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Anti-Rape Activists Crash Columbia University Admissions Session

Illustration for article titled Anti-Rape Activists Crash Columbia University Admissions Session

The activist group No Red Tape crashed an information session Tuesday for prospective Columbia University students and their parents, part of an effort to draw attention to the flaws they see in how the school handles sexual assault.

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Columbia's alleged issues with sexual assault have been thrust into the spotlight quite a bit recently, thanks to both smart student activism as well as Cathy Young's "She's probably just lying"-style journalism. No Red Tape planned the demonstration specifically to protest the university's new proposed "consent education" policy, which hasn't yet been unveiled but which the student protesters say will feature a short video and require students to write a "reflection" paragraph. Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a senior who's also an activist and an assault survivor told DNAInfo that it'll be basically useless: "It's going to do nothing. All students know that." DNAInfo also reports that the proposed consent program won't be mandatory, and individual schools within the university could choose whether to implement it.

No Red Tape is calling for more comprehensive consent education, which they'd like to be mandatory, twice a semester, and led by a trained facilitator. DNAInfo reports that "stunned" parents and high school students looked on as the protesters chanted and held signs reading "Keep Students Safe" and "Education Prevents Violence." The group also released this statement on Facebook today just after the protest:

This morning we took action at a Columbia admissions session to let prospective students and their families know the truth about Columbia's mishandling of sexual and dating violence and their new completely inadequate prevention education programming. We need MANDATORY, comprehensive, and ongoing education—not six minute videos and one page reflections.

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Image via Facebook.

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DISCUSSION

Eh. This is my Alma Mater, so I've been following this story closely. I have to say, this almost religious drive to make college an absolutely safe space for absolutely everyone (indicated in the tweet above) is not, I think, a good thing. NO PLACE is absolutely safe and pretending we can make it so is a dangerous farce. College is not your mom and dad, it is not your nanny, it is not your lawmaker and police force. It's a strange hothouse environment where a lot of things go on and a lot of people are struggling to mature and learn in a strange new world, but it is not safe. No one is going to make it safe.

Do I think Columbia and most other schools should have a better system of rape prevention and systems of response? Absolutely. Do I think students are best served by "MANDATORY, comprehensive, and ongoing education" on the issue? Not really. The students that need it won't pay attention, and the ones who will already talk this talk. I was a double major on scholarship with two jobs, and I was irritated that the Ethnic Studies NOW! protests took over a couple of buildings and got in my damn way, because I had no time and my GPA had to stay up. I can only imagine the nervous breakdown I'd have had if I'd had to sandwich in Consent 101 between my mandatory swim test and finishing up my Art Hum requirement so I could graduate.

On the other hand, there are worse things to protest about, and if these folks take over buildings, maybe they'll open up the underground tunnels between buildings again. That would be pretty cool.