Provost Letter and Policy Guidelines

Columbia’s Provost, Alan Brinkley, has sent out a letter to the Columbia community about the scandal, which I am posting below in the extended entry.
Truth is, I don’t know whether I think this is a positive development or the wool being pulled over our eyes. He says, ” We will continue these efforts by talking to many other individuals and groups, including everyone involved in the
recent controversies who is willing to speak with us,” but has yet to contact any of us. And he writes that “It is against University policy for faculty members to retaliate against any student who brings a grievance in good faith,” but does not outline any automatic penalties for faculty members that do so, and does not seem to recognize that since grading is very subjective anyway, just the fear of the possibility of retaliation is enough to deter students–which is why identity protection must be protected by law.
Anyway, here is the page the provost put up to outline the procedure. If there are any lawyers out there reading this, I’d be interested to know what you think.


To the Columbia Community,
Over the last several weeks, there have been troubling claims by
students and faculty about threats to free expression and civil
discourse at Columbia. The film “Columbia Unbecoming”, articles
in several media outlets, and communications within the University
have all raised the question of whether Columbia is adequately
protecting the right of members of our community to engage in free
and open intellectual discourse in an environment of tolerance and
mutual respect. Because we take such concerns very seriously,
President Bollinger has asked me to begin a process of evaluating
and responding to these claims.
We undertake this task with a firm commitment to the principles of
academic freedom that define this University and that President
Bollinger has consistently articulated over the last two years.
We believe in the right of all members of the community to express
their views on any issue, no matter how controversial, without
fear of reprisal. We believe that faculty have the right to teach
as they wish and to express their views freely as long as they do
so with high standards of intellect and in an atmosphere of
tolerance and free expression. We also believe that students have
a right to learn in an atmosphere that permits an open exchange of
ideas. We do not accept efforts to silence or intimidate people
with whom we disagree. These are commitments that I believe our
community strongly supports; and so when we hear claims that these
commitments may not always have been honored, it is our obligation
both to determine whether or not the claims are true and, if they
are, to take forceful steps to address the problem and to reaffirm
our commitment to free expression.
Over the last two weeks, President Bollinger and I have opened
conversations with both students and faculty in an effort to gauge
how successfully we are promoting the spirit of free inquiry on
our campus. We will continue these efforts by talking to many
other individuals and groups, including everyone involved in the
recent controversies who is willing to speak with us. We welcome
the views of anyone at Columbia who would like to contribute to
this conversation — by e-mail, mail, or, when possible, in
person.
The issues that have emerged in recent weeks have arisen out of
discussions of the situation in the Middle East, an area that we
all recognize has produced deep and bitter divisions and great
passions on all sides. The intensity of feeling on these
questions makes it all the more important that we ensure that they
are discussed in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect, and
the importance of these questions reinforces our obligation to
provide a curriculum of high quality, open to the many different
views of students and faculty. We are proud of our tradition of
academic excellence, and we will continue to work to sustain and
strengthen the quality and integrity of our academic programs in
all areas of study.
I want to emphasize that students who believe that members of the
faculty have behaved inappropriately toward them should make use
of our formal grievance procedures, which will adjudicate such
claims fairly and thoroughly and in complete confidentiality. It
is against University policy for faculty members to retaliate
against any student who brings a grievance in good
faith. Information about our grievance procedures is available at:
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/provost/docs/policies.html. We are
currently reviewing these procedures to ensure that they are
adequate to the task and we will announce shortly any changes we
decide to make to strengthen them.
Our evaluation of all these matters will continue and expand over
the next several weeks, and we will report our findings and
conclusions to the community before the end of the current
semester. Freedom of thought and expression are the core
principles of Columbia University. We will take whatever steps
are necessary to uphold these principles and to ensure that
Columbia remains a tolerant and civil community.
Sincerely,
Alan Brinkley

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