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Aug 18, 2014 11:24 AM EDT

Columbia University Unveils New Sexual Assault Policy, Student Activists Left Surprised


Columbia University has released a new policy on sexual assault, though several activists that had been campaigning for such a move were caught off guard.

According to the Huffington Post, numerous survivors of rape and student activists had been pressuring Columbia administration for months to revise its sexual assault policies. Some even said they were told outright not expect anything before classes began.

CLICK HERE to see the new policy in full.

"Our goals underlying the new policy are principally these: to strengthen confidence in the University's handling of reports of sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct, to ensure fairness for all parties involved, and to provide more assistance to students in need," Lee Bollinger, Columbia's president, said in a statement to the student body. "The changes we've made also reflect recent guidance from the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and federal legislation, as well as our own community's recommendations."

Students invited to a meeting last week with Bollinger's adviser told the HP they were told then that the school was readying the release of a new policy. However, they were not given so much as a rundown of what it might look like, let alone a chance to give it a review and critique.

"It's been extremely frustrating," Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, the lead complainant of a complaint from 23 students filed earlier this year, told the HP. "I can't wrap my mind around what they could possibly be thinking. I can't imagine what they think is getting better by continuing to ignore us."

The new policy will allow both the accuser and the accused bring a lawyer or any adviser of their choice to disciplinary hearings. The hearing board will no longer include any students, but rather three trained student affairs administrators. If the accused is found responsible and not expelled, they will be required to complete an educational program on sexual assault before reentering.

Though the new policy itself states that suggestions are welcomed from the student body, those that campaigned for it were still led to believe it would not come until later on.

Sejal Singh, a rising senior who campaigned for a new policy, told the HP, "We were explicitly told there would not be a policy review over the summer, even as we asked to be involved in conversations over the summer."

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