Student Climate Survey and Sexual Respect/Community Citizenship Initiatives

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

As you return to campus for the spring semester, we want to call your attention to two new developments in the University’s ongoing efforts to prevent gender-based misconduct, strengthen the response to such misconduct when it occurs, and enhance our campus climate.

First, we will be joining with the Association of American Universities (AAU) and more than two dozen of its member schools (a group comprised of major public and private research universities) to conduct a climate survey at Columbia focused on sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct. The survey will be conducted online this spring, based in part on survey instruments from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. We will seek the confidential participation of all Columbia students enrolled in degree programs in this survey, so that we can assess the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Columbia and our students’ perceptions of prevention and response efforts. In this way, the survey will provide an empirical baseline to evaluate our efforts. Columbia will share the survey results publicly in the fall in a manner that carefully respects all students’ privacy; the AAU will also publicly release the combined results from all participating universities. Not only will the survey guide our efforts at Columbia but, as the largest climate survey of this type, the collective findings will inform public policy at the national level and will aid those designing sexual assault prevention and response programs.

Columbia's Dr. Debra Kalmuss of the Department of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health is among the experts helping to design the AAU survey. Dr. Kalmuss has extensive experience in designing and conducting surveys on topics related to sexual behavior, including sexual coercion and intimate partner violence, and we are pleased that she has a role in the AAU effort.

The second major initiative will focus on the ways in which an ethic of sexual respect is inseparable from community membership. All Columbia students will be required to take part. The array of programming choices, from workshops and films to individual and small-group reflections, will be announced to students by their individual undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. The University will also host its first-ever Media Initiative on Sexual Respect and the University Community; all students will be invited to participate. The programming and public conversations will focus on placing the University's core commitment to mutual respect alongside other bedrock University commitments, including intellectual exchange and ethical leadership.

Through your engagement, both in thought and action, we can create a community and campus in which all can participate freely and fully in the robust, pluralistic life of this great University. The effort we are asking you to join is not only part of an historic national discussion but – and importantly – one of Columbia's very top priorities.


John H. Coatsworth

Suzanne B. Goldberg
Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law and
Executive Vice President for University Life