Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative Update: Faculty Reflections Commentary and Arts Option Web Gallery

The Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative asked all Columbia students to participate in examining the link between sexual respect and membership in the University community.

Highlighted below are faculty commentaries on the video-reflection submissions by students throughout the University. You can find links to all of the videos – and more information about the Initiative – in the Sexual Respect Initiative section on the left.

David L. Bell, Marina Catallozzi, and Samantha Garbers, Mailman School of Public Health

Ensuring a climate of sexual respect is not the sole purview of advocates or those who have experienced sexual violence, but all of us within the community. Students participating in this initiative bravely took on the onus, required of them by the institution, of reflecting on a persistent, emotionally charged societal problem.

Jenny Francis, Columbia University Medical Center

The most impressive theme uncovered from the responses was the sense that every one of us has a moral obligation to enforce sexual respect within our friend-groups, our workplaces, and our communities at large.

Marguerite Holloway, Columbia Journalism School

Speak up. Speak up if you have experienced sexual assault. Speak up if you are a bystander and see someone vulnerable or at risk. Speak up when you hear sexist, racist, bigoted language. Speak up for all human rights. Speak up because, as Martin Luther King Jr. is quoted as saying, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Karen Soren, Columbia University Medical Center

This fear of intervening can haunt you. It is important to trust your instincts and if something doesn’t look right, be brave and say something.

Joanna Stalnaker, Columbia University Department of French and Romance Philology

I would say that matters of privacy, agency, and sexual pleasure deserve serious consideration in discussions of how to prevent sexual violence. Because sexual respect is not just about listening to a person when she says no, but also, and just as crucially, about listening to her when she says yes.

Please also visit the Arts Option Web Gallery, where you will find hundreds of original works created for the Initiative’s Arts Option, a joint effort developed by students, faculty and administrators from across the University, which invited students to explore, through multiple art forms, the ways in which sexual respect is inseparable from community membership. Responding to this call, more than one thousand Columbia students submitted works in film and video, visual art, poetry and prose, drama, dance, music, performance art, and multimedia. You can find faculty commentary about the Arts Option on the web gallery and below, as well.

Commentary on the Arts Option

In the words of the eminent writers, artists, and others from within and outside of Columbia who served as Commentators for the Arts Option:

Colm Toίbίn, Columbia University Department of English and Comparative Literature

The art we make arises from the most private and intimate concerns and struggles, but also from pressing matters which arise when our dream life merges or intersects with what is sharply public or even openly political. Art begins in whispers and tentative rhythms but it can branch out into many realms, including ones in which the voice becomes loud and the rhythm angry and the tone combative. Art begins in ambiguity but as it proceeds it can shed that ambiguity and aim towards the forceful, the clear, the disturbing. Just as art can insist on its own need for subtlety and quietness, it can also inhabit a space where artists can have an argument with themselves and with the world.

Nina Berman, Columbia Journalism School

Outrage, defiance, insistence, regret, loneliness, betrayal, forgiveness, resilience, shame, justice and above all an urgency to be heard: these are some of the emotions and themes articulated by the brave artists who delved deep to make work for this collection.

Adam Bandler, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

The Arts Option, stands out not because it produces excellent works of art (and it does produce some exquisite projects) but because it gives a student the chance to re-frame the very questions being raised. . . . For me, what makes a good work in this series is not its beauty or craft or evocation of an emotion, but its ability to challenge, subvert, or claim the fraught question: how should sexuality fit within our community, how can we define rules and boundaries, how must we address the wrongs that far too many of our students suffer, and how to do it in a way that transcends the platitudes, clichés, and legalese all too common?

Victor LaValle, Columbia University School of the Arts

How do you create a healthy community? You don’t simply go to and from class, passing one another without more than a nod. Instead you share the hardships, the fears, and also the triumphs and strengths that come from having weathered the worst. The entries in the Art Option seem like an encouraging step in this journey. Here is your community. Know them and let them know you.

Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation

Against a broader social context of injustice, creating and sharing artwork is a bold political act and a gift from the artists to their community.

Deborah Cullen, The Wallach Art Gallery

By instigating a kaleidoscope of works, including spoken word and poetry, songs both abstract and lyrical, dance responses, short plays, photography, drawing, painting, comic books, and other artistic forms, the issues—far from being exhausted—can be more fully considered, discussed, and hopefully, one day, obliterated.

Please check out the video below to view works submitted to the Arts Option.: