Working Group Submits Anti-Bullying Recommendations

May 09, 2022

Dear members of the Columbia community,

Last September I convened a Working Group to discuss bullying and other abusive behavior and to prepare a summary report and to make recommendations regarding how we as an institution should address this issue. The Anti-Bullying Working Group report has been completed and is now online.

The Working Group was drawn from across the University and included faculty, researchers, postdocs, students, and administrators. It was co-chaired by Dennis Mitchell, Executive Vice President for University Life, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement, and Professor of Dental Medicine; and Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, University Professor and Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Medicine and Dental Medicine. My charge to them stressed the importance of providing “an environment for learning, research, living, and working that is free from discrimination and harassment and that does not tolerate abusive or intimidating behavior.” With that goal in mind, I asked them to “make recommendations to the University on how to address complaints about workplace misconduct that does not constitute a violation of the University’s current policies on sexual and gender-based harassment or other forms of prohibited discrimination, but which nonetheless may be abusive and/or intimidating.” 

The Working Group has developed a comprehensive set of recommendations that addresses three major points: the definition of bullying and other abusive behavior, a remedial framework, and changes in culture and climate to help prevent such behavior.

These are recommendations: The measures described, including the suggestion to create an Office of Conflict Resolution, are proposals of the Working Group, not an agreed-upon plan. But the recommendations are thoughtful, well-reasoned, and they draw on the experience of other universities that have addressed these issues. They merit careful consideration, and I and my colleagues in the University’s administration are already at work reviewing them. The University Senate has a key role to play here, particularly with respect to the proposed establishment of a new, University-wide Standard of Professional Conduct, as described in Section 3.1 of the report.

I know there will be robust discussion of the recommendations in the report and look forward to it. This is an important subject for the University as a whole and for every member of our community. 


Mary C. Boyce
Professor of Mechanical Engineering