On Tuesday, the Department of Public Safety at Columbia University sent a student-wide email alerting students of a sexual assault that took place near campus. The email, obtained by Fusion, said the New York City Police Department Special Victims Division reported that on Sunday October 12, 2014 at around 4:15 a.m., an unidentified Columbia University student was the victim of an alleged sexual assault. The crime allegedly took place in the student’s residence.
The email sent to students also included a picture of the man who was seen accompanying the victim into her residence. The man is now wanted for questioning.
Fusion reached out to Columbia University for comment and was told that crime alerts are part of “standard security protocol” and the university has a “good working relationship with the New York Police Department.”
The Columbia University Public Safety Department has issued student-wide crime alerts before. Just this year it has issued three sexual assault alerts, including the one sent out Tuesday. What makes this one different is that it’s the first one this year that involves a current student.
Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a senior and part of the student group No Red Tape, told Fusion that the school only issues alerts like these “when they believe the suspect is not a student.” She specified that, to her knowledge, when sexual misconduct crimes involve two students, the procedure is different: “They have never once issued [an alert] for a report of an assault by a student.”
Two hours after the original email was sent, Columbia University sent out a Clery Crime Alert. The information in that email remained the same as the previous one. This email is required by the Clery Act, which mandates all colleges and universities that receive federal financial aid to disclose information about crimes that occur on or around their campuses.
The topic of sexual assault on Columbia’s campus has taken center stage for the better part of this year. This past spring, 23 students from Barnard and Columbia Colleges filed a federal complaint against the university for violations of Title IX, Title II and the Clery Act. The students filing the complaint argued the people involved in the disciplinary proceedings were not trained correctly.
In May, as a response to the discontent with the school’s handling of sexual assault cases, fliers were left in a women’s bathroom at the University. The fliers contained a list titled ‘Rapists on Campus’ and it included the names of four undergraduate students who were, at the time, attending the university.
Since then, Columbia University has unveiled a new gender-based misconduct policy. The new policy’s goal is “to strengthen confidence in the University’s handling of reports of sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct to ensure fairness for all parties involved, and to provide more assistance to students in need.”
Additional reporting by Cleo Stiller.