems. Because the standards for finding a violation of criminal law are different from the standards under the University’s policy, criminal investigations or reports are not determinative of whether or not gender-based misconduct, under the University’s policy, has occurred. Columbia University Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct can help students to coordinate with Public Safety in filing a report with the police.
 


I’m a Teachers College student – where can I go?


Teachers College students may contact the University’s Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct or may also contact the Teachers College Title IX Coordinator to report any incidents involving gender-based misconduct. Based on the information available, the Teachers College Title IX Coordinator in collaboration with Columbia University Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct will determine whether the report is most appropriately resolved under the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students or the Teachers College Policy on the Protection from Harassment:  http://www.tc.edu/policylibrary/protectionfromdiscriminatoryharassment.


I’m a Barnard Student – where can I go?


Barnard College students may contact the University’s Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct or may also contact the Barnard College Title IX Coordinator to report any incidents involving gender-based misconduct. Based on the information available, the Barnard College Title IX Coordinator in collaboration with Columbia University Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct will determine whether the report is most appropriately resolved under the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students or the Barnard College Grievance Procedures for Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct.


I think I may have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted while off campus.  Can I still file a report?


Yes. The University is able to investigate alleged incidents of gender-based misconduct:
•    that occurred on campus
•    that occurred off campus, but have migrated to or have created a hostile environment on campus
•    that were part of University programs (regardless of location)
•    where the respondent is affiliated as a current matriculated undergraduate, graduate, or professional student


Is my report or complaint confidential?


A complainant may make a request for confidentiality/privacy at any point. This type of request means that the complainant does not want their identity known to the respondent and witnesses, or that the complainant wishes to withdraw a report. If at any point the complainant requests privacy, the University will make all reasonable attempts to comply with this request. In situations where a complainant requests privacy, the University’s ability to investigate and respond to the allegations may be limited.

The University is required by Title IX to weigh the complainant’s request for confidentiality/privacy with the University’s commitment to provide a reasonably safe and non-discriminatory environment. The Assistant Director for Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct will notify the complainant if the University cannot maintain the complainant’s confidentiality/privacy. The complainant’s identity will only be revealed to those individuals who need to know the name of the complainant in order for an investigation to occur.
 
In situations where the University becomes aware of a pattern of behavior by one or more respondents, the University will take appropriate action in an attempt to protect the University community.


What if I don’t want an investigation or disciplinary process to take place?  Do I have a say as to whether the processes happen?


It is the obligation of the Title IX Coordinator to ensure that all reports of gender-based misconduct are investigated as required by Title IX.  Therefore, the Assistant Director will ask that an investigation occur to the extent of the information available.  For example, if the Assistant Director for Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct obtains independent corroborating information of the conduct reported, she or he may determine it is necessary to go forward with the student conduct process without the complainant’s involvement, or implement other appropriate remedies.  Although a complainant may not wish to participate in the student conduct process, she or he will be notified if such an action occurs.


Can I just talk with someone about the policy and procedures without making a report?

 
Yes.  Students may speak with administrators in hypotheticals so that they can learn about their options without explicitly making a complaint.  Additionally, a student may contact any of the on-campus resources who are serving in a privileged professional capacity (i.e., counselors, clergy, medical-care providers, and rape-crisis counselors) to learn more about the policy and procedures before making a formal report.  However, as a general matter, any University official (e.g., Student Affairs staff, Advising and Residential Programs staff, Officers of Administration, Full-time and Adjunct Faculty, Teaching Assistants, etc.) informed of an allegation of gender-based misconduct against a student is expected to file a report with Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct.  The University resources who are serving in a privileged professional capacity are not bound by this expectation, except as otherwise required by law.

 

Who can I talk to about this process while it is taking place?


Students are encouraged to seek appropriate administrative support on-campus.  Confidential on-campus resources include counseling services, medical care providers, the Rape Crisis / Anti-Violence Support Center, and clergy members.  (Please click on the answer to the next question for phone numbers and additional information.)   All other University administrators, such as faculty and advising staff, cannot promise strict confidentiality but can provide private support.  Students may also seek support from friends and family, in addition to other off campus resources.  Students are encouraged to keep these matters as private as possible to ensure the integrity of the process.


Can anything be done if the accused student lives in my residence hall and/or attends one of my classes?


Yes.  During the investigation and until resolution of the matter, Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct may establish “interim measures” including,  but not limited to: restrictions on contact between the complainant and the respondent, restrictions from areas of campus, and/or removal or relocation from the residential areas. Failure to comply with the parameters of any interim measures is a violation of this policy and may lead to additional disciplinary action.

Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct also will consider requests from complainants and/or respondents (whether or not they participate in a formal disciplinary process) who seek accommodations including alternative University housing and class arrangements, if they are reasonably available.


I don’t want to participate in a disciplinary process but I still want assistance.  What help can I get?


The University and Colleges have a number of on-campus supportive services for students, which include:

Confidential On-Campus Resources


Health Services – Clinician-on-Call
Barnard – (877) 941-1695
Columbia – (212) 854-9797
CUMC – (212) 305-3400
Teachers College – (212) 854-9797

Counseling and Psychological Services
Barnard (Furman Counseling Center) – (212) 854-2092
Columbia – (212) 854-2878
CUMC – (212) 305-3400

Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center (Serving Columbia, Barnard, Teachers College, and CUMC)
Peer Advocacy – (212) 854-HELP (4357)
Business Line – (212) 854-4366

Office of the University Chaplain
Clergy – (212) 854-6242
 

Non-Confidential On-Campus Resources


Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct
(212) 854-1717

 
(212) 854-5511

Residential Programs (Residential Staff and Residential Advisers)
(212) 854-6805

Department of Public Safety
Barnard – (212) 854-3362
Columbia – (212) 854-2796
CUMC – (212) 305-8100
Teachers College – (212) 678-3340

Columbia Health Alice! Health Promotion, Morningside Heights Campus
(212) 854-5453
 
Center for Student Wellness, CUMC Campus
(212) 304-5560 or (212) 304-5564


There are also a number of community resources available to students including:

NYC Domestic Violence Hotline (24-hours)
(800) 621-HOPE (4673)

Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (24-hours)
(212) 714-1141

NYPD/Police Sex-Crimes Unit (24-hours)
(212) 267-RAPE (7273)

St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Crime Victims Treatment Center
(212) 523-4728

Safe Horizon Hotline
(212) 577-7777


How long do the investigation and hearing processes take?


Every effort will be made to reach a resolution within sixty (60) calendar days after the receipt of the initial report. Timelines may vary depending on the details of the case and at certain times of the academic year (e.g. during break periods, final exam time, etc.).


How is an investigation conducted?


Reports of gender-based misconduct will be investigated in a thorough and prompt fashion. The investigation will typically commence within five (5) business days after receiving a report. Following the receipt of a report, the respondent will be notified that a report has been filed and will be given written notice of the allegations. The respondent and complainant will be given the opportunity to meet separately with the Assistant Director for Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct (or designee) to review the policy and procedure.

A specially trained investigator(s) designated by the Assistant Director will interview the complainant, respondent, and any witnesses. The investigator(s) will not interview witnesses whose sole purpose is to provide character information. This investigator(s) will also gather any pertinent documentation materials. The investigator(s) will then prepare a report detailing the relevant content from the interviews and the documentation materials gathered.

Directly following the conclusion of the investigation, a determination of whether or not to proceed to the administrative resolution phase will be made. This determination will be based on whether reasonable cause exists to believe that a policy violation may have occurred. If reasonable cause does not exist, the disciplinary process will be concluded at this point. However, the University may institute other forms of remedial, community-based efforts such as educational initiatives and/or trainings.

If the respondent accepts responsibility, the Dean of Students of the respondent’s school will be notified and will determine the sanction based on the evidence provided in the investigative report and documentation. The complainant and respondent will be made aware of the sanctioning decision within five (5) business days whenever possible and will be provided an opportunity to meet with the Dean of Students to review the sanctioning decision. The respondent and complainant will then have the opportunity to appeal the Dean of Students’ sanctioning decision. The acceptance of responsibility, however, is not appealable

If the respondent declines responsibility, or chooses not to respond, a hearing panel will be convened.  The hearing panel is charged with determining whether there is a violation of the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students.

 

Can I have someone support me through this process?


Yes.  Both the respondent and the complainant are entitled to have a supporter present during any meetings regarding the process. The supporter’s function is to provide support to the student. During meetings and hearings, the supporter may talk quietly with the student or pass notes in a non-disruptive manner. The supporter may not, in any way, intervene in the meeting/hearing or address the investigator/ hearing panel.

The supporter must be a current member of the University community (i.e., faculty, administrator, student). The supporter cannot be someone who has a current formal role (e.g., advisor, coach, faculty member) with either the respondent or complainant. Neither party is entitled to have legal representation (as that term is commonly understood) present during a meeting/hearing but parties are allowed to seek legal advice outside of the process. A supporter from the University community may be an attorney by training, but is only permitted to act as a supporter (as described above) during the process.


What is the role of the hearing panel? Who serves on the hearing panel?


The hearing panel is charged with determining whether there is a violation of the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students.

Whenever practicable, the hearing panel will consist of two deans and/or senior-level administrators and one student chosen from a specially trained pool of panelists. All three panelists will have no school affiliation or other connection with either of the parties. The complainant and respondent will be informed of the panel’s constitution prior to the commencement of the hearing. A party may challenge a panel member’s participation in writing if the party believes that the panelist is acquainted or associated with the case in any way or otherwise poses a conflict of interest. This written challenge must be received by the Assistant Director for Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct within three (3) business days after the notification of the panel’s constitution. If both the respondent and complainant agree, the student panelist may be replaced by another dean or senior-level administrator. During certain times of the academic year (e.g. during break periods, final exam time, etc.), the panel may consist of three deans and/or senior-level administrators without a student representative.
 

What happens during the hearing?


The hearing panel will have the opportunity to thoroughly review the investigative report and documentation submitted by the investigator(s) prior to the hearing.
 
 The general course of the hearing procedure will be as follows, whenever possible:
•    Complainant statement
•    Respondent statement
•    Questions to the complainant
•    Questions to the respondent
•    Witness testimony and questioning (if the hearing panel determines it is necessary)
•    Clarification from the investigator (if the hearing panel determines it is necessary)
•    Closing statement by complainant
•    Closing statement by respondent
 
The panel may impose time limits on any stage of the procedure, including, but not limited to the duration of breaks. In most circumstances, the opening statements should be five to seven (5-7) minutes in length and the closing statements should be no longer than five (5) minutes. The panel may determine the relevance of and may place restrictions on any witnesses or information presented.
When the complainant and respondent are not able to be present for the hearing panel, arrangements will be made for the parties to participate via alternate means (e.g., phone).
 
In cases where the respondent and/or complainant have chosen not to participate in the hearing procedure, the panel will commence and hear from the party (if one exists) who has chosen to participate in the process.
 

During the hearing, will I need to be in the same room as the respondent?


All testimony and interactions with the panel are conducted using closed-circuit television. Therefore, only the person providing the testimony (and that person’s supporter, if applicable) is in the hearing room with the hearing panel during the testimony. Each party is able to view the live testimony from a separate, private room via closed-circuit television.
 

Who can ask me questions during a hearing?


Only the panel may ask questions of the parties and of any witnesses during the hearing. Both parties have the opportunity to put forth questions of the other party and of witnesses. This is done by submitting questions to the panel in written format. The panel may determine which questions are relevant and which are duplicative in nature. The panel reserves the right to revise or remove submitted questions.
 

Who determines the sanction?


Upon finding a student responsible, the hearing panel will submit its rationale to the Dean of Students of the respondent’s and complainant’s schools and to the respondent and complainant. The Dean of Students for the respondent’s school will then determine the appropriate sanctions. Consideration may be given to the nature of and circumstances surrounding the violation, prior disciplinary violations, precedent cases, University safety concerns, or any other information deemed relevant by the Dean of Students. The Dean of Students will render a sanctioning decision within five (5) business days following the receipt of notice of the panel’s decision.
 

What sanctions might be imposed?


A student who has been found to have violated the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, reprimand/warning, disciplinary probation, suspension, and dismissal. A student also may be barred from certain University facilities or activities, or required to attend educational programming. Sanctions are determined by the Dean of Students of the respondent’s school in accord with the University guidelines.
 

May I appeal the decision and/or sanction?


Yes.  The respondent and complainant may appeal: 1) the decision made by the hearing panel, and/or 2) the sanctions determined by the Dean of Students of the respondent’s school. The three grounds upon which an appeal of the decision and/or sanctions may be made are:
(1) The student believes a procedural error occurred, which the student feels may change or affect the outcome of the decision;
(2) The student has substantive new evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing and that may change the outcome of the decision;
(3) The student feels that the severity of the sanction is inappropriate given the details of the case.

Disagreement with the finding or sanctions is not, by itself, grounds for appeals.
 

What are my rights as a complainant?


Complainants are afforded the following rights in this process:
 
  • To be treated with respect, dignity, and sensitivity throughout the process.
  • To seek support services at the University.
  • To confidentiality and privacy, to the extent provided under applicable law. The University will make all reasonable efforts to ensure privacy, restricting information to those with a legitimate need to know.
  • To be informed of the University’s Gender-Based Misconduct Policies and Procedures for Students.
  • To a prompt and thorough investigation of the allegations.
  • To an adequate amount of time to prepare for the hearing. Participants shall be given at least five (5) calendar days’ notice prior to the hearing except in rare circumstances.
  • To review all applicable documents prior to the hearing in the Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct office.
  • To challenge investigator(s) or any hearing panel member if a possible conflict of interest is present.
  • The right to replace the student panelist with a dean or senior-level administrator if both parties agree.
  • To be accompanied at the hearing by a supporter.
  • To participate or decline to participate in the investigation or hearing panel process. However, the disciplinary process will continue with the information available, and not participating in the investigation may preclude participation in the hearing panel process.
  • To refrain from making self-incriminating statements. However, the disciplinary process will continue with the information available.
  • To appeal the decision made by the hearing panel and sanctions determined by the Dean of Students.
  • To be notified, in writing, of the case resolution – including the outcome of any appeal.
  • To report the incident to law enforcement if they wish to do so at any time.
  • To understand that information collected in this process may be subpoenaed in criminal or civil proceedings.
 

What are my rights as a respondent?


Respondents are afforded the following rights in this process:
 
  • To be treated with respect, dignity, and sensitivity throughout the process.
  • To seek support services at the University.
  • To confidentiality and privacy to the extent provided under applicable law.  The University will make all reasonable efforts to ensure preservation of privacy, restricting information to those with a legitimate need to know.
  • To be informed of the University’s Gender-Based Misconduct Policies and Procedures for Students.
  • To a prompt and thorough investigation of the allegations.
  • To an adequate amount of time to prepare for the hearing.  Participants shall be given at least five (5) calendar days’ notice prior to the hearing except in rare circumstances.
  • To review all applicable documents prior to the hearing in the Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct office.
  • To challenge investigator(s) or any hearing panel member if a possible conflict of interest is present.
  • The right to replace the student panelist with a dean or senior-level administrator if both parties agree.
  • To be accompanied at the hearing by a supporter.
  • To participate or decline to participate in the investigation or hearing panel process.  However, the disciplinary process will continue with the information available, and not participating in the investigation may preclude participation in the hearing panel.
  • To refrain from making self-incriminating statements.  However, the disciplinary process will continue with the information available.
  • To appeal either the hearing panel’s decision or the sanctions determined by the Dean of Students.
  • To be notified, in writing, of the case resolution – including the outcome of the appeal.
  • To understand that information collected in this process may be subpoenaed in criminal or civil proceedings.