A Message from Interim Provost Dennis Mitchell

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

As we navigate the tensions of recent months, I write today with a call for a renewed focus on our core mission of education, research, and service.

We recognize that the sources of these tensions remain, and we are determined to cultivate a resilient and inclusive community of learners across the Columbia community. This focus is embedded in our Dialogue Across Difference initiative which provides students, faculty, and staff tools to navigate challenging conversations and additional opportunities to engage with diverse perspectives, complementing the numerous ways this happens on our campus every day.

Columbia University is committed to defending the right of all members of our community to safely exercise their right to expression and to invite, listen to, and challenge views, including those that may be offensive and even hurtful to many of us. It is the duty of every member of the community to help preserve freedom of speech for all, including protesters and speakers.

Together, our University community has developed the Rules of University Conduct which serve to guide us and protect freedom of speech for everyone. The Rules undergo review every four years and the University Senate has initiated this process which will be carefully deliberated with the community. Comments are welcome.

Prior to the adoption of any changes, the present Rules are in effect and it is helpful for members of the community to review these and keep the following points in mind. 

It is a violation of the Rules of University Conduct to engage in conduct that places another in danger of bodily harm or uses words that threaten bodily harm.
It is a violation of the Rules of University Conduct to interrupt, shout down, or otherwise disrupt an event or academic setting, and violations will be enforced through these Rules.
It is a violation of the Rules of University Conduct to obstruct the view of the speaker with banners or placards.
Individuals engaged in disruption will be asked to identify themselves by a Delegate or Public Safety Officer. It is a violation of the Rules of University Conduct to refuse to do so.
Delegates or Public Safety Officers will request that individuals stop disrupting (e.g., stop shouting, sit down, move to another location); individuals who fail to comply promptly with such a request will be in violation of the Rules of University Conduct.
Students should also be mindful of the University’s Standards and Discipline Policy and school-specific policies and practices.
Should any member of the University community believe that participants in an assembly or other demonstration are violating the Rules of University Conduct, they should report the concern at this link. To assist with reporting, the University has established a help desk open weekdays from 12-4pm in Lerner Hall and a helpline available during the same hours at (212) 853-5000.
In addition, members of the community are urged to contact the Department of Public Safety at 212-854-2797 about dangerous or potentially illegal activity at any University event.
I have the utmost confidence in the resiliency of the Columbia community and know that we will successfully navigate this challenging moment.

I wish you all a successful and productive semester.


Dennis A. Mitchell, DDS, MPH (he/him)Interim ProvostProfessor of Dental Medicine at CUMC

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