Crookston surveys on sexual assault

The survey will gauge students’ attitude toward sexual assault.

Kate Clark

The University of Minnesota’s Crookston campus is preparing to administer a survey this fall that would gauge students’ attitudes toward sexual assault.

University leaders, including Crookston Chancellor Fred Wood, presented plans for the campus survey at a Board of Regents committee meeting earlier this month. The survey is an attempt to pre-empt a potential federal mandate that would require a similar survey.

While Crookston’s administrators are ramping up efforts to prepare the survey, Twin Cities leaders are still exploring their options.

As part of the federal government’s Not Alone campaign launched this year, schools nationwide are working to combat campus sexual assault by creating regulations and improving policies. One potential federal mandate includes requiring schools to administer a campus climate survey.

While the federal government doesn’t require a survey yet, the Crookston campus is already working on its own survey that it will release in November, said Peter Phaiah, Crookston’s associate vice chancellor for student affairs.

Aurora Center director Katie Eichele previously told the Minnesota Daily that the University plans to administer the survey by 2016 using EverFi, a system that currently only contracts with the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses.

Although Crookston officials are preparing to put out a survey, Twin Cities campus leaders are still navigating the process, University spokesman Steve Henneberry said in a statement.

The Twin Cities campus “is working to determine the best way to move forward regarding a sexual assault climate survey,” he said in the statement.

Phaiah said he believes the federal government will soon require universities nationwide to administer a campus climate survey.

“We know we are going to do this,” he said. “We are just trying to get ahead of the game and so when it’s mandated, we are already ready.”

Crookston leaders want to broaden their survey to address students’ perceptions of other issues, like discrimination and safety, Phaiah said.

But the government mandate might not leave room for extra topics, he said.

“I think we’re going to wait and see how hard we are mandated by the federal government, and if they say we must do it a certain way,” Phaiah said.

Encouraging people to report

Reports of sexual assault are increasing over time on the Twin Cities’ campus, and University leaders say one goal of policies surrounding sexual assault is to make more students comfortable reporting the crime.

Less than 5 percent of college victims report their assault to the police, according to the Aurora Center.

And forcible sexual offense reports on and near the Twin Cities campus rose from 15 in 2008 to 22 reports in 2012, according to the University’s department of public safety.

People should feel more comfortable about reporting sexual assaults, Phaiah said.

“Sometimes we need to do a big push on promoting these educational awareness programs, and you’ll see the numbers go up,” he said. “That is what we want — more people to report — because I can’t help students unless it gets to the proper level and we take action.”

Eichele said the center has two programs that deal with consent and bystander behavior, in addition to offering other services.

“We are trying to create a different culture on campus where reporting is not stigmatized and the reporting process isn’t as traumatizing for victims and survivors,” Eichele said.