University releases campus climate survey results
Margaret Hynds | Monday, April 18, 2016
The University released the results from the 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Monday in an email to the student body, shedding light on the status of student perception and understanding of sexual violence on campus and related University policy.
The email, sent from University President Fr. John Jenkins, included a 28-page survey report as well as the Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention’s (CSAP) recommendations moving forward and a one-page results overview.
The questionnaire, conducted last January and February, asked questions about sexual assault and the campus atmosphere as it pertains to sexual assault, harassment and misconduct. Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding said this was the second administration of the Campus Climate Survey — the first occurred in the fall of 2012.
“We do a survey every other year, and we do focus groups in the intervening years to be able to learn more information in conversations with students to compliment this overall assessment that we have of the entire student body,” she said.
According to the report, the survey, which was administered to all enrolled Notre Dame undergraduate and graduate students, had a completion rate of 38 percent — 33 percent among male students and 43 percent among female students.
Deputy Title IX coordinator Heather Ryan said the response rate was sufficient to draw conclusions about the campus as a whole, but she hoped to increase the number of responses for the next administration of the survey.
“I think we are comfortable in that number in using the results to really evaluate our programming and our efforts,” Ryan said. “I do think, as an assessment subcommittee, we would like to get better results and response rates.”
Jenkins said Friday the results reflected both encouraging changes in student perceptions and attitudes since 2012, but also unsettling numbers in terms of the current situation.
“I didn’t find anything in there that jumped out or was terribly surprising,” he said. “There’s sobering news, and some good news. It seems that we’re making progress in some areas, but in others we need to do more work.”
Among the more sobering numbers found in the report, six percent of female respondents and two percent of male respondents reported experiencing non-consensual intercourse (defined as “any sexual intercourse without your consent; it includes oral, anal or vaginal penetration, to any degree with any object”) while a student at Notre Dame.
Additionally, 16 percent of survey respondents — 25 percent of female respondents and six percent of male respondents — reported experiencing non-consensual sexual intercourse or other forms of non-consensual sexual contact while enrolled at Notre Dame.
Hoffmann Harding said these numbers reflect a national trend, but also give the administration a better idea of how many students chose to not report sexual misconduct or assault to the University.
“We’re not unlike any other institution in the country in this issue nationally,” she said. “There’s under-reporting of the numbers. I’m troubled in two ways — one is the reports aren’t coming to us. Most importantly, so we can offer support, help and response. But secondly, that they’re happening at all, and that they’re happening to that degree.”
The “Perceived Barriers Preventing Victims from Reporting” section of the report compiles the questions that asked students what would make them less likely to report sexual harassment, misconduct or assault. The strongest perceived barriers were a reluctance to discuss details of the incident (64 percent), fear for one’s personal reputation (61 percent) and “afraid to get in trouble for other violations of University policies” (56 percent).
Jenkins said the latter barrier, which pertained mostly to parietals and underage drinking violations, reflected a misunderstanding of University policy.
“There’s some reluctance to reporting because people feel they’re going to be accused of a parietals violation or some other thing, and that’s not true,” he said. “We won’t do that, because we think sexual assault is so serious.”
The survey also looked at barriers to reporting for third parties or witnesses. While the strongest listed barrier to reporting was “respecting the wishes of the victim who would rather not report it,” with 72 percent of respondents listing it as a serious barrier, 59 percent of respondents also listed “would rather stay out of it” as a serious barrier.
“That was one of the more discouraging results in the survey for me,” Hoffmann Harding said. “In a community where we talk about being a family, and we specifically educate on being our brother and sister’s keepers, I think we’re all called and we’re all obligated to really help our fellow students in this situation here.
“ … I don’t want that to be a barrier,” she said. “I’m confused and discouraged as to why it is, and it’s a conversation that I hope the release of this information will help us really have on campus.”
In addition to assessing student attitudes and personal experiences, the questionnaire also provides a general assessment of student knowledge of University policy as it relates to sexual misconduct, harassment and assault.
In comparison to 2012, knowledge and understanding of consent — and who has the capacity to give it — has generally improved. The 2015 survey reported 94 percent of students said students in a current or previous dating or sexual relationship could not assume consent, compared to 84 percent in 2012. Additionally, 93 percent of 2015 respondents said a person “incapacitated by alcohol or other substances” was considered unable to give consent, compared to 88 percent of 2012 respondents.
However, the responses to the following question left many administrators perplexed: “Does a person’s level of intoxication change their responsibility to obtain consent to sexual activity?”
Thirty percent of the 2015 respondents said yes. University policy stipulates that a person’s level of intoxication does not lessen their burden to obtain consent for sexual activity.
Jenkins cited the statistic and its relevant policies as an area in which the University needs to focus education.
“The idea that intoxication diminishes one’s responsibility — we have to be clear that’s not true,” he said. “It’s not true, and it’s not going to be treated that way.”
Hoffmann Harding said the responses to that question would shape how the University trains students in the immediate future.
“It’s safe to say, we will incorporate that particular piece of information into every mandatory training that we have for students, now that we’ve learned that that’s a real point of difference in terms of policy awareness among the students,” she said.
In conjunction with the release of the survey results, Jenkins, Hoffmann Harding, Ryan and a number of other University administrators will participate in a town hall meeting Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in DeBartolo 102.
Jenkins said he hoped the town hall would continue the conversation about the survey results, and offer an opportunity to address students’ questions about the survey.
“This has to be a common effort, and, if I have anything to say, it’s to urge everyone to be aware and to do what they can to eliminate sexual assault from this community,” he said. “It is so profoundly at odds with who we are and what we stand for.”
Editor’s note: News Editor Katie Galioto and Managing Editor Kayla Mullen contributed to this story.