Brandeis Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct Results
Oct. 8, 2015
Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,
Today, Brandeis is releasing findings from the university’s survey on sexual misconduct on campus. This questionnaire was distributed electronically to all undergraduate and graduate students in April to provide us with information about community experiences, perceptions, knowledge and attitudes related to the problem of sexual assault and misconduct. The survey had a response rate of 34.3 percent, and a summary of the findings is available on Brandeis’ Office of the President website.
The results of the survey are deeply troubling. I take no comfort in the fact that our numbers are similar to recently reported data on sexual misconduct from other universities. It is clear from all of these surveys that far too many on our campuses experience harassment and sexual assault. While this is an issue facing our society as a whole, as institutions of higher education we have a special responsibility to set the standard for responding to and supporting those who have experienced sexual misconduct.
Here are some key findings from the Brandeis survey:
Students were asked about experience with a range of sexual misconduct behaviors. For undergraduates, 22 percent of women, 5 percent of men and 35 percent of students who identify as trans* or other indicated they had been sexually assaulted, including inappropriate sexual touching, fondling, grabbing and groping. Of undergraduate respondents, 6 percent of women and 1 percent of men said they had been raped (nonconsensual penetration). Overall, 1.3 percent of graduate student respondents indicated they had been sexually assaulted or raped.
In the survey, only 54.5 percent of undergraduate respondents who experienced any sort of sexual harassment or assault told someone about it, and only 3.7 percent of those respondents who experienced harassment or assault ever formally reported their experience to the university. Of additional concern is the even lower percentage of graduate student respondents who ever talked to anyone about an experience of sexual harassment or assault.
Student awareness of campus resources for support and reporting sexual harassment and assault is far too low. For example, only 38.2 percent of undergraduate respondents said they knew where to go to report a sexual assault.
Clearly, the picture drawn by these numbers is unacceptable.
Brandeis University was founded in 1948 to provide access to higher education to students who were being denied opportunity to achieve all they could achieve. Yet the experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault in a college setting is a denial of access to higher education. Students cannot freely engage with ideas and reach their fullest potential as scholars if they are worried about their personal safety, fearful of harassment, or convinced they have nowhere to go for advice, support and protection.
As painful as these data are, we are not afraid of the self-examination and action they demand. We need to know the full scope of students’ experiences with sexual misconduct in all its forms on our campus. In recent years, we have implemented education and prevention programs and have built resources that help students address and report unwanted behaviors and actions. Yet this survey shows us how much more we still need to do.
The report released today is just an initial review of the survey results; there are areas that clearly merit deeper exploration. I have asked our Task Force for Sexual Assault Response, Services and Prevention to examine in greater detail the consistently higher rates of sexual assault reported by the trans* or other community, the disturbingly low percentage of students who indicate they know where to get help, and other factors that appear to be correlated with sexual assault on our campus. Their analysis and recommendations will help inform our next steps at Brandeis.
We will use these data to improve the university’s current practices, and we plan to repeat the survey every two years. We need to track our progress to know what is working — and what is not. We will be honest in our reporting and will share findings with the entire community.
Data can be numbing, especially in this case, when the numbers are so disturbing and so similar from university to university. It would be easy to become disheartened and detached, and fail to act with purpose and resolve.
I will not let that happen at Brandeis.
Sexual misconduct is not just an unavoidable byproduct of the culture at large. We denounce the problem, but we must all work on addressing it together. Everyone on our campus must be able to study, work and live in an environment free from harassment and sexual assault.
Tonight, I will host a Town Hall at 7:00 p.m. in the Sherman Function Hall to talk about the survey, the problem of sexual misconduct at Brandeis, prevention strategies, campus resources and what we can all do to ensure that all students stay safe. I want to hear everything you have to say about the problem and any possible solutions.
All members of this community must and will stand together and fight for security, respect and trust.
Lisa M. Lynch