Columbia Students Are Taking a Radical Step to Combat Rape

Columbia Students Are Taking a Radical Step to Combat Rape

The news: In the past week, Columbia University has been hit by a wave of graffiti — but it's a far cry from the juvenile scrawls and doodles you'd expect in the average college bathroom.

Throughout the campus, female students have been writing the names of alleged student rapists on bathroom stalls. According to Columbia student blog Bwog, the first graffiti was discovered last Wednesday. Since then, similar lists, some on fliers, have been sighted in various study halls and libraries.

University administrators have quickly had these bathroom stalls scrubbed clean, and student publications have agreed not to publish uncensored pictures of the graffiti, because "publishing the list would violate Title IX as well as FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act)."

"That, and the desire to be responsible and not start a witch hunt, are the reasons that the uncensored list will never be published by the media. In addition, perhaps writing this list (and publishing the work of a campus 'vigilante') is not the best way to create a safer campus environment for victims," writes Bwog. Another campus publication, the Columbia Lion, confirmed that the names from the original list all matched up with current Columbia undergrads.


Image Credit: Bwog

Also, while some lists labelled the names as "Sexual Assault Violaters on Campus," others were more specific, calling the listed "Rapists on Campus."


Image Credit: Bwog

Why this is important: There are undoubtedly serious ethical repercussions to an anonymous act of vigilantism like this; after all, anyone could put any name on a bathroom stall and tarnish someone's reputation. But this ongoing campus trend does help to spotlight a serious problem the Ivy League school is having.

Last month, 23 students from Columbia and Barnard, Columbia's affiliated women's college, filed a Title IX complaint against their respective schools, "charging systematic mishandling of assault claims and mistreatment of victims." Fifty-four other colleges are facing similar suits.

"At Columbia, students complain that the university doesn't provide enough education about what constitutes consent to their students, hands down too-lenient sentences to alleged assailants and prioritizes its reputation over the safety of its students. Students have accused the school of burying cases so as not to be known as a campus plagued by sexual assault," reports TIME.

The school was also roundly mocked last month when its dining hall offered a bizarre "sexual violence prevention" cake. "The cake was a well-meant but inappropriate gesture by an employee in recognition of this important cause. The cake was removed almost immediately," said Columbia dining director Vicki Dunn. "We believe sexual violence is a serious issue not to be taken lightly in any form."

So while bathroom graffiti may not be the best avenue to report and substantiate rape claims, the episode demonstrates how little faith students have in the school system. And perhaps after witnessing such a publicized stunt, victims of sexual assaulted at Columbia might find the courage to file their complaints, with their names attached.

At this time, the school is simply classifying the incident as normal graffiti, which, according to the Columbia Lion, "raises the possibility that the students who wrote the list will face judicial repercussions from the university, while those listed will not." They clearly have their priorities straight.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

MORE FROM

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.

Human smuggling is a deadly problem — and hardline immigration policies will make it worse

The recent deaths in a tractor-trailer outside Walmart are startling — but historically, not uncommon.

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.

Human smuggling is a deadly problem — and hardline immigration policies will make it worse

The recent deaths in a tractor-trailer outside Walmart are startling — but historically, not uncommon.