Campus Climate Survey Addresses Sexual Assault


Students for Choice holding their signs during the sexual assault protest in the MEB parking lot on Friday, Nov 4, 2016

By Emily Anderson

The University of Utah found in a 2016 Campus Climate Survey that the majority of students didn’t know where to report a sexual assault, what happens once they make that complaint or where victims can get support and help on campus. After making a number of changes to its approach on sexual assault, the school is asking students to take another Campus Climate Survey.

“This survey includes sections that ask about your knowledge and beliefs about social situations, perceptions related to sexual misconduct, and your knowledge of resources available at the University of Utah,” wrote Dean of Students Lori McDonald in an email first sent to students on Feb. 1.

The 2018 survey is based on a standard one distributed by the Association of American Universities (AAU), departing from the previous survey which was developed by a number of offices at the U, according to Assistant Dean of Students Jolene Des Roches. The Office of the Dean of Students Office aims to conduct the survey every two years — a period Des Roches said is in line with AAU’s recommendation.

Approximately 4,014 students participated in the U’s 2016 survey — about 14.4 percent of students attending the school at the time. The participant pool was comprised of more women than men, with women making up 55.8 percent and men 41.5 percent.

Since coming to the U, 18.8 percent of undergraduate and 9.9 percent of graduate females surveyed indicated they had been sexually assaulted. Men reported lower rates of sexual assault at the U, with 4.7 of undergraduate and 1.4 of graduate students saying they had experienced it.

In recent years, U students have suffered a string of sexual assaults, and the U has been the subject of a federal Title IX investigation. As a response to these incidents and survey results, U President David Pershing organized the Campus Safety Task Force.

After meeting over a period of three months, the task force recommended numerous steps to increase anti-sexual assault education and access to resources for reporting sexual assault.

“Let me be clear, there is no place for violence, sexual harassment or sexual assault at the University of Utah,” Pershing said in a statement about the task force’s findings. “It is a high priority for me and all the members of my administrative team to do all that we can to support those who experience trauma — in any form — and at the same time to promote awareness of and educate campus community members about our expectations for our campus culture.”

Beginning at the latest in Fall 2018, the U will require all students to undergo online training surrounding the issues of sexual assault before they can register for classes. The administration will also mandate faculty and staff complete anti-discrimination, sexual harassment prevention and bystander intervention training.

The U hired an additional victim advocate for the Center for Student Wellness and raised the Women’s Resource Center staff counselor to a full-time position. It also hired a new case manager and an additional conduct staff member for the Dean of Students Office.

The Dean of Students Office hopes the current survey will provide the school with more answers as to how it can improve safety on campus.

The survey, which McDonald estimated will take between 20 and 30 minutes, is open through March 7.

“It’s important that we understand what the climate regarding sexual assault on our campus is and connect students to resources that may help them,” Des Roches said.

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