Federal Complaints Filed Over Mishandling of Sexual Assaults at Columbia, Barnard

Twenty-three students filed federal complaints to the US Education Department


Columbia University (Flickr).

Columbia University (Flickr).

Students are claiming Columbia University and Barnard College mishandled sexual assaults on campus.

Twenty-three students filed three federal complaints to the US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights yesterday, claiming the schools failed to adequately respond to allegations of sexual assault and rape, Gothamist reports.

Students are saying sexual assault survivors are discouraged from formally reporting incidents while individuals accused of sexual assault and rape rarely face punishment and often remain on campus.

They’re also claiming that survivors are discriminated against and denied accommodations for mental health disabilities that resulted from instances of sexual assault and rape.

“I was desperate. I tried to kill myself. I needed the support and protection of my Barnard community—but instead they put me on disciplinary probation for my suicide attempt,” Rakhi Agrawal, a survivor who filed a complaint, said in a press release.

Despite several incidents and campus activism, nothing has changed, Ms. Agrwal, said.

“I’ve been doing sexual-assault work here on campus for years and I wanted to make sure that something was done before I graduate,” Ms. Agrawal, a senior at Barnard, told The New York Post.

Columbia administration released the following statement to Gothamist:

Sexual assault and gender misconduct are unacceptable, including on college and university campuses. We have been working with students, faculty and staff to make that emphatically clear on our campus and have already taken the first of a series of significant new measures dedicated to preventing such sexual misconduct, supporting survivors, and improving adjudication of these painful cases. That process of action and reform will continue in the months ahead because we are committed to protecting the health, safety and well-being of every member of our university community.

Federal Complaints Filed Over Mishandling of Sexual Assaults at Columbia, Barnard