Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard yesterday (Nov. 27) insisted the school is treating an allegation of sexual assault by one of its MBA students with the “utmost seriousness.” In an email sent to the CBS community, Hubbard maintained that the school is “dedicated to fostering an inclusive, supportive, and safe community.”
His message comes on the heels of a Poets&Quants’ article in which a first-year MBA student, Katie Brehm, says she was drugged and raped by a fellow MBA student at an off-campus party in the West Village to celebrate the end of mid-term exams in October (see A Columbia MBA Says She Was Drugged & Raped By A Classmate).
It was the first public response by a Columbia Business School official to the charges by Brehm, who has yet to be contacted by an administrator at the school since meeting with Dean of Students Zelon Crawford on Nov. 7. During that 20-minute session, Brehm says she felt the dean showed little to no empathy and left with the impression that Crawford believed she had fabricated her story. Crawford, moreover, never sent a follow-up email or made a phone call to check up on Brehm to make sure she was okay.
COLUMBIA HAS ‘COME UP SHORT’ IN FOSTERING A SAFE & RESPECTIVE CULTURE
The school had declined to comment for our story before publication, and Hubbard reiterated the school’s policy in his email. “We cannot, however, comment on the particulars of individual cases out of concern for the privacy of our students,” wrote Hubbard, who in September announced that he would step down from his job at the end of this academic year after a 15-year run.
“We can assure you that at Columbia the resources available to support individuals who bring forward claims of sexual assault and gender-based misconduct are second to none. Indeed, several of the offices, individuals, and resources we have established for that purpose are referenced in the article.”
The brief six-sentence email from Dean Hubbard popped into student email boxes hours after Lindy Gould, the school’s student government president, issued a lengthly statement effectively chastising the school’s leadership for its failure to promptly respond to Brehm’s charges and acknowledging that the CBS community has “come up short” in fostering a safe and respectful culture for students.
‘WE SHARE YOUR FRUSTRATION AND CONCERNS WITH THE LACK OF AN IMMEDIATE FORMAL RESPONSE’
“We recognize it is frustrating not to have had an immediate, formal response from school administration,” wrote Gould on behalf of the Student Government Executive Board. “We have heard you, loud and clear, and we share your frustration and concerns…We want to recognize that this is an incredibly difficult week for a number of reasons. Communities are often defined in trying times like this. Let us be that community that comes together.”
Gould, a member of the Class of 2019, noted that the allegations have generated an ongoing “dialogue” in “clusters, clubs, and other groups.” She told classmates that the student leadership was “committed to supporting these conversations and providing resources where needed in whatever way we can.”
Like Hubbard, Gould made clear that student leaders were committed to fostering a safe and inclusive culture at Columbia. “We would like to stress that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of the members of our community,” added Gould. “While we are constantly working to build a culture of mutual respect, we have not been immune to sexual misconduct and its ramifications. We as a community have no tolerance for any behavior that demeans, harasses, or threatens our peers. Our goal must be to have zero incidents within our community, and we are not there yet. As student leaders, we stand by survivors of sexual violence, and we are grateful for the extraordinary courage it takes for our peers to come forward.”
ALLEGATIONS INCLUDE POSSIBLE DRUGGING OF SEVERAL FEMALE MBA STUDENTS & ANOTHER SEXUAL ASSAULT BY MALE CLASSMATES
The allegations, which include possible drugging of several female students and another sexual assault by one or two male MBA candidates at Columbia Business School, has created a firestorm of discussion on and off campus. The student-run Columbia Women in Business Association has launched a task force to help tackle the issues Brehm’s story raises and to organize the community around it. Noting that “the past 24 hours have been a whirlwind of emotions,” Na’am Yebezkel of the Class of 2019 told group members that the student-run organization intends “to fight to end toxic masculinity at CBS.” The group published a statement acknowledging “that every woman has the right to tell her story when, how and to whom she chooses.”
Brehm told Poets&Quants she believes she has been drugged on three different Columbia Business School MBA parties. The first incident occurred at a social in Sag Harbor on Aug. 8th for incoming students. At that same week-long event, dubbed the CBS World Tour because it is a pre-program series of global excurions that culminates in the Hamptons, she alleges that another female classmate was drugged and sexually assaulted on Aug. 10th.
Brehm did not learn of this attack until more than a month later when her fellow classmate reached out to her. The unidentified classmate was sexually assaulted when she was incapacitated due to alcohol. Little more than two weeks after learning about this earlier incident, Brehm went to an Oct. 22, social held at the Jane Hotel in New York.
The party turned loud and rowdy and Brehm believes she was drugged again and sexually assaulted. That night she collapsed on the sidewalk outside the hotel, suffering a concussion and a total lapse of memory. A subsequent examination at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York would find that she had brusing on her inner thighs and vagina, indicating signs of forced penetration.
Brehm would ultimately name the two male classmates she believes assaulted her and the other Columbia MBA student to both the university’s Gender Based Misconduct Office and the New York Police Department’s Special Victims Squad. Poets&Quants is not identifying those two male students because they have not been formally charged by authorities.
‘UNIVERSITY INVESTIGATED THREE SEPARATE HARASSMENT CASES AGAINST MALE PROFS IN 2014
The current controversy at Columbia follows a highly publicized trial this summer that ended with a $1.25 million judgment in favor of a former assistant professor who said she was a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation at CBS. Hubbard referred to the escalating conflict between the junior faculty member and a senior tenured professor as a “soap opera” (see CBS Dean Calls Faculty Dispute A Soap Opera).
During that trial, it was revealed that the university investigated three separate harassment cases involving male professors at its business school simultaneously in 2014, including an allegation that a Columbia Business School professor had sex with a female student in his faculty office.
The law firm that won the judgment against Columbia, Sanford Heisler & Sharp, now represents Brehm in a Title IX investigation and claims against the university for not acting promptly to protect her from an alleged sexual predator. Meantime, Columbia has hired a high-powered litigator, Roberta Kaplan of Kaplan Hecker & Fink, to handle the Brehm case in pre-suit negotiations.