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Campus Climate Surveys: A tool for creating anti-racist policies and procedures
Posted by On Thursday, November 12, 2015

Articles in the Chronicle, Huffington Post, Washington Post, and many others have detailed racism at colleges and universities. Student Activism has put racial microaggressions, incidents of blatant racism, and institutionalized racism into the media and in many cases has already led to action by administration.

In 2013, the Black Student Union at the University of Michigan started the #BBUM, or Being Black at U of M, campaign to bring awareness to the experiences of students of color on campus. This campaign received national attention and coincided with a list of demands to administration for improving the campus climate for students of color, and specifically Black and African American students, on campus.

Similar events have taken place at the University of Missouri (Mizzou) and Yale and student solidarity seems to be spreading to campuses around the country. While the situations at Mizzou and Yale have played out differently, the student activists are responding to similar frustrations with ongoing racism that has been left unaddressed by the school. Students are getting fed up with their institutions claiming “diversity” and “inclusivity” when their lived experiences tell them otherwise. Students are getting fed up with leaders not taking racism on campus seriously. And students are getting fed up with acts of blatant racism receiving no repercussion.

What does campus racism have to do with the campus climate around sexual assault? A lot. Campus climate is holistic in that it defines how students experience their time at a school. However, it has many different facets. Lately, we have been focusing on campus climate and how it relates to sexual assault (including sexual violence, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and dating/relationship violence). The racial climate on campuses definitely plays into how students perceive the climate around sexual assault.

If a student does not feel included, safe, or welcomed on campus, if a student does not feel supported by administrators, if a student does not feel a sense of community, if a student does not see faces who look like them in positions that matter, if a student is struggling every day just to survive in a space that is stacked against them, what is to make them want to report? Or even if they want to, what is to make them feel safe reporting?

Similarly, if the perpetrator of an assault was a student of color, reporting can be an especially complicated decision. If reporting means giving another reason for people of color to look like criminals or perpetrators of violence, survivors might be hesitant to report due to the potential harm to their community – perhaps the only community they feel a part of on campus.

So what does all of this mean? Sexual assault education, response, and policies are not one-size-fits-all. A survivor-centered approach needs to take into consideration the unique experiences of each survivor, including how their culture, community, and identities intersect with that experience. The Department of Justice suggests that a “culturally relevant, survivor centered approach” needs to have the following components:

  • Is grounded in the experiences of all survivors on campus. This requires the campus to understand not only the dynamics of the crimes, but the nuances that each crime presents and how these crimes are experienced by diverse groups of survivors on campus.
  • Takes into account cultural contexts in order to better understand the survivor’s experience and how this may affect such actions like a survivor’s decision not to report or seek services.
  • Is flexible and adaptable to the needs of survivors so they are not re-traumatized by the campus’s efforts.
  • Prevents the creation of processes, protocols and systems that support institutional interests over survivor’s needs.

At the 2015 NASPA conference, a session titled “Considering Students of Color in Sexual Assault Prevention” by Luoluo Hong, Mark Houlemard, Ross Wantland, and Patricia Nguyen discussed using a social justice framework when thinking about sexual assault on college campuses. To do this, it is imperative that administrators recognize that racism and sexism are “interlocking systems of oppression” and doing anti-sexism work also means doing anti-racism work. One of my main takeaways from this session was when Hong suggested replacing the word “students” in your sexual assault policies with “students of color.” And then ask yourself: Does the policy still apply? Is it realistic and comprehensive? Are students of color actually considered in the voices of victims and perpetrators? Most importantly, how is your sexual assault prevention work anti-racist?

How does this relate to Climate Surveys? As we previously wrote, Sexual Assault Campus Climate Surveys are being considered a “best practice response to campus sexual assault.” One of the most beneficial usages for climate survey data is being able to sort and filter it based on demographics like class standing, gender, sexual orientation, and race. When you administer your campus climate survey, pay special attention to the perceptions and experiences of students of color. Compare the experiences of white students and students of color for questions about reporting sexual assaults, perceptions of campus safety, and bystander behaviors. Reporting numbers have been low across campuses (2-5%) when participants were asked if they reported the assault through official school systems. This data needs to be cross-tabulated with different demographics to isolate data about how race impacts perceptions and experiences with sexual assault. Climate surveys are a great tool to gauge racial disparities on your campus and can lead to creating policies and procedures that are anti-racist.

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Campus Climate Surveys: Data Collection as Prevention & Risk-Reduction
Posted by On Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sexual Assault Campus Climate Surveys are a hot topic for student affairs administrators around the country. Some schools have administered internal climate surveys, some have utilized prepared climate surveys from the AAU or HEDS, and others are in the process of developing and implementing climate surveys. While climate surveys are not yet federally required (although some states are now mandating them and the OCR has required them of schools under investigation), the government has urged schools to adequately assess the climate on their campuses through climate surveys.

At CampusClarity, we do more than just help reach Title IX & Campus SaVE compliance. We strive to eliminate sexual and dating violence on college campuses and beyond. Because climate surveys are considered a best practice for gauging campus climate, we have developed a tool that will help campus administrators tackle the huge task of building climate surveys.

Over the past few months, our product development team has dedicated countless hours to learning from others, developing best practices, and engineering a platform that will allow administrators to simply and swiftly build campus climate surveys. Our platform has many unique features made specifically for campus climate surveys, such as built in content/trigger warnings, a landing page for IRB approval, and default settings that will help increase completion rates. Perhaps most useful is that all data collected will go into the same LMS with data from Think About It and our other courses. Data can be cross tabulated by demographic, and will be delivered with sample size protection as to not out students with underrepresented identities.

We partnered with Callisto, a sexual assault reporting tool for colleges, to host a webinar revealing our climate survey platform. Callisto allows schools to collect data all year round about incidence and prevalence of sexual assault. When partnered with climate surveys, Callisto can provide administrators the information they need to provide prevention, risk reduction, and awareness education on campus. View the below webinar to learn more about climate survey best practices, Callisto, and CampusClarity’s new product.

Climate Survey Webinar

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Are Climate Surveys Part of Title IX/Clery Act Compliance?
Posted by On Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On April 29, 2014, the White House Task Force issued its “Not Alone” report with an overview of how to plan and conduct a campus sexual assault climate survey, as well as a sample survey based on best practices. The report urges “schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting the survey next year.”

In a May 2015 article, “Climate Surveys Are Coming,” readers were told, “The task force’s suggestion that schools conduct climate surveys is one of several signals that surveys soon will be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.”

On the same day that the White House report came out, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued the guidance document, “Questions & Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence,” which listed conducting climate surveys as one of the ways to “limit the effects of the alleged sexual violence and prevent its recurrence,” if a victim requests confidentiality and does not want formal action taken against the alleged perpetrator.

Other signals that campus climate surveys soon may be mandated include OCR agreements resulting from Title IX investigations and compliance reviews that require schools to conduct surveys, including: Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Montana, Southern Methodist University, Lehigh University, Harvard Law School, Lyon College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Dayton, Cedarville University, Glenville State College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, State University of New York, and Rockford University.

Instead of waiting for federal laws or Title IX guidance that mandate climate surveys, some states have already enacted laws requiring them:

  • Maryland House Bill 571 requires institutions of higher education to “DEVELOP AN APPROPRIATE SEXUAL ASSAULT CAMPUS CLIMATE SURVEY, USING NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED BEST PRACTICES FOR RESEARCH AND CLIMATE SURVEYS,” and submit to the Maryland Higher Education Commission on or before June 1, 2016 (and every two years thereafter), a report aggregating the data collected by the survey, including:
        1. Types of misconduct
        2. Outcome of each complaint
        3. Disciplinary actions taken by institutions
        4. Accommodations made to students
        5. Number of reports involving alleged nonstudent perpetrators
  • The New YorkEnough is Enough” law signed on July 7, 2015, requires all New York colleges and universities to conduct campus climate surveys at least every other year. The survey requirement goes into effect on July 7, 2016.
  • The State of Washington passed a new law (SSB 5518.SL), requiring state universities, the regional universities, The Evergreen State College, the community colleges, and the technical colleges to conduct a campus climate survey and report their findings to the governor and legislature by December 31, 2016.
  • Louisiana passed a new law (SB 255) which provides, “When funding is made available, each public postsecondary education institution shall administer an annual, anonymous sexual assault climate survey to its students.”
  • In addition, the Massachusetts legislature is considering Bill S. 650, which would create a task force to develop a sexual assault climate survey to be administered by colleges and universities selected by the task force.

Meanwhile, Boston University launched a student survey in March 2015 (see FAQs about BU’s survey) and, while not required by law, the University of California conducted a campus climate survey on its campuses in Spring 2013 (see results and FAQs). Previously, we’ve reported on published data from other climate surveys, what experts say, and how to get started.

With Congress back in session, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act may have gained some momentum from the July 29th hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Testimony received at that hearing included strong support from the Association of American Universities for campus climate surveys, pointing out that it is important that schools directly or indirectly control survey administration so that it addresses the unique circumstances of individual campuses.

We will continue to watch this closely as the patchwork quilt of climate survey requirements continues to unfold. We will also be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, October 13th with Peter Novak from University of San Francisco and Jessica Ladd from Sexual Health Innovations about climate surveys and data.  Follow our twitter account @CampusClarity for the link to register as the date gets closer.

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Campus Climate Surveys: Expert Opinions
Posted by On Wednesday, August 12, 2015

There is limited research out there on how best to develop and implement Sexual Assault Campus Climate Surveys because they’re a relatively new trend. “Experts” on campus climate surveys are a wide range of folks with related expertise, whether it be in government, in sexual assault prevention work, or as student affairs administrators.

On July 29th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee heard testimony around reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would amend the broader Higher Education Act, which Congress is working to reauthorize. It would require schools to gauge how often sexual assaults occur on their campuses and offer confidential advisers for victims.  Below are a few statements detailing how the amendment would impact climate surveys as well as the opinions of some thought-leaders in the field.

Statement of Senator Dean Heller

“Sexual assault is a crime that more often than not goes unreported, which is one of the reasons why data provided by our nation’s institutions simply do not reflect the prevalence of this crime. In fact, there are many colleges and universities that have reported zero incidences of sexual offenses to the federal government. I strongly believe one of the most important provisions of our bill is the campus climate survey. This survey will improve access to accurate, campus-level data by allowing students to anonymously share their experiences related to sexual assault. Under our bill, schools will give their students an anonymous, online survey to gauge the scope of sexual assault on campus and the effectiveness of current institutional policies on this issue. The Department of Education will be responsible for developing this survey, as well as picking up its cost. Schools just need to ensure an adequate, random, and representative sample of students take the survey. The survey results will be reported to Congress and published on the Department of Education’s website. Because this survey will be standardized, the American public will be able to compare the campus climate of all schools. As a father of four children, I wish I had access to this kind of information when my kids were preparing to attend college. And, now as a grandfather of two, my hope is that when they grow up and go off to school, our nation’s campuses will be safer than ever before. The campus climate survey will be a useful, educational tool for both students and parents, as well as an invaluable resource for institutions to help create or enhance efforts to prevent sexual assault, assist survivors of this crime, and improve campus safety overall.”

Testimony of Dana Bolger, co-founder of Know Your IX

“To counteract the potential negative reputational consequences of encouraging survivors to report, Congress should mandate that schools conduct campus climate surveys and publish their results publicly. This step would provide invaluable information to students and their families – including prospective students – and would increase incentives for schools to appropriately address violence. Schools should also be required to publish aggregate statistics on how investigations are being handled, which would provide greater insight into whether or not disciplinary proceedings are being handled promptly and equitably. This will help ensure that students, parents, and policymakers can evaluate and compare how each school responds to complaints of gender violence in practice, not just on paper.”

Testimony of Janet Napolitano, President of University of California

“CASA requires that the Department of Education develop, design and administer a standardized, online, annual survey of students regarding their experiences with sexual violence and harassment every two years. Having just conducted the largest university system climate survey of its kind in the nation, I have significant concerns about the usefulness of a single survey developed for all institutions given the broad diversity in higher education institutions across the nation and the student populations they serve. UC surveyed not only students, but also faculty and staff about their experiences and perceptions of the campus or workplace climate. We now have a rich baseline of data that campuses are analyzing to identify key areas of focus. Institutions should be allowed to develop and use their own climate surveys, as long as they meet criteria and standards defined by the Department of Education and are developed in consultation with stakeholders. Further, I believe that it is inappropriate for the legislation to place the responsibility on the university for ensuring that an adequate, random, and representative sample size of students enrolled at the institution completes the survey. This requirement could compromise the perceived anonymity of the survey and would be especially challenging if the survey would be administered by the Department of Education and not the institutions.”

There are many mixed thoughts around the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act: Combating Campus Sexual Assault.  Much of this disagreement focuses around the inclusion of mandatory, government-created campus climate surveys.  In April of last year, the Huffington Post published an article detailing some of the differing views about this component of the legislation. (For more information on CASA read our past coverage.)

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Campus Climate Surveys: Published Data & Results
Posted by On Thursday, August 6, 2015

As the desire for Sexual Assault Climate Surveys builds momentum on college campuses, important information can be gathered from schools who have already implemented surveys. Our first post on climate surveys last week described the purpose of climate surveys and some initial resources to consider if you’re looking to implement a survey on your campus.

Barnard College (Barnard), University of Chicago (UChicago), University of Michigan (Michigan), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and University of Nevada-Reno (UNR) have all published results from campus climate surveys they’ve implemented on their campuses in the last few years. All of the schools except for Michigan sent out a survey to all students on their campus. and the response rates ranged from 28% to 35%.  Michigan sent out their survey to a random representative sample of 3,000 students and received a response rate of 67%. Each school had a higher response rate for self-identified females than males by 9-11%.

Below are a few summarized take-aways from the reports of these five schools.

  • Over 80% of women report hearing sexist jokes or remarks since being in college.
  • Of those who have been sexually assaulted, anywhere from 45-65% say that they told someone about the experience, however only 3-5% officially reported the assault.
  • Anywhere from 8-10% of women report experiencing non-consensual sexual penetration since being in college.
  • Over 60% of students report having a friend who has experienced sexual assault.

In April, the Association of American Universities partnered with Westat to develop a sexual assault climate survey for 28 (included Dartmouth, a non-AAU member) of its member universities to implement on their campuses. The same survey will be used for all 28 campuses, and the AAU has committed to publishing aggregate data across all survey users. A results comparison just from Barnard, UChicago, Michigan, MIT, and UNR shows that there will likely be similar outcomes across campuses, despite unique campus demographics. These consistencies lead to the conclusion that sexual assault on college campuses is an epidemic rather than many isolated incidents. Hopefully the new survey data will propel educators, policy-makers, parents, and other stakeholders into action to create societal change around the climate of sexual assault both on and off college campuses.

Our third post in the Campus Climate Surveys series will come out next week, detailing what research and experts are saying about the importance and potential impact of these surveys.

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Campus Climate Surveys: Getting Started
Posted by On Thursday, July 30, 2015

In April of 2014, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault published a report naming sexual assault-specific campus climate surveys as a “best practice response to campus sexual assault” and urging “schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting [a] survey next year.”  We have long known that sexual assaults are under reported, causing it to be impossible to get a realistic understanding of the climate through reports alone. Climate surveys provide students an opportunity to share their experiences, as well as their perceptions and knowledge, anonymously.  Climate surveys can help administrators better grasp the climate as well as develop needs-informed programming and education. Climate surveys provide an assessment tool for campuses to make positive impact and show that they are taking the issue of sexual assault seriously.

Although climate surveys are not yet mandated under Title IX or the Clery Act, many suggest that they soon will be part of a school’s compliance practices. Under New York’s new “Enough is Enough” law, colleges and universities will be required to assess their campus climate every other year. Other states might follow New York’s lead. At CampusClarity, we want to make sure that schools have everything they need to be in compliance while also doing the best to create a safe and inclusive campus for all students. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be writing a series of posts about Campus Climate Surveys.  This is the first installment.

While there has yet to be a lot of research done on the effectiveness of climate survey instruments, there are a few trailblazers creating and implementing tools deemed successful.  If your campus is looking to administer a survey, take a look at these resources that can help you get started.

Our post next week will detail what we’ve learned from schools like the University of Michigan and MIT, who have already administered and published results from sexual assault campus climate surveys.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 29, 2014

This week we have three stories covering the state, student, and corporate response to the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses.

State Legislatures Make Moves Against Sexual Assault

Yesterday we covered bills, laws, and developments at the federal level that you should be watching this Fall. However, proposed legislation at the federal level is only a piece of the full picture. Numerous state politicians are making moves to legislate how schools handle sexual violence on campus. This article provides an overview of some of those efforts, including a pair of New Jersey bills, one of which would allow the New Jersey Attorney General to fine schools up to $50,000 for failing to properly respond to sexual assault allegations, as well as California’s “Yes Means Yes” bill, which looks likely to be adopted in the near future. It also discusses a proposal to require campus climate surveys on sexual assault (much like those recommended by the White House Task Force) for all colleges and universities that failed in Maryland.

Student Activists (Continue) to Make Moves Against Sexual Assault

Even with high-powered corporations and powerful politicians rallying behind the cause of halting campus sexual assaults, much of the fight remains where it started, with student and alumni activists. This piece from NPR puts the spotlight on the continuing efforts of student activists, many of whom helped to kick start the national conversation on campus sexual assault still going on today. Activists like Dana Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky (founders of Know Your IX) have remained active after graduation, continuing to put pressure on legislators and education officials to properly address campus sexual violence. Current students are also becoming involved, such as Dartmouth undergrad Guillermo Rojas, who created an interactive map of on-campus crime.

Companies Make Moves Against Sexual Assault

The mounting pressure on schools to effectively address sexual assault has led to the rise of a variety of companies looking to help students protect themselves and schools comply with the law. These range from law firms and consulting firms offering guidance for Title IX coordinators to smartphone apps that make it easier for students to keep themselves safe and report assaults. This piece from Inside HigherEd notes the important role such products and services play in keeping students safe and staying compliant but also the danger that these advisors and companies may be more concerned with the reputations of the institutions that hired them than the well-being of those institutions’ students.

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