Student Privacy and the Gender-Based Misconduct Process

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Students and other community members sometimes ask Columbia staff members about what happened in a gender-based misconduct case that they heard about from a friend or read about in the news.  We understand there are many good reasons for wanting to know this information – to provide support for a friend or colleague and to learn about safety on campus, among others.  Still, the University takes very seriously our commitment to student privacy, and we will not generally share information about individual cases other than with the students who are parties (complainants and respondents) in a case.  This is true even if one or both students have shared information about their case, either privately or publicly. 

Here’s why:  We do not ever want a student to be discouraged from filing a complaint or participating in the gender-based misconduct process out of concern that the University will comment, or share any information at all on their case. This commitment is to the privacy of all students – including those bringing forward complaints and those accused of policy violations. Our aim is that students feel as comfortable as possible seeking help and accessing University resources. In addition, privacy laws specifically protect students’ personal information and restrict disclosures by colleges and universities.  Columbia’s Gender-Based Misconduct Policy and Procedures for Students affirm this commitment, explaining that “the University will only reveal information about any report of gender-based misconduct to those who need to know the information in order to carry out their duties and responsibilities or as otherwise provided by law.”  (p. 17) 

All in our community have the opportunity to review aggregate data in Columbia’s Annual Report on Gender-Based Misconduct Prevention and Response. You can access current and previous copies of the report here:  https://sexualrespect.columbia.edu/reports-and-research.  The aim of these reports, and the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Annual Report, is to share information about our prevention and response efforts and, in doing so, engage our University community – students, faculty and staff – in creating a climate where all can study, work, and live free from gender-based misconduct and other forms of discrimination and harassment. 

As always, we welcome your questions and suggestions.

Suzanne B. Goldberg
Executive Vice President for University Life

 

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