Sept. 21, 2015
The University of Michigan today released the findings of a second campus climate survey of students on the Ann Arbor campus regarding sexual misconduct. U-M was one of 27 universities across the nation to participate in a survey sponsored by the Association of American Universities.
Q. How does U-M compare with the overall survey findings?
A. With regard to some areas of non-consensual sexual behavior, our numbers are higher than the aggregate data released by the AAU, while in other areas we are consistent with it.
We’ve been working on this issue for decades, so it is not surprising that our students are aware of this topic and are familiar with how to respond. We believe that, too, is reflected in our percentages.
What is useful is for each institution to consider its own data, and to use that to develop education and prevention tools that best meet their school’s unique needs.
Q. How does U-M compare with other institutions?
A. While comparisons are extremely difficult given the differences in institutions and their student populations, as well as differences in response rates and other factors, there is no question we have serious issues that need to be addressed with a greater emphasis on awareness and education.
In addition, while there are differences among institutions in percentages of various misconduct experiences, the differences are not always statistically significant given the sampling error noted in the report.
But any experience of sexual misconduct is one too many. This is a significant issue here and elsewhere.
Q. Is sexual misconduct a college problem?
A. This is a societal problem. Today we’re talking about a problem on college campuses, but national data indicate sexual assault is significantly higher for non-students of roughly the same age.
Sexual misconduct is a challenge across society, including on college campuses. A 2007 study found as many as 20 percent of undergraduate females at two large public higher-ed institutions experienced some form of sexual assault, while a recent U.S. Department of Justice survey found the rate of sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for non-students among females ages 18-24 than among college students.
We have an opportunity on college campuses to add new knowledge on this issue through the research we are conducting, to develop strategies and then measure their results – and share that with others.
Q. Didn’t U-M conduct its own survey on this topic?
A. Yes. That survey involved a representative sample of 3,000 students. Those survey results were announced publicly in June. They can be found here.
Q. Why did U-M participate in the AAU survey if it already did its own survey?
A. Because research in this area is critically important. Data help all of us implement the best possible education and prevention programs.
Q. How do these finding compare to the earlier U-M survey findings?
A. The key findings are consistent with those of our own climate survey released earlier this year and provide further confirmation of the serious work we have ahead.
Sexual misconduct must be addressed on our college campuses and throughout society. This research is vitally important to our understanding of this problem so we can design education and prevention efforts in the most effective manner possible.
Direct comparisons between our earlier U-M survey and this AAU survey on the U-M campus are not possible. The two surveys used different approaches, asked different questions, covering different periods of time, and the questions were ordered differently. The surveys also had significantly different response rates. The U-M survey conducted in the spring had a 67 percent response rate; the U-M AAU survey had a 17 percent response rate.
Q. What are the findings that are in common?
A. Common to both surveys are these findings:
- The most at-risk groups for experiencing unwanted sexual behaviors were females rather than males and undergraduates more so than graduate students.
- Most students do not report nonconsensual behavior to anyone, including any official resource available to them.
Q. What will U-M do with the results of these surveys?
A. Data is critical to our work. The more we know about our community, the better we are able to tailor our programs to be most effective.
We will continue to talk as a community later this fall and winter, and develop strategies together. Since we and the other institutions were not allowed to share findings with campus stakeholders prior to the AAU release, we will be spending time in late 2015 and early 2016 talking with key groups on campus.
But we also have not been waiting to make improvements. There are important changes we’ve made since getting the results of the U-M survey.
We have expanded and more sharply tailored training for key groups most affected by sexual misconduct, added training of groups we haven’t previously reached (such as all incoming international students) and much more. And then we’ll measure the effectiveness of our efforts, to continue to refine and improve.
Q. Can you describe U-M prevention efforts?
A. Every first-year student must participate in an online awareness and prevention education program before arriving on campus. Completion rates for this “Community Matters” program have exceeded 90 percent every year since implementation in 2009. Once on campus, first-year students get three additional exposures to prevention and bystander intervention training.
In addition, the university expanded awareness and prevention education beyond first-year students to include new staff, graduate students and international students, as well as the addition of bystander intervention training to new-student programming in the fall of 2014. The university also conducts additional training sessions with student leaders in Greek Life, student athletes and coaches, ROTC cadets, the Michigan Marching Band and other campus groups, which were enhanced for this fall.
U-M has had a Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center on campus since 1986. SAPAC provides educational and confidential supportive services for all U-M community members related to sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and stalking.
The university released a video earlier this year to bring additional awareness to the university’s commitment to creating a campus free of sexual assault, and broadly share the policy and reporting resources.
The university also is in the midst of a review of the current Policy on Sexual Misconduct Among Students. The Office of Student Life held several campus community forums on the policy and procedures in the spring and will continue with numerous additional forums this fall. The goal is to have any revisions to the policy or procedure in place by early 2016.
The Office for Institutional Equity conducts investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, and identifies resources and support for all parties involved in the investigation process. The office publishes an annual report that tracks the outcome of those investigations.
The U-M Police Department this year created a Special Victims Unit that will provide primary response to and investigation of interpersonal violence crimes that are reported to have occurred on campus. These incidents include sexual assaults, domestic violence, stalking and child abuse.
AAU/U-M campus climate survey on sexual misconduct
April 1, 2015
This week the university launched the second of two surveys of students on the Ann Arbor campus to gauge the campus climate regarding sexual misconduct among students. U-M is one of 27 universities conducting the survey in collaboration with the Association of American Universities. Results of the survey are expected to be made public in the fall.
Q. What is this survey about?
A. We are asking all students to answer a climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct. The results will be used to guide policies to encourage a healthy, safe and nondiscriminatory environment on this campus and other campuses. The goal is to make college campuses as safe as possible by developing programs and services that minimize sexual misconduct, as well as respond to these events when do they do occur.
Q. Who is administering the survey?
A. The survey is sponsored by U-M in collaboration with the Association of American Universities (AAU). Westat, a private research organization, is administering the survey and will be assisting in the analysis of the data.
Q. What will the university do with the results?
A. The results will be used to better understand the campus climate, the extent of sexual misconduct among students and the use of programs and services currently being offered. This information will be used to make recommendations for changes to the policies and procedures related to preventing and handling sexual misconduct.
Q. Why are there questions about sensitive topics?
A. The goal is to foster a safe and supportive environment where students can flourish, both academically and personally. In order to understand the climate here, we need to ask direct questions about topics that some may find sensitive. It is only by directly collecting this information from students will we be able to prevent negative experiences and effectively respond when they do happen.
Q. What will students be asked to do?
A. Students are invited to participate in a web survey. This survey includes sections that ask about knowledge and beliefs about social situations, perceptions related to sexual misconduct at U-M and knowledge of resources available. The survey also asks about personal experience with sexual misconduct, such as harassment, sexual assault and other forms of violence.
Q. Why is the language on the survey so explicit?
A. Some of the language used in this survey is explicit and some may find it uncomfortable, but it is important that the questions are posed in this way so that students are clear about the meaning. Information on how to get help appears on the bottom of each page and at the end of the survey.
Q. Isn’t this survey only for women?
A. No, this survey is for everyone, regardless of gender identity or experiences. The survey will be used to shape policies that affect everyone on campus.
Q. How long will the survey take?
A. The survey should take most students approximately 20 minutes to complete.
Q. Are students required to participate?
A. No student has to participate in this survey. Students may skip any question they are not comfortable answering and may exit the survey at any time.
Q. Will answers remain confidential?
A. Yes. When students complete the survey the link with the student’s name, email and IP address will be broken so that no one will be able to connect these with your survey answers. The results will be presented in summary form so no individual can be identified. However, if we learn about child abuse or about a threat of harm to yourself or others, we are obligated to report it to the authorities.