EDITORIAL: Evaluate University Campus Climate Survey
The first results of the Brandeis Climate Survey on sexual misconduct were released last week. The findings are based on the responses of over 1,500 graduate and undergraduate students and provide insight into the scope of sexual misconduct among members of the community, as well as identify areas for the community’s concern and improvement.
And indeed, many of the survey’s conclusions are more than unsettling. It’s striking how few students are aware of on-campus resources: 38.2 percent of undergraduate students and 46.4 percent of graduate students disagree or strongly disagree with the statement, “If a friend or I were sexually assaulted, I know where to go to make a report of sexual assault.” Additionally, the results revealed a shockingly low reporting rate for incidences of sexual assault: only 3.7 percent.
While this board is pleased with the University’s initiative in completing the in-depth climate report, this data should be supplemented with the publicized release of University statistics about how many total cases the University has investigated, and how many of those led to convictions.
A clear need exists for the University to release these figures. The University cannot expect students to confidently rely on the system to handle their case fairly if they do not substantiate that system with evidence of its worth. At last week’s town hall, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel identified the number of convicted students removed from campus due to sexual misconduct only when directly asked, and required an additional clarifying question to admit some of these removals were temporary. While it’s acceptable that this information was offered up verbally in a public forum, we’d like to see the University publish such information alongside the total number of cases brought before the University formally. This is necessary to put the information about conviction rates in proper context and help students fully understand the system. Transparency is the key to building confidence.
Sexual misconduct on college campuses is a vast issue, and in terms of offering up concrete solutions based on the survey data, this board cannot pretend to have all the answers. Yet despite the complexities of this problem, certain areas of weakness reflected in the survey could be addressed by the University in some form through new, common-sense avenues.
This board proposes that the University increases the consistency of boards in campus dorms displaying which hotline phone numbers to call for emergency assistance or to report an incidence of sexual misconduct. While this information is available to first-years through their Community Advisors and is posted in some residence halls, the effort seems to be driven by individual discretion rather than administrative mandate. Postings across the board that clearly outline the appropriate numbers would be a straightforward, easy-to-implement avenue for addressing the low awareness of campus resources. While there is no way to know if this will directly increase the reporting rate, it can do nothing but increase the number of students who at least know where to call.
Speakers at the Town Hall emphasized the role CAs play in offering these resources. Administrators spoke of CA events as the primary means of informing students about campus resources, but this board questions whether CAs should be considered the main medium between students and the resources they need. Not everyone is comfortable going to their CAs for help, and many who opt out of hall events barely know their CAs, much less feel comfortable enough with them to divulge sensitive, personal information.
The survey is a huge step forward in an ongoing community effort to fight sexual misconduct. This board only hopes that community data will be substantiated in future installments of University statistics, and that at the very least the survey leads to some new approaches to a dire issue.