Climate survey responses released

Results show increases in sexual misconduct reporting, response knowledge

Newswire photo by Ellen Siefke | Xavier recently released the results of climate surveys conducted by its own personnel as well as the Ohio Department of Higher Education. The surveys asked questions about sexual misconduct and responses to it.

Xavier released the results of its own spring 2018 campus climate survey in addition to one conducted by the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) last week. The findings point to increases in reporting incidents of sexual misconduct as well as the Xavier community’s knowledge of how to respond to them.

Xavier’s Climate Survey

The Campus Climate Survey for Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence was conducted last April and received an overall response rate of 18.0 percent from students and employees. Title IX Coordinator Kate Lawson said this mirrors the 2017 survey, though the response rate from employees did increase from 26 percent to 42 percent.

“We’re constantly thinking of ways to try to up the response rate, (like) having student leaders be the engagers, faculty doing it in class, department chairs doing it in their space,” Lawson said. “We had a lot of success around boosting the employee response rate, which matters to students, too, because I think it reflects their knowledge.”

The survey asked questions pertaining to “unwanted conduct of sexual nature or gender-based nature,” meaning it covered not only rape but also sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence.

Overall, Lawson said the general trend was an increase in reporting. For example, the number of students who reported experiencing unwanted sexual conduct in a residence hall increased by 14 percent, from 45 percent in 2017 to 59 percent in 2018. Her office specifically saw a 20 percent increase in reports of sex discrimination, which she said is a positive sign.

“That’s exactly what we want,” Lawson said, “because it doesn’t mean it’s happening more, it means people are more comfortable coming forward. People are identifying what happened to them as out of line with Xavier’s norms.”

Another statistic Lawson found noteworthy was that 46 percent of the students who said they had experienced rape reported that only alcohol (as opposed to both drugs and alcohol) was involved. That’s a 14-percent decrease from last year and, according to Lawson, a result of an increase in programs and education about the intersection of alcohol and sexual violence.

However, there was a 15 percent increase in students who reported that both drugs and alcohol were involved when they were raped. Lawson said this shows a need to focus more on the intersection of drugs and alcohol.

The most significant finding for Lawson was that 60 percent of students said they told a friend after experiencing unwanted conduct, compared to 24 percent in 2017. There was also a 42 percent increase in students who contacted the Title IX Office after experiencing unwanted conduct, from 24 percent in 2017 to 66 percent in 2018.

“That’s an incredible uptick,” Lawson said. “…That’s what’s changing here, I think. The student body and staff have so significantly shifted their knowledge base not around the intricacies of Title IX but around what these issues are and who to connect the students to so they can make the decisions that are right for them.”

Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Survey

The second part of the release concerned the ODHE’s survey for students. The survey is part of a statewide initiative called Changing Campus Culture, which deals with sexual violence prevention and response on college campuses.

The survey asked students to rate their knowledge about where and how to report sexual misconduct as well as the university’s policies and procedures on sexual misconduct, among other topics. It also asked students about the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with statements about sexual misconduct.

These results were converted into points on a one to five scale and compared not only to Xavier’s responses from the 2016-17 school year but also to those from 38 other private schools that participated in the survey.

Overall, Lawson said the results mirrored previous years. Xavier did score higher than other private schools in terms of where to get help or where to report sexual misconduct, about three out of five. It scored about the same (three) in terms of knowledge of campus policies and procedures, an area Lawson would like to improve.

About 21 percent of students reported experiencing sexual misconduct while attending Xavier, compared to about 13 percent at other private universities.

“It again points to a student population that is reflecting our prevention education, willing to come to the survey, willing to share what their experience was,” Lawson said.

A final significant finding for Lawson was students’ opinions about sexual misconduct on campus. Forty-five percent of students said they were “actively involved in activities to address sexual misconduct on campus,” earning a score of 2.24, slightly above 2017’s 2.20. Lawson said this points to the need for an individual to lead prevention and education efforts, which will be the responsibility of the new Title IX Program Director.

The position, along with a fellowship dedicated to healthy sexual decision-making education and a pilot program for the theology department, was announced last week.

“We need to speak to the middle, people who haven’t had the opportunity to connect the dots between, let’s say, rape culture and what they’re interested in,” Lawson said. “…Like with any issue, it’s your personal connection to the issue. So I think one of our goals with this new position and the fellows is to increase opportunities for people to see themselves and their role in addressing these issues.”

By: Ellen Siefke | Editor-in-Chief