U to create campus climate survey on sexual assault

The survey will poll students on multiple facets of sexual assault on campus.

by Blair Emerson

Amid an increasingly heated national discussion of sexual assaults on college campuses, the University of Minnesota plans to survey its students on the issue.

This spring, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault called for universities and colleges to create campus climate surveys. And Friday, University President Eric Kaler followed suit, saying the school will administer a survey to gauge students’ attitudes and perceptions toward sexual assault.

“I’d like to believe with great confidence that the Twin Cities is a national leader in this conversation,” Kaler said at Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.

He said details of the survey, including when it will be sent to students, have yet to be determined.

The University will work to get the survey out before 2016, when the government may begin requiring schools to administer them, said Katie Eichele, director of the Aurora Center.

The survey will be administered by EverFi, Eichele said, which is the same company the University works with to run other online modules.

She said the University will work out the details of the survey this summer and decide whether all students will receive it or just incoming ones.

The campus climate survey will focus on four areas, including experiences of victim-survivors and perpetrators, bystander behavior and attitudes toward sexual assault, Eichele said.

“Those four areas give a campus good clarity on where their students are at regarding issues of sexual assault,” she said.

The survey will go out to University campuses that have contracts with EverFi, which currently includes only the Duluth and Twin Cities campuses, Eichele said.

The annual survey from Boynton Health Service already asks students about sexual assault, Eichele said, but it doesn’t include questions about attitudes regarding sexual assault or bystander behavior.

About 15 percent of all University students, and more than one in five female students, reported experiencing a sexual assault within their lifetime, according to Boynton’s 2013 College Student Health Survey.

Only 2 percent of incapacitated sexual assault survivors and 13 percent of forcible rape survivors report the crime to campus or local law enforcement, according to the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault report.

“We need to start really getting into the gritty details because underreporting is such an issue,” said Joelle Stangler, a student representative to the regents who advocated for the survey. “We don’t want to push people to report … but we do need a little more information than what we have from the University.”

Student representatives said although they would like to see the survey extended to the other system campuses, they were happy to hear the University is taking steps to address campus sexual assault issues.

“There’s much work to be done in this area, and no institution seems to be doing it right, right now,” student representatives chair Meghan Mason said at the board meeting. “But the University of Minnesota is well positioned to fill this void should we choose to address this challenge.”