Sexual encounters Columbia

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Audio: Listen to this story. To hear more feature stories, download the Audm app for your iPhone. If I were asked by a survey to describe my experience with sexual assault in college, I would pinpoint two incidents, both of which occurred at or after parties in my freshman year. I had ed a sorority, and all my social circles were as sloppy, intense, and tribal as the Greek system—the groups that made these incidents possible are the same ones that made my life at the time so good. In college, everything is Janus-faced: what you interpret as refuge can lead to danger, and vice versa.

One of the most highly valorized social activities, blacking out and hooking up, holds the potential for trauma within it like a seed. Hirsch, an anthropologist, and Mellins, a clinical psychologist, are Columbia professors.

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Both women are in their fifties, have shoulder-length brown hair, and grew up in Jewish families in Manhattan. They share a sharp, maternal pragmatism—between them, they have five sons, ranging in age from fifteen to twenty-three. The problem of campus sexual assault can seem unfathomable and intractable.

We generally think of it as a matter of individual misbehavior, which, various studies have shown, most prevention programs do little to change. But Hirsch and Mellins think about sexual assault socio-ecologically: as a matter of how people act within a particular environment.

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They are doggedly optimistic that there is, if not a single fix, a series of new solutions. A four-year residential college is what sociologists call a total institution: it controls the conditions under which students eat, sleep, work, and party.

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Either idea can be controversial, and focussing on contributing factors, such as drinking, rather than just on the bad acts of perpetrators, can seem beside the point. But Hirsch and Mellins insist that their approach to prevention does not ignore personal responsibility; rather, it aims to nudge students toward responsible behavior on a collective scale.

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SHIFT was born out of a crisis. In the past several years, as students all over the country became more vocal about the problem of rape in college, the press seized on a series of dramatic incidents, including one at Columbia. A rare combination of academic talent and initiative was then unleashed by the university, which may have felt the need to demonstrate its commitment to the cause, and this produced, after two years of sunup-to-sundown effort, the most rigorous, nuanced, and wide-ranging examination of the problem that has ever been carried out on a college campus.

You can trace that movement back at least four decades, towhen a senior at Yale named Ann Olivarius—along with another student, three graduates, and a male professor—sued the school, citing quid-pro-quo sexual harassment by professors, a hostile environment, and a lack of reporting procedures. The plaintiffs, advised by a recent Yale Law graduate named Catharine MacKinnon, argued that this Sexual encounters Columbia a violation of Title IX—the federal statute, passed five years before, that prohibits gender discrimination in educational institutions. The proper scope of Title IX was argued in court over and over in the years that followed; rulings narrowed its application, then expanded it again.

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Meanwhile, anti-rape activism progressed on campuses across the country. A year later, the Department of Justice expanded its definition of rape to include male victims and multiple types of violations.

Today, the D. The crime hinges on intention, and there are often no witnesses, which makes it uniquely difficult to adjudicate in any legal system, let alone one made up of college Sexual encounters Columbia. To complicate matters further, everyone involved in the process—accuser, accused, administrator—essentially works under the same roof.

It might seem simpler to let the criminal-justice system handle things, but universities have a responsibility to insure that women have equal access to education. Columbia now has twenty-three staffers with Title IX responsibilities, including case managers, investigators, and administrators, and provides free legal services to accusers and accused. On the other, you have a demographic of first-generation, low-income students of color.

People come in through very different contexts. Five years ago, a Columbia sophomore named Emma Sulkowicz filed a complaint with the university, accusing another student of rape. He has consistently maintained that the entire encounter was consensual. The following April, twenty-three students and alumni, each with a story of assault, filed a hundred- federal complaint against the university. Student activists formed a group called No Red Tape, Sexual encounters Columbia the protests of the nineties.

When the fall semester began, Sulkowicz, an art major, started carrying a fifty-pound, twin XL mattress around campus. It was a performance project: they would stop carrying it, they said, when the student who had raped them was expelled. The university settled with him out of court. Soon after Sulkowicz began carrying the mattress, dozens of other Columbia students brought mattresses to the steps of Low Library and told their own stories of sexual assault. The debates concerning rape on campus and what to do about it have been waged primarily between Sexual encounters Columbia and administrators, with professors off to the side.

Hirsch had become frustrated by the focus, in those debates, on adjudication and punishment, rather than on the ways in which the environment of college makes students vulnerable. Goldberg said that sounded terrific, and told Hirsch to write up a few s pitching the project.

The two professors have been friends sincewhen Hirsch, who teaches in the sociomedical-sciences department, began doing work at the H. Mellins was the lead author of a study into the mental health, drug use, and sexual behavior of adolescents who had been infected with H. She knew something about discussing uncomfortable matters with young people, and quantifying those conversations for research purposes. They thought about the relevant expertise of their colleagues. Who really knew about interpersonal violence? Who really knew about epidemiology? Trauma in young adults? As the fall turned crisp, they tracked down the faculty members whose help they wanted, and asked them if they would SHIFT.

She has a long career of progressive advocacy—she was a co-counsel for the defendants in Lawrence v. But she has become a maligned figure among student activists. Amelia Roskin-Frazee, a senior involved with No Red Tape, spoke to me dismissively about the Sexual Respect Initiative, a consent-education requirement, instituted by Goldberg inthat included an arts option: students could write a poem, submit a drawing, or perform a dance. Roskin-Frazee is a queer activist who, at fourteen, founded a nonprofit that provides schools and shelters with L.

She is currently suing Columbia. She says that, two months after arriving on campus, she was violently raped in her dorm room by a stranger, and that, a few months later, she was raped again, by an assailant she suspects to be the same person. She asked to move out of her dorm room, and alleges that Columbia violated Title IX by requiring her to do so within twenty-four hours, and telling her it would cost five hundred dollars. For the next two years, when school was in session, the group met over bagels at 8 A. The board created a typology of Columbia students—the hyper-involved, the completely disinterested, the kids who find their thing and stick to it—and corrected the researchers in their sometimes fumbling attempts to classify student identities.

They brought the researchers, who answered questions for students, and made sure they always had snacks. Meanwhile, Hirsch and the Columbia sociologist Shamus Khan prepared a team of ethnographers—current and recent grad students, who were close to their subjects in age—to talk with undergraduates about intimate subjects.

Shortly afterward, a story appeared in the student newspaper the Daily Spectatorin which an unnamed sophomore said that Khan had been spotted taking notes ata popular bar near campus.

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The plans for the ethnographic research had been announced in the Daily Spectator months before. In fact, by all s, the process went pretty smoothly. Some students, after talking to the researchers for a while, invited them to parties, or to kick it in dorm rooms. Alexander Wamboldt, an affable, bearded Princeton Ph. He and the other researchers conducted one-on-one interviews with a hundred and fifty-one students about their sex lives and their experiences at Columbia.

Students were paid for the time they spent in these interviews. The interviews Sexual encounters Columbia bracing. Talking about sex brings a lot to the surface—students discussed loss, family, trauma, hardship, fear. Some of the men Wamboldt spoke to cracked offhand jokes about having been raped.

The members of the ethnography team soon decided that they needed to do a mental-health check-in at their weekly meetings: they would go around the room, and everyone would relate how he or she was coping with the work. In one advisory-board meeting, Mellins and Hirsch shared preliminary observations, and Mellins brought up affirmative consent—the practice of actively, mutually soliciting enthusiasm throughout a sexual encounter, which is now the legal standard for universities in New York and California. Most college students learn about it in orientation seminars or from online modules that they are required to complete.

Mellins told the administrators that affirmative consent rarely factored into the experiences that students were describing. SHIFT plans to publish a paper on affirmative consent later this year. Hirsch and Mellins launched the second phase of the study, an enormous daily-diary project, in October. Four hundred and twelve students were asked to fill out a short online Sexual encounters Columbia every day for sixty days. The student board convinced the researchers that the only way to maintain subject participation through midterms was to pay: diarists got a dollar an entry. The idea was that researchers would be able to quickly scan each twenty-four-hour period for mood, sleep, sexual activity, substance use, and unusual experiences.

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Columbia University Sexual Assault Researchers Publish First