As universities nationwide look for ways to combat mounting sexual assault incidents on campuses, one New York university is instituting a new kind of sex ed class -- sexual respect education.
Students matriculating in undergraduate and graduate programs at the Ivy League school will be required to undergo sexual respect education in order to progress or complete their studies, the student newspaper Columbia Spectator reported on Thursday.
The university will withhold degrees or course registrations from students who do not fulfill the program, which will allow students to participate in discussions and workshops, or reflect anonymously on two topical TED Talks. Students can also opt to create art about the issue.
Current students must complete the requirement by March 13, the paper reported.
Columbia is just one many educational institutions that have faced bad press over allegations of mishandling sexual assault cases on campus. Last fall, a student who alleged that Columbia University bungled its investigation of her rape began carrying the dorm mattress on which she says she was assaulted, as a form of protest and artistic response to the event. Her accused rapist has contested her claims.
The news comes just as research and lawmakers argue that schools aren’t doing enough to report and combat sexual assault – although many schools are working to try to find ways to address the issue.
Last year, the White House released a report finding that one in five college women were assaulted on campus and announced the “It’s On Us” initiative – an awareness campaign to help prevent sexual assault on campuses in part by finding ways to apply pressure on government agencies and universities that receive federal funding. Sexual assault on college campuses is "an affront to our basic humanity," the president said.
Later in the year, a bipartisan group of senators announced a bill aimed at combating sexual assault at universities and forcing them to deal with high crime on their campuses. A study out earlier this week confirmed that many universities drastically underreport sexual assaults on campus unless they’re under federal scrutiny.