U one of relatively few schools to take part in AAU sexual assault survey

By Chris Chesky
Murphy News Service

The University of Minnesota will be just one of 28 schools to participate in the Association of American Universities’ (AAU) national sexual assault climate survey.

The AAU, made up of 62 schools, contracted with Westat in November 2014 to conduct and analyze the results of a survey that are meant to help the universities participating gain a better understanding of sexual assault on their own campuses and campuses around the nation, according to an AAU press release.

Only 27 AAU schools and one school from the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (Dartmouth College), whose non-AAU members were also invited to join the survey, chose to participate in the survey, as the non-participating schools are either conducting out their own surveys or participating in state university system surveys, according to an AAU press release.


Year On campus On campusResidential only Non-campus Public Total
2011    12         8    5   1 18
2012    14       13    5   3 22
2013     8        6    6   2 16
Most recent forcible sex offense statistics 2011-13 provided by University of Minnesota

The survey was developed based on an instrument developed by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The survey will document the frequency and characteristics of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment, and assess campus climate in a way that allows for comparability of data across institutions and that protects the confidentiality of respondents, according to an AAU press release.

“Our first priority, and theirs, is to ensure that students not only are safe but feel safe,” said AAU President Hunter Rawlings. “Universities will be using their data to inform their own policies and practices regarding sexual assault. We also hope the survey will help policymakers gain a better understanding of the problem, and that it will make a significant contribution to the growing body of research on sexual assault.”

The combined outreach of the survey is over 800,000 students within the 28 universities, even though only less than half of the schools in the AAU are participating, according to the AAU press release. The survey will be released to every student at the participating universities.
The University of Minnesota chose to participate in the survey in hope of determining “the prevalence of sexual misconduct, beliefs and perceptions related to various social situations and sexual misconduct, and knowledge and perceptions of resources available to address sexual misconduct,” said a statement provided by the University of Minnesota.

Leadership at the University of Minnesota made a collective decision to participate in the survey, even though it appears that the forcible sex offense numbers have dropped throughout the past few years. The number of forcible sex crimes on campus dropped from 14 in 2012 to eight in 2013, according to statistics from the Annual Safety and Security Report provided by the University of Minnesota.

“Our goal is to make the University of Minnesota as safe as possible and to insure we respond appropriately if and when misconduct does occur,” the statement said. “This survey will be an important tool for the University to assess current programs and to shape future efforts.
Courtney Blake, a student at the University of Minnesota who has been actively pursuing stricter sexual assault policies at the University of Minnesota, believes the survey is a sign that the university is attempting to improve their policies, but questions whether the students taking the survey will do so in a respectful matter.

“I honestly don’t know how helpful the survey would be,” Blake said. “I don’t think [college students] take a lot of things, including sexual assault, very seriously.”

The survey will be distributed among participating students in April.

Reporter Chris Chesky studies journalism at the University of Minnesota

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