Sexual assault survey sent to gauge campus climate
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry sent an email invitation to the student body to take the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct last week. The 20-30 minute survey aims to collect student opinions that will be factored into shaping safety policies, prevention education programming, and law enforcement measures.A few incentives exist to encourage participation: 6,000 students will be offered a $5 Amazon gift card for completing the survey, and students who were not selected for the gift card are entered into a lottery to win a $500 prize by visiting the website. Two students will then be selected for two $500 prizes.The Association of American Universities, a national association of 62 research universities in the United States and Canada, is leading the survey initiative.The organization partnered with the research firm Westat, to design and deliver the survey to its member universities. Barry Toiv, the vice president for public affairs at AAU, said administrators’ desire to gather more information about student attitudes and opinions about sexual assault that prompted the development of such a survey.“AAU took this on and [we] have never done this before,” Toiv said. “AAU entered into an agreement with Westat because Westat is one of the top private research firms in the country. They brought in expertise specifically with respect to sexual assault, which is of course very sensitive and complex so it requires a certain expertise to do right. A committee of faculty and university administrators who worked in student life was put together from different universities in the nation to work with Westat to develop the survey.”Carry hopes that the administration can learn how to improve existing programs or introduce new initiatives based on the information the survey reveals. The questions in the survey are tailored to specifically gauge information regarding student awareness of the resources on campus and prevalence of sexual misconduct incidents.“There’s been a discussion about colleges and universities understanding the climate on their campus related to sexual misconduct. I think the most effective way to do that is to ask students: what’s working and what’s not working, do you have access to resources, are you aware of the resources, and have you had an experience related to sexual misconduct?” Carry said. “It’ll be helpful for me to understand what do students know and what do they don’t know so we can retarget our marketing efforts.”Carry said 28 of the 62 universities in AAU have decided to take part in the survey. To keep certain factors standardized, all universities participating are offering the same incentives to their respective students.“By joining this national effort, we will have results from almost 30 institutions of higher education. We [will] get a chance to compare and look at opportunities for growth,” Carry said.Though Carry said that a good turnout for such a large-scale survey is typically 15 percent to 20 percent of the student body, Carry’s personal hope is for all students to participate so the sample size of students can be as large as possible. As for the future, Carry foresees releasing a survey like this one every two or three years to measure the results of enacted programs.Kaitlyn Hittelman, a junior majoring in international relations (global business), is currently studying abroad in Turkey; however, she is familiar with the survey from her work last semester as the co-chair of the Greek Sexual Assault Task Force.“From my discussions with the Title IX office, I know that they are really interested in getting student feedback and making as many changes as necessary to make everyone feel safe on campus,” Hittelman said. “I would hope that they would be able to better structure their sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention programming to better fit the needs of the campus based on the results of the survey, to see where it seems that students are lacking in knowledge or in comfort.”Vanessa Diaz, a sophomore majoring in American studies and the assistant director of Women’s Student Assembly, weighed the benefits and flaws the survey has for documenting the number of sexual assault incidences that may have otherwise gone unaccounted for in the statistics.“A lot of people who experience sexual assault don’t report it because it’s an invasive process that is time-consuming and often do not result in favorable outcomes. People may feel more comfortable doing so in an online survey. However, the survey is also problematic because it too asks invasive questions that trigger traumatic memories,” Diaz said.In the case of the latter, Diaz hopes that the administration allocate more resources to the Title IX office in terms of funds and training.Students can find the invitation to take the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct survey in their email. The survey will close on April 22.