Columbia University Students and Community--Open Letter and Petition: #CancelKavanaugh #BelieveSurvivors
October 3rd, 2018
Open Letter from SIPA and Columbia University Students:

Dear Columbia University Administration and Fellow School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Columbia University Students:

Like many of you, we have watched in sorrow, horror, and disgust as the events of the past several weeks have unfolded. As women, survivors and allies, and as friends, family and community members of survivors, we stand in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnik as well as with all survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence.

We believe these women.

We believe these women and all survivors, and we commend their courage in making their voices heard.

We also stand against and bear witness to the shameful discourses of victim-blaming and denial that have reverberated from the Senate through media and public channels these past weeks. These discourses, filled with dehumanizing arguments and blatantly misogynistic language, help to explain why 77 % of incidents of sexual assaults go unreported and why so many of our institutions, organizations and public spaces remain unsafe to this day.

As public policy and international affairs students, we are also speaking out and demanding a change. We believe in politics and policymaking that challenge and end violence against women and marginalized communities rather than perpetuate these oppressions.

We are also disappointed in SIPA and Columbia University’s silence on this important and relevant matter. We refuse to continue business-as-usual during these critical and momentous times. We believe the University's silence on the Supreme Court nomination proceedings and failure to condemn the nomination of such a polarizing and morally questionable candidate -- and to at minimum, oppose the way investigative proceedings have been handled -- sends a troublesome message. It strikes us as disappointing indifference at best, and at worst, as institutional complicity and emblematic of a normalized culture and politics of misogyny and patriarchy still-too-prevalent in our society.

Our indignation is also informed by past and continuing concerns about the University's lack of meaningful action to protect students, especially women and gender nonconforming individuals, from sexual harassment and sexual assault. This includes notable cases that students have reported in the recent past about the university's failure to respond to or adequately account for harm committed at our own educational institution.

As a Coalition of students and student organizations dedicated to fighting for greater diversity, equity and social justice at SIPA and beyond, we issue this collective statement and call for action.

To our fellow SIPA and Columbia students--we invite you to join us for a collective day of action on October 4th, at our University and as we join thousands more in city-wide and nationwide protests.

We start at 1pm, with a meeting at the International Relations Building (IAB) on the 4th floor (Fishbowl): to mobilize our own community, and in hopes of co-creating and visioning into reality the kind of community and institution we deserve. At 4pm, we call on other schools, organizations and activists throughout Columbia to join us at Low Library steps to demand a position and meaningful action from our University. By 4:30 pm, we will leave and join in the NYC protest at Trump Tower. Be sure to follow our updates through our official Facebook event. Please wear all black.

To our University administration and leadership: we call on you to do better.

We know that many individual faculty, staff and administrators are similarly disgusted, as we watch in these moments, a horrible echo of 1991 and Anita Hill’s valiant testimony. In this vein, we wait for and expect a statement from our School and University leadership in the coming days, joining similar cries of protest and conscience, that have come from educational institutions and organizations such as the Yale Law School, Harvard University and the American Civil Liberties Union. Far from being a “partisan” issue, the current crisis and cultural moment demands extraordinary action, and we see and applaud those individuals who are speaking out in conscience--including participants of the recent Symposium at Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference who put out a collective statement; and Columbia Law School professors who signed onto a recent Op-Ed.

Finally, on behalf of the countless survivors of sexual and gender-based violence at Columbia, we also demand more. There are those among us who are being daily re-traumatized by these ongoing events, and who hear, in the face of your silence and complicity, the message that to Columbia University, survivors do not matter. We challenge you to prove otherwise by concretely working to make this institution a safer space. We demand that you provide adequate resources and services for survivors and for impacted students. We join with our Graduate Student Union, GWC-UAW Local 2110 in calling for stronger protections and recourse--including a fair grievance procedure for Teaching and Research Assistants--for the nearly one out of every two women who will experience sexual harassment or sexual assault during the course of their graduate education. We look to organizational equity and racial justice initiatives across the nation, and demand mandatory trainings for all faculty, students and staff as well as the formation of institution-wide committees--where students have actual decision-making power--to transform outdated institutional norms. Most of all, in a climate where sexual harassment is normalized and too often perpetuated by those in positions of power, we expect Columbia University to issue a public statement and take all possible action to oppose the pending and unethical nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

Signed,

SIPA’s Diversity Coalition
 Gender Policy Working Group (GPWG)
 Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)
 Migration Working Group (MWG)
 Puerto Rico Initiative (PRI)
 RISE | The Working Group on Race, Inequality, Solidarity, & Economics
 SIPA Students of Color (SSOC)
 Spectrum, the LGBTQ+ Student Group at SIPA
 SIPA Civic and Voter Engagement (CiVEC)
 Women in Leadership (WIL)
Columbia Impact Investing Initiative
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Forum
SIPA Eurasia Group
Southeast Asia Student Initiative at SIPA
The Morningside Post Editorial Board
Women in Peace and Security (WIPS)


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