Survey informs U’s commitment to addressing sexual assault and misconduct

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMTC) was one of 27 universities to partner with the Association of American Universities (AAU) for the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. Released today in aggregate form, the survey is the largest and most comprehensive examination to date of sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campuses across the country, and is designed to provide participating universities with detailed information needed to better understand the experiences and attitudes of students with respect to these serious issues.

More than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at 26 AAU universities and one non-AAU institution participated in the survey during April and May of 2015. More than 8,000 students participated in the survey at UMTC, but with lower-than-hoped response rates (16.6 percent at UMTC, 19.3 percent average across participating institutions).

However, the general findings are consistent with a number of other surveys – including the University’s own College Student Health Survey – and results for UMTC are in line with the national aggregate.

“The University of Minnesota has a deep and longstanding commitment to the health, wellness, and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and entire campus community,” said President Eric W. Kaler. “Participating in a survey with our peers is an important first step in continuing to address the complex issues of sexual assault and sexual misconduct on college campuses. We are intensely committed to continuing to track these numbers as we work with students, faculty, and staff across all of our campuses to create an environment in which everyone can feel safe and all can succeed.”

Looking at the results, the incidences of sexual assault and sexual misconduct by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation among female undergraduate student respondents was 23.5 percent (UMTC) versus 23.1 percent (AAU aggregate). The results for male undergraduate student respondents were 5.2 percent (UMTC) versus 5.5 percent (AAU aggregate). Overall, 11.3 percent (UMTC) versus 11.7 percent (AAU aggregate) of student respondents – both undergraduate and graduate - reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled at their university.

“Although the response rates on the AAU survey were not high, the final results are consistent with our own surveys conducted over the past twenty years by Boynton Health Services,” said Karen Hanson, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. “Sexual assault is a serious problem on campuses, as it is in the larger society.  Because of our educational mission, we have unique opportunities and special responsibilities to address this problem.  Surveys such as this can help focus and inform our efforts.”

The survey revealed that more than six in 10 student respondents (63.1 percent UMTC) believe that a report of sexual assault or sexual misconduct would be taken seriously by campus officials. More than half (55.3 percent UMTC) said it was very or extremely likely that the safety of those reporting incidents of sexual assault and sexual misconduct would be protected by university officials.

“I am proud to attend a University that believes the time and money for a survey like this is a worthy investment – there are many students across the country who do not have this same commitment from their administrations – and I and other students feel safer knowing that our campus is paying close attention to sexual assault and sexual violence” said Joelle Stangler, University of Minnesota undergraduate student body president. “We look forward to digging deeper into this rich set of information in continued partnership with University leadership as we take the findings and turn them into action.”

Katie Eichele, director of the Aurora Center, the University’s advocacy and education center devoted to addressing issues of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking, said the numbers reconfirm the University’s approaches to its existing services. “We see, once again, the importance of educating students about the cultural reality of sexual assault.” Eichele said. “What the AAU survey helps confirm is that sexual assault on college campuses is a nationwide problem that requires both national and local solutions. This isn’t simply the victim-survivors problem. And it’s not simply one university’s problem. This is a shared problem, among all of us, and we must continue to work together to address it.”

The University is committed to examining the results of this survey in detail to understand better where existing programs are working and where we can do a better job. Innovative programming and policies like the Aurora Center’s new Male Engagement Coordinator, the University’s new language around affirmative consent, and continued commitment to a range of educational programming at various times during the academic year remain important tools to addressing these issues. 

For more information on the AAU survey and the UMTC results, please visit the following links:

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