Remarks by President Mark Schlissel
June 24, 2015
As a university president, a physician-scientist, an educator and a father, the issue of sexual misconduct keeps me awake at night.
I feel personally responsible for the safety and well-being of all students at the University
We are here today against the backdrop of a national focus on the problem of sexual misconduct throughout society. It’s a regular topic in the news.
Many cite prior studies that suggest that one in five women experience sexual assault while in college.
I’ve heard painful stories from survivors of sexual assault on our campus. They shared with me what they went through and have asked for my help.
So while we are here today to talk about data from our campus climate survey on sexual misconduct, we must not lose sight of the human beings behind the data whose lives have been profoundly affected by sexual misconduct.
These students could be anyone’s daughters and sons, and we owe them our very best efforts to make our campus as safe as possible and provide them with the support they need to move forward.
Earlier this year, we vowed to undertake a thorough, transparent, and honest self-examination of sexual misconduct that affects students on our campus – and that’s what we’ve done and will discuss with you today.
We surveyed a representative sample of students on our Ann Arbor campus about their experiences with sexual misconduct.
Our goal with this survey was to gain a deep understanding about sexual misconduct and the circumstances surrounding incidents on our campus so we can devise better ways to prevent misconduct and address its consequences.
Our experts in the field have long assumed our numbers would be little different than those of other studies, and that is indeed the case. We know existing research provides evidence that women on college campuses are at less risk of assault than women of the same age who are not in college.
Whatever our survey tells us about the number of sexual misconduct cases on our campus, it is too many.
Our findings give us a highly detailed look into a major challenge facing society, as we work to promote the safety and well-being of the rising generation on college campuses and off.
To best address the problem of sexual assault, we need this type of rigorous scientific data. We asked highly specific questions that were designed by national experts.
Some of the questions were very explicit.
Information this thorough and with this level of detail had never been gathered before at U-M. We are now armed with new insights into the problem. The data we collected will help guide our work so that it is as effective as possible.
That work will focus on:
- Improving our education and prevention efforts.
- Providing better support for survivors and others who are affected.
- Modifying how we investigate and adjudicate accusations of sexual assault in a fair and timely fashion.
- And creating a safer, more respectful and more caring community overall.
Our work with these data has already begun.
For example, the team at our Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, led by Holly Rider-Milkovich, is using the data to enhance and better target its programs working closely with other offices within our Division of Student Life.
We have consulted with subject-matter experts on our faculty in the interpretation of these findings, and will continue to do so as we analyze them further and work to apply lessons learned.
We intend to discuss the findings more broadly on campus this fall with our students, faculty, and staff. Their input will be critical as we further develop or improve programs to address sexual misconduct.
I would also note that this was a baseline survey. We expect to repeat this survey so we can assess the effectiveness of our interventions and look for improvement over time.
We made a commitment very early in this process, even before the survey was sent out, to make our aggregated data available publicly.
There is a surprising lack of data about the specific types of and circumstances related to sexual misconduct on college campuses. This has hampered our collective success across the country in developing strategies to reduce campus sexual misconduct and support survivors. It is our hope that the results of our research can help others as well.
I want to thank all of the students who participated in this survey, as well as the faculty and staff who helped us with its design, administration, and analysis.
The university is also participating in a second survey on sexual misconduct that is being administered at many different universities by the Association of American Universities.
Those results will be available in the fall, and we’ll use them for comparison and further analysis. In the meantime, we are taking a number of immediate actions.
We are adding staff to help us develop and deliver the best possible education and prevention programs, to speed up sexual misconduct investigations, and to help counsel and support survivors.
We know we need to work harder to arrive at speedier resolution of reports of misconduct. But these cases are often complicated and we want to be sure that our process is both fair and thorough.
We also are moving ahead with a review of our sexual misconduct policy and procedures, with the goal of making the policy easier to understand and the procedures clearer and more efficient for all involved.
All of us have much work ahead to ensure that a Michigan college experience is everything our students want it to be and deserve.
We’ve taken an important step today.
U-M survey on campus climate regarding sexual misconduct
Jan. 16, 2015
This week the university launched a survey of students on the Ann Arbor campus to gauge the campus climate regarding sexual misconduct among students. A random sample of 3,000 students is being invited to complete the online survey. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the survey.
Q.What is the U-M campus climate survey on sexual misconduct?
A. A set of questions asked of 3,000 randomly selected Ann Arbor campus undergraduate, graduate and professional school students to assess both sexual misconduct occurring within the campus community and perceptions of the campus climate, including leadership, policies and resources.
Q. Who is administering and analyzing the results of the survey?
A. The Survey Sciences Group, an Ann Arbor-based firm, is administering the survey. The university’s Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research will summarize and analyze the data in conjunction with representatives from the Office of the General Counsel and the Division of Student Life.
Q. What does the survey cover?
A. The survey asks about knowledge and perceptions of the university’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and the campus process to address complaints of sexual misconduct; education and prevention relating to sexual misconduct and campus resources; and nonconsensual sexual experiences.
Q. Why are you asking about these topics?
A. The university is committed to providing the safest possible environment for all students. Learning about the experiences of students and the degree to which students feel safe and respected will help the university better understand how to better prevent sexual misconduct and assist survivors.
Q. What kind of language will be used in this survey and why?
A. Some of the questions in the survey use explicit language, including anatomical names of body parts and specific behaviors, to ask about sexual situations. This survey also asks about sexual misconduct including sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence, which may be upsetting. This approach to questions is consistent with national surveys on this topic and is designed to get the best possible data. Participants may skip any question that they do not want to answer, or stop participation at any time.
Q. Are answers to the survey confidential?
A. Yes. Responses are strictly confidential and will not be part of any academic, medical or disciplinary record. In fact, the data U-M receives from Survey Sciences Group will not have any information identifying individual student respondents.
Q. Why is it important that everyone selected for this survey participate in completing answers to the questions?
A. The 3,000 students were scientifically selected to represent the entire student body of the Ann Arbor campus.When an individual decides not to participate, it means that all students similar to that person are not included in the study. So when some people decide not to participate, it means the views and experiences of many people similar to them are not represented in the study.
Q.Will the results of the survey be made public?
A. Yes. The university will share the findings from the survey publicly, but no information identifying student respondents will be shared. The data U-M receives from Survey Sciences Group will not have any information identifying individual student respondents.
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.