GUEST ROOM | Student Organizations Need to Take Sexual Assault Seriously

Warning: The following content contains sensitive material about sexual assault.

Assault, particularly sexual assault, is supposed to be taken seriously, but are student organizations on campus complicit in excusing these behaviors? With Sexual Assault Awareness Week upon us, many find solace in the knowledge that there is extensive dialogue on this subject, but are mortified that there are so many survivors on Cornell’s campus alone. Even more disturbing, many organizations on campus either do not detail actions and consequences attached to assault and sexual assault or have a formal risk management policy that they do not follow. In my personal experience, every single organization that I have taken a significant part in has been incapable or unwilling to take any concrete action in regard to assault, even after those in charge were made aware of such instances. For example, I approached someone on the E-board of one particular organization in which I was heavily involved to talk about a traumatic experience with another member of the club.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Provost Kotlikoff and VP Opperman on ‘Being a Graduate Student in a Harvey Weinstein World at Cornell University’

To the Editor:

We are writing in regard to the recent guest column, “Being a Graduate Student in a Harvey Weinstein World at Cornell University,” to emphasize that sexual harassment or coercion of any kind has no place at Cornell. The author is absolutely correct that graduate students and, indeed, all members of the Cornell community should be protected from sexual coercion and that academic success should never be linked to such pressures. For that reason, it is important to be aware that Cornell Policy 6.4 clearly prohibits such misconduct. That policy defines “Sexual Coercion” as follows:

“To obtain compliance with sexual acts by using physically or emotionally manipulative actions or statements or expressly or implicitly threatening the person or another person with negative actions. Examples of sexual coercion include statements such as “I will ruin your reputation,” or “I will tell everyone,” or “your career (or education) at Cornell will be over.”

The policy also defines Sexual Harassment as follows:

A form of protected-status harassment that constitutes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other oral, written, visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with the individual’s work or academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment under any of the following conditions:

Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct either explicitly or implicitly is (1) made a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic status, or (2) used as a basis for an employment or academic decision affecting that person; or
The conduct is sufficiently (1) persistent, severe or pervasive, and (2) has the purpose or effect of altering the conditions of an individual’s employment or academic pursuits in a way that a reasonable person would find abusive, hostile, or offensive.