Nearly three months after first announcing that the University would take part in a national survey gauging campus climate around sexual assault, University President Mark Schlissel e-mailed the student body Tuesday to reemphasize a release date in early April.
The message also coincides with the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness month, which the University is marking with a new promotional video and a series of events throughout the month.
The survey — which will ask questions about individuals’ general knowledge of available resources, beliefs and any personal experience relating to sexual assault — will be distributed by a 27-school coalition within the Association of American Universities, an organization comprised of 62 top research universities in the United States and Canada. Additionally, Dartmouth College, a non-AAU institution, will send the survey to its student body.
The AAU study will serve as an additional metric to the University’s sexual assault survey, which was sent to 3,000 randomly-selected students earlier this year to measure campus climate. Those students will not receive an invitation to participate in the AAU study.
In a January interview with The Michigan Daily, Schlissel said the AAU survey will allow the University to compare its individual research with other, similar institutions.
“I figured that it would be valuable to have us be able to compare our data to that at a lot of different schools that are similar, big research universities, but different than us, to see how we’re doing,” he said.
After receiving complaints alleging misconduct on behalf of the University, the U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating the University’s handling of sexual assault cases on campus.
In his e-mail Tuesday, Schlissel added that the AAU data will allow the University to have the most thorough understanding of campus climate possible.
“Learning about the experiences of students will help us to better understand how we can more effectively address and prevent sexual misconduct,” he wrote. “Your participation in the survey will support our work to ensure a safe, healthy, and nondiscriminatory environment for our students and help keep all students safe.”
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the University released a new video Tuesday promoting the institution’s commitment to creating an environment free of sexual assault. The video features several University leaders, including Schlissel and Holly Ryder-Milkovich, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, discussing the challenges associated with address sexual assault.
“It’s one of the social problems that has been most difficult for any community to address,” she said. “And it is difficult for us to address here.”
Apart from listing several ongoing University initiatives to address the issue, a release accompanying the video notes the creation of a Special Victims Unit within the University Police specially trained to investigate “interpersonal violence crimes” such as sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Several events related to sexual assault prevention are slated for this month, including the Take Back the Night rally and march, scheduled for Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the Michigan Union.
Managing News Editor Sam Gringlas contributed reporting.