As reports of sexual misconduct at Yale reach all-time highs, the University will participate in the Association of American Universities’ campus sexual climate survey in 2019, the organization’s second nationwide survey on sexual misconduct at institutions of higher education.
In 2015, Yale participated in the first iteration of the survey, which collected data from over 150,000 students at 27 universities. The 2019 survey, which will compile data from participating institutions across the United States, is intended to provide quantitative information about national trends and patterns within individual universities.
“In order to create and support programs that will help us eliminate sexual misconduct at Yale, we need information about students’ experiences and perspectives,” University President Peter Salovey wrote in a statement to the News. “The 2015 AAU Campus Sexual Climate Survey not only provided us with extremely important information about the prevalence of sexual misconduct at Yale but also stimulated the engagement of students, faculty, and staff across our campus in efforts to prevent it. The 2019 AAU Survey should provide us with similarly valuable information.”
The 2019 iteration will be the first since the #MeToo movement ushered in a national reckoning with sexual misconduct and since the Department of Education rolled back guidelines outlining lower evidentiary standards in cases of campus sexual misconduct. The results from the 2015 survey, which Salovey called “extremely disturbing,” showed that Yale students experience sexual harassment and assault at a rate higher than the national average.
It remains unclear exactly how the 2019 survey will differ from the 2015 one. According to Association of American Universities Communications Officer Melissa Luke, survey content is still under development. Luke said the association is working with Westat and a group of sexual assault researchers and student affairs professionals to evaluate and revise the 2015 survey instrument for the upcoming sequel.
According to Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd, Community Consent Educators and Title IX student advisory boards will work closely with the Title IX office to encourage students to participate in the survey.
In 2015, over half of the Yale respondents said they had faced some form of sexual harassment since arriving on campus, and 16.1 percent said they had experienced attempted or successful sexual assault. Multiple University administrators expressed “dismay” and “distress” at the prevalence of sexual misconduct, and the study also revealed that many students experienced barriers to reporting.
“The harmful campus climate around sexual assault was known among students, but the survey put the administration in touch with what was happening,” Christopher Vargas ’19, who participated in the survey in 2015, told the News. “It showed the detriments of being at a place like Yale where sexual misconduct complaints are not taken as seriously and put the University in action.”
In the aftermath of the survey’s publication, the University introduced a series of initiatives, including the creation of school-specific committees on sexual climate and the expansion of orientation and training programs. The Office of Student Affairs worked with Community Consent Educators to develop a weekendlong training program for first years to discuss campus sexual norms and raise awareness about campus resources. The office also ramped up its work with the four cultural centers and the LGTBQ community, according to Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd.
“Our participation in the 2015 AAU Campus Sexual Climate Survey not only provided us with important information about the overall prevalence of sexual misconduct at Yale but also stimulated high levels of community engagement — through broad and productive campus conversation, initiatives to better understand and reduce barriers to reporting, and actions to identify and address factors that influence campus culture,” University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler wrote in a statement to the News.
Still, reports of sexual misconduct have increased since the survey. Between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year, Yale received 154 complaints of sexual misconduct, a record high over the seven years since the University began publishing semiannual Title IX reports. While Spangler noted in the latest semiannual report’s introduction that the prevalence of sexual misconduct was concerning, she attributed the increase in the number of reported cases to the growing awareness of Yale’s resources for handling sexual misconduct.
Four students interviewed by the News, all of whom participated in the 2015 survey, agreed with Spangler that the University has successfully increased awareness about the resources available for victims of sexual misconduct. Workshops during Camp Yale, where first years discuss what constitutes sexual misconduct with CCEs, have been particularly effective, Sam Berry ’19 said.
However, all four students also said there is a lot more work to be done in terms of combating campus sexual misconduct.
Emma Garcia ’19 cited the recent allegations of sexual misconduct against members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity as evidence that the University has “long way to go.”
“The University has made a lot of effort to address sexual misconduct on campus since 2015, but there are obviously some messed up cases along the way,” Garcia said. “The upcoming survey in 2019 will let the University know if what they are doing is working at all.”
For his part, Berry said the University’s decision to allow Saifullah Khan, the Yale undergraduate who in March was found not guilty of sexual assault, to return to campus this fall while the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct investigates the incident may prevent victims from coming forward in the future.
University spokesman Tom Conroy has previously told the News that the University does not comment on specific committee cases.
Spangler said the 2019 survey will provide the University with up-to-date statistics, leaving the Yale community better positioned to combat sexual misconduct on campus.
The Association of American Universities is a binational organization of research universities in Canada and the U.S.
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