Columbia’s Sexual Harassment Policies and Its Status as a Private School

Wendy McElroy makes an interesting observation that I had not heard before about the controversy surrounding Columbia’s sexual harassment policy. If Columbia were a public university or college its policy would be clearly unconstitutional and the courts would take little time at all overturning it. Columbia is a private university, however, and so doesn’t have to abide by the Constitutional protections that a state institution would have to consider — the standard for private colleges is that it has to adhere to “fundamental fairness.”

But as McElroy points out, Columbia is using a federal grant to pay the university official in charge of administering the harassment policy,

Columbia’s Administration also points out that the University is a private institution and the courts have upheld its right to determine which procedures are appropriate to serve its needs. In short, students have no right to expect Constitutional protections from university procedures. Private or not, it is the government, which means the taxpayer, who will foot much of the bill for Columbia’s experiment with gender justice. As part of their Report, the Task Force mentioned that grant funding to finance a full-time officer responsible for disciplining sexual misconduct was available from the Department of Justice. The on-campus gender crusader is estimated to cost $125,000 of taxpayer money in the first year. Yet, according to Patricia Catapano, who chaired the Task Force, “The courts only have said that Columbia…has to have fundamental fairness” because it is a private institution.

If Columbia wants to maintain its Star Chamber-like system of student justice it may have the right to do so as a private university, but it certainly shouldn’t use taxpayer money to enforce a policy that would be unconstitutional at a public institution.


Gender Madness on Columbia’s Campus. Wendy McElroy, IFeminists.Com, March 20, 2001.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: