February 24, 2014
I am incredibly saddened and disappointed to learn of students in our community participating in costume caricatures of several different nationalities. It is our utmost responsibility to ensure that your living and learning environment is free from any act or behavior that degrades individuals or groups, including racially or culturally- based insensitivity. I want to reaffirm our collective commitment to maintaining a supportive environment and call for us to be civil to and responsible for one another. While the intention may have been harmless, the actions taken have had an impact that may have not been intended.
As such, the bias-related response team, which is comprised of members across Student Affairs including the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Fraternity and Sorority Life, are currently reaching out to potentially impacted communities to offer support and follow-up.
Furthermore, the “We’re a culture, not a costume” awareness campaign, which originated at Ohio University’s Students Teaching About Racism in Society and which the OMA has brought to Columbia annually since 2011, reminds us that while the intent of individuals may be benign or even in jest, the impact on a campus community can be harmful and hurtful by perpetuating reductive stereotypes. The national and widespread reach of this campaign also conveys that these microaggressions unfortunately are pervasive, and that we need to continue our collective efforts to substantively address systemic issues that perpetuate such incidents. Accordingly, I hope this is a learning moment for our community.
I would also like to remind our entire community of the Community Principles, which were developed together by students and key administrative offices across all four undergraduate schools.
Several key points include:
- We are all responsible to this community and affirm that we treat each other with respect and dignity.
- Members of our community act with honesty by accepting accountability for their words and actions, and maintaining the integrity of the community as a whole.
- As members of the University with different experiences and ideas, we actively engage each other to understand, appreciate and accept our various identities.
No campus community is removed from larger systemic issues, but Columbia University is committed to fostering a learning environment that is free from discrimination and bias. As members of this community, I thank you for your efforts in making our campus a safe, friendly, and welcoming place.
Interim Dean of Student Affairs