March 10, 2018

Dear President Bollinger and Trustees of Columbia University,

Recently, Thomas Jessell was removed from his positions as Co-Director of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind, Brain, and Behavior Institute as well as from his joint appointments as Professor in the departments of Neuroscience and Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics. In a statement published in the New York Times, Columbia said that its investigation “revealed serious violations of University policies and values governing the behavior of faculty members in an academic environment.” This statement does little to clarify what transgressions Jessell committed to be removed from his prestigious positions.

Rumors have been swirling, and without confirmation or denial, nothing can be definitively known. In this era of #MeToo, society has been reckoning with the effects of sexual harassers and abusers have on workplaces, from Hollywood to agricultural work. While this wave of revelation has thus far largely avoided science and academia, the problem is undoubtedly as ingrained in our culture as it is in society at large. This is enabled by Columbia University’s reputation of looking the other way in cases of sexual misconduct by faculty. We appreciate that President Bollinger has pledged to ban all undergraduate-professor relationships, but graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are even more dependent on their mentors to progress professionally. Students and fellows require guidance and close working relationships with mentors and are not potential sexual opportunities. Whether or not misconduct occurs, it is unacceptable for them to ever be treated as such.

Columbia University’s policy is clear, that “no faculty member shall have a consensual romantic or sexual relationship with a student over whom he or she exercises academic or professional authority.” But how this policy is enforced is certainly not clear.

We call on you, the leaders of our community, to lead in shining light on sexual harassment in academia and at Columbia University. Our community deserves an administration that protects it explicitly and publicly. This is an opportunity to deter future perpetrators and to invite trust in your ability to protect your students and employees. If rumors of sexual misconduct are true, we ask you to launch an investigation into similar behavior from other heads of labs to expose possible contributors to a toxic workplace culture.

We ask you to stand up and make it known that our community will not tolerate sexual misconduct, regardless of the prestige of perpetrator. Students, employees, and postdoctoral fellows deserve to work without harassment, intimidation, or abuses of power, both proactively and retroactively. They deserve respect and safety.  

We appreciate your consideration, and we implore you to do what is right.


Bianca Field, BC ‘13, former CUMC employee
Olivia Goldman, BC ‘14, former CUMC employee
Lenzie Ford-James, postdoc at Columbia University
Ilana Zucker-Scharff, BC ‘14, former CUMC employee
David Barack, postdoc at Columbia University
Aylesse Sordillo, CC ’10 

Christoph Rainer, SOA ’15

Alicia Serrani, BC ’13
Mia Hollenbach, Columbia School of Social Work
Christina Seto, BC ’15
Andrea Roberts, BC ’13
Vasilis Hristidis, CC ’12
Robin Basalaev-Binder
Alexandra Palacios, BC ’15
Gabriele Urbonaite, SOA ’22
Brendon Bouzard, SOA ’15
Caleb LoSchiavo, BC ’15
Camille Bernier-Green, BC ’13
Elliot Smith, CUMC
Tabia Santos, BC ’13, former CUMC employee
Katherine Shen, BC ’13, TC ’19
Katherine Estabrook, BC ’13
Chirag Upreti, Research Scientist at Columbia University
Erica Mezias, BC ’16
Sarah Svirsky, BC ’13
Sophia Weissmann
Baila Hall, BC ’13
Peter Mercado Reyes, Kallyope
Juliet Anderson, Columbia School of Social Work
Annie Diamond, BC ’15
Nina Chanpreet Kaur, BC ’06
Addy Richter, BC ’15
Sherrie Deng, BC ’14
eMalick G. Njie, postdoc, Biological Sciences/Neuroscience, 2016
Mary Rossillo, CC ’14
Daniel Cabrera, GS ’13
Nuri Jeong, Emory University
Priya Sircar, M.A. Teacher’s College, 2011
James Belarde, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons
Haley Vecchiarelli, BC’10
Meghan Carty, BC ’16
Inger Sveberg Dietrich, SOA ’16
William Quinn Shelton, CC ’13
Aswini Periyasamy, BC ’13, MSPH ’16
Rebecca Gray, BC ’13
Joud Hijazi, CUMC employee
Isabella Serrani, BC
Johanna Lou, CC ’12
Macayla Donegan, PhD student at Columbia University
Nia Ashley, BC ’16
Nina L, BC ’14
Melanie D’Arrigo, BC ’03
Minhyun Kay
Swati Amin, BC ’15
Cornelia Lotito
Wendy Pan
Martyna Okuniewska
Maya Huang, School of the Arts ’16
Morgan Conley, University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies MA ’18, Brandeis University ’13
Alice Shindelar, School of Arts ’16
Josue Regalado, former HHMI employee at CUMC
Chris Mezias, Cornell PhD Candidate, former CUMC employee
Amy Xia, CC ’17
Kimberley Rain Miner, SIPA ’13
Lalanti Venkatasubramanian, GSAS
Patricia Cooney, NBB, Graduate student at Columbia University
Carol Kim, BC ’14
Dylan Rahe, GSAS
Robert W. Fernandez, Yale University PhD Candidate
Steven Cook, MSPH ’11, postdoc at Columbia University
Emily Berghoff, GSAS
Alan Goldman, CC ’80, GSAS ’85
Yamina Abouzzohour, CC ’14
Nancy Xu, BC ’09
Molly Booth, GSAS
Jacob Portes, PhD student, Columbia Neurobiology and Behavior
Anonymous, PhD student, Columbia, Neurobiology and Behavior
Anonymous, Harvard
Antoinette Acosta, SBU ‘17
Robert Abramovic, PhD Candidate in Mathematics, SBU ‘18
Anonymous, University of Cambridge
Anonymous, Former Columbia faculty member
Siu-hong Ho, PhD, CCTI, CUMC
Maxime Kinet, MD, PhD, CC ’06
Sebastien Manigat, CC ’07
Jamie Righetti, GS ’09
Anonymous, University of Chicago, Mathematics PhD ’17, CC ’10
Anonymous, postdoc at Columbia University
Anonymous, Rockefeller University
Myles Marshall, Lab manager of the Jessell Lab
Alvaro Cuesta-Dominguez, postdoc at CUMC
Brett Eugene Alcott, PhD, GSAS ’17, formerly of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Danya Martin, MFA, SOA ’16
Dilip Ravindran, GSAS
Anonymous, PhD Harvard, CC alum
Shelly Yo, SOA ’18
Shiva Kalaiselvan, MFA, SOA ’15
Anonymous, Research Scientist at Columbia University
Anonymous, Research Scientist – CUMC, CDM
Catherine Braine, PhD Student, Columbia University
Faizunnahar Dewan, BC ’13
Leo Goldman, CC ’20
Kavya Tewari, CC ’20
Rosemary Cater, Current postdoc, CUMC
Anonymous, BC ’17
Anonymous, neuroscience graduate student at Columbia University
Eduardo G. Aguilar, Rockefeller University
Rie Nygaard, current postdoc, CUMC
Harshad Vishwasrao, Former postdoc, CUMC
Faroq Ahmed, SOA ’05
Ya-Ting Lei, CUMC, GSAS ’13
Rikki Novetsky, BC ’15
Cat Bohannon, PhD student, GSAS
Rachel Misner, PhD Student, Columbia Biological Science
Nick Rudman, SOA ’16
Daniel Cole, current PhD student at Columbia University
Anonymous, SOA ’06
Muhaned Mohamed, NYU SOM
David Borgonjon, PhD candidate, EALAC, Columbia University
Anayvelyse Allen-Mossman, BC ’13, graduate student in LAIC
Anonymous, PhD student, EALAC, Columbia Unversity
Anonymous, GSAS
Anonymous, PhD, EALAC, Columbia University


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