Last year, in the wake of accusations from students that the school wasn’t taking sexual assault seriously enough, Columbia University introduced a new “sexual respect requirement” to the curriculum and enhanced the university’s Sexual Violence Response office. Student activists are unhappy with a brand-new slogan, “Consent is BAE”, complaining that it “trivializes consent and appropriates African American Vernacular English.”

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A tipster emailed us and Columbia’s Bwog a screenshot of the new poster, which they said will be revealed during the upcoming New Student Orientation Program. Here’s a full picture:

The student who emailed us is unhappy, writing:

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In my opinion, and in the opinion of many other student activists I know on campus, this poster both trivializes consent and appropriates African American Vernacular English. I thought this might be a story that your site would be interested in.

On the one hand, the slogan is intensely reminiscent of corporations using slang to show they’re down with the youth and embarrassing themselves in the process. But this also feeds into a general and ongoing accusation that Columbia isn’t taking sexual assault seriously enough, and that’s not necessarily accurate. As Inside Higher Education pointed out in February, the school took guidance from the Department of Education and used it to update their sexual assault protocols:

The policy, which the university said was based on guidance from the Department of Education, bars students from serving on hearing panels, allows victims and the accused to be represented by lawyers, and provides a larger role for experienced campus investigators. Six new staff positions at the university’s office of sexual violence and response were created and a new support center was opened. Case managers now help guide survivors through the reporting process, and the policy makes clear which offices and resources can and cannot keep student complaints confidential.

And while the “arts” option for fulfilling the sexual respect requirement sounded ridiculous on its face, as well as juvenile, and unbefitting of legal adults in a higher education setting, several students told our Natasha Vargas Cooper that it was surprisingly educational for them.


Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.
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