Schlissel announces student survey on sexual assault

By Allana Akhtar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 12, 2015

University President Mark Schlissel announced early Monday morning the University’s plans to conduct a student survey gauging the climate surrounding sexual misconduct on campus.

In an e-mail distributed to the student body, Schlissel said 3,000 randomly selected students will receive the roughly 15-minute long survey asking about their knowledge, perceptions and opinions of the University’s resources, policies and culture related to sexual misconduct.

“Learning about the experiences of students and the degree to which students feel safe and respected will help us better understand how we can more effectively address and prevent sexual misconduct,” Schlissel wrote.

Though the survey data will be made public, student identities will remain confidential. The University will offer participating students the choice of either personal payment or a donation to United Way, a support group that promotes education, financial stability and good health for Washtenaw County citizens, as compensation for completing the survey.

The University has hired Ann Arbor firm Survey Sciences Group to conduct the survey.

University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the University has worked on the survey for some time based on a recommendation from a White House task force designed to combat sexual misconduct on college campuses nationwide.

“We hope the survey will give us an initial information on what students understand about the policy, what services are available, perhaps give us better data on the incidence of sexual misconduct,” he said. “All of that would be the kinds of additional feedback that’s unique to our campus and would help inform any further changes in additional resources.”

Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, said several other universities have conducted similar surveys in response to the task force’s recommendations.

“The campus climate survey is an effective way to gather campus specific data about a variety of specific issues and once we have that campus specific data, we would be able to use that to inform a variety of different programs, interventions, and opportunities on campus that will reduce sexual violence on campus,” she said.

Fitzgerald said he expects an analysis of survey results be released this summer.

The University will also participate in another student-wide survey on sexual misconduct administered by the Association of American Universities, a non-profit organization comprised of 62 research universities, according to a news release.

In November, the University released its first report soley focused on sexual misconduct. The report listed the University’s response to 129 reported instances of assault. The allegations increased by 46 reports in 2014 compared to 2013.

Following the release of the report, Schlissel said campus climate surrounding sexual misconduct is a top priority as administrators are working on ways to study and reduce the number of reported and occurrences of sexual misconduct.

“This is an issue we’re going to have to keep working on until the number is zero,” Schlissel said in an interview with The Michigan Daily in December.

Many students have voiced their concerns on how the University handles sexual misconduct on campus last semester.

Survivors and allies of sexual assault and misconduct protested across the University in October in part of a national “Carry That Weight” campaign. The organizers also announced a list of seven demands for University officials to address sexual assault on campus.

Though the organizers did not call for a survey as part of their list of demands, they did ask the University to listen to input from students, survivors and experts.

Rider-Milkovich said the University considers student input when discussing sexual misconduct prevention.

She added that many of the demands outlined by survivors and allies were already practiced by the University in some form, signaling a need to improve awareness of the University’s resources.

“The University takes the voices of survivors seriously and values the input of survivors,” she said.

In the fall, the Central Student Government joined campuses nationwide to participate in President Barack Obama’s “It’s On Us” campaign to draw attention to sexual assault prevention.

“This survey is a great way to reach a wide array of students and gather their opinions on the climate and what can be done to improve this campus,” CSG President Bobby Dishell, a Public Policy junior, said in an e-mail to the Daily. “This survey provides an avenue for a full representation of students to have a voice in this ongoing conversation on sexual misconduct.”

In Septmeber, the Office of Student Conflict Resolution also hired a sexual misconduct program manager to further address the issue.

This story has been updated to include comments from Holly Ryder-Milkovich, SAPAC director, and CSG President Bobby Dishell.