Climate survey gathers data surrounding sexual assault

Courtesy of Meredith Smith

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Tulane is calling on student voices to help combat sexual assault and harassment on campus through a campus climate survey sent to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students on Sunday. Students can take the survey, which takes about 25 minutes to complete, through Feb. 19.

The Tulane University Sexual Misconduct Survey Working Group designed this survey to record data regarding student experiences involving sexual violence and harassment. It will gauge rates of these incidents, effectiveness and awareness of victim services, attitudes and beliefs around these issues and information about bystander behaviors.

The survey is designed to gather data from all students, not just those who have had experiences with sexual assault.

Junior Hannah Novak, Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education program manager, said that taking the survey is crucial for creating real change on campus. She said it is especially important because the administration needs data to create more effective resources for survivors and education for all students. 

“They’re giving you a forum for change, a place to be heard, and we need to take that and run with it,” Novak said. “Make this the campus that you want to see, the place where you can feel safe and call home.”

This survey is Tulane’s first Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey, following last year’s pilot survey. The pilot survey served to inform the administration about how to design this year’s survey.

The survey design is called ARC3, and according to Gretchen Clum, associate professor and lead researcher on this project, this design is the most comprehensive and scientifically supported instrument for assessment. It utilizes behavior-based questions to acquire data.

“Behaviorally specific questions are more effective because they do not require that an individual label an experience as ‘sexual harassment’ or ‘sexual assault,’ which some people may feel are terms that do not fit their experience,” Clum said. “Behavioral questions can also provide more detail on the way in which the experience happened, for example, if coercion was involved, or use of substances.”

The survey also asks behavior-based questions about the perpetration of sexual assault. It is not only directed at students who have experienced sexual assault but also students who may have committed these acts and students who may have been bystanders in an incident of sexual violence.

“It’s completely anonymous and all we’re trying to do is make the best community possible, and that even if you’ve made choices in the past that you regret, the information you give can help us help students make better choices in the future,” Tulane Title IX Coordinator Meredith Smith said. “So that’s our hope that everyone will answer and answer honestly.”

The data will be analyzed over the summer by Clum and graduate assistants, and the results will be released at the “Shifting the Paradigm” event in Fall 2017. 

According to Smith, a participation rate of 30 percent or higher is considered enough for data to be useful and valid. She said it is important for as many students as possible to participate, however, so that smaller communities on campus are represented rather than just majority groups.

“You need to think not just about the majority but the fact that we’ve got smaller communities, we want to make sure are represented: students of color, students who identify as LGBTQIA+,” Smith said. “So we need to make sure we’re getting a critical mass to have all of our different populations represented.”

The ARC3 survey has been used at other universities including the University of Oregon, Pennsylvania State University, Bucknell College, Georgia State University and Ohio University.

Among schools who have taken similar campus climate surveys, Harvard University currently holds the highest student participation rate with 53 percent. Smith said she believes Tulane students can beat this goal.

A large-scale display will be present in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life to update participation rates. As of Wednesday, more than 1,760 students have taken the survey.

To encourage high rates of student participation, students who complete the survey can choose from a variety of incentives. Students can opt to accept a $5 Amazon gift card or enter a lottery for other prizes.

These prizes include a year of free textbooks, a puppy and pizza party, a “President for a Day” experience and free parking passes, among others.

Junior Bobby Mannis said he believes Tulane needs to improve how it handles sexual violence work by calling student communities in to help with the fight.

“We need to do more than entice Greek life with chapter prizes,” Mannis said. “The administration and student organizations must work with established student communities to create unique, inclusive programming for prevention, survivor support, survey advertising and resource awareness.”

Josh Rosenbaum, Undergraduate Student Government senator and SAPHE member, said he encourages all students to participate in this survey with honesty, integrity and a passion for making Tulane the best place it can be. 

“We all have a part to play in ending rape culture and supporting survivors, and one way to do that is by reporting our experiences through this survey,” Rosenbaum said. “This survey will display quantitatively what we have been saying all along: sexual violence is an epidemic on our campus.”

More information about the survey can be found at climatesurvey.tulane.edu.