On Monday, University President Peter Salovey announced the launch of a public survey of campus sexual climate for the Association of American Universities — the organization’s second nationwide survey on sexual misconduct at institutions of higher education.

The 2019 survey — which will gather data from students across 33 institutions of higher education — will shed “additional light upon [the University’s] ongoing challenges and [help the University] assess the impact of [its] collective efforts,” Salovey said. Per the University website, the survey will gather responses from Yale students for a month, or until March 4. The survey seeks to measure student perceptions of Yale’s sexual climate, including experiences of sexual misconduct, resources for support and reporting and bystander intervention, the website stated.

“I hope that the 2019 AAU Survey, like its predecessor, will provide important information about students’ experiences of sexual misconduct and their perceptions about Yale resources and programs to address and prevent sexual misconduct,” University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler said in a statement to the News. “This information is extremely valuable as we engage with the community to identify and put into action ways to eliminate sexual misconduct and cultivate a culture of respect and inclusion.”

After the survey is completed, an independent research firm called Westat will conduct initial data analysis and issue a report based on the aggregate data from all participating schools in fall 2019. While individual institutions can choose whether or not to issue their own campus-specific reports, the University will release its own as it did in 2015, the website stated. It also said that although the University will aim for transparency, the survey will be conducted anonymously and no identifying information will be shared in the public report.

The Association of American Universities could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Yale, along with 26 other universities, participated in the first iteration of the survey in 2015. The survey results, which Salovey called “extremely disturbing,” showed that Yale students experience sexual harassment and assault at a higher rate than the national average among universities.

The 2019 iteration of the AAU survey will be the first since the #MeToo movement led to a national reckoning with sexual misconduct. It also comes just months after the Department of Education proposed new Title IX regulations that will drastically change how the University adjudicates sexual misconduct cases. Spangler did not respond to questions about how the current landscape around sexual misconduct might affect the survey results.

According to Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd, Communication and Consent Educators and members of the Title IX Student Advisory Board have been strategizing for the past few months about ways to encourage students to respond to the survey. They will encourage participation by posting information about the survey on frequently used undergraduate communication channels, such as social media, Boyd explained.

Prior to the survey in 2015, five psychology professors from various institutions penned a letter to university presidents and institutional review boards across the country arguing that the survey violated the guidelines of the 1978 Belmont Report, which outlines ethical principles for conducting human research. In the Jan. 27, 2015 letter, the professors wrote that the survey’s design had “the potential to vastly underestimate the true scope of sexual victimization” on college campuses. In a statement published in February 2015, AAU President Hunter Rawlings contended that the draft of the survey the professors had seen was outdated and the criticisms were based on misinformation.

Belying the professors’ concerns, the survey demonstrated a high prevalence of sexual misconduct on Yale’s campus, a finding to which several University administrators responded with “dismay” and “distress.” In the survey, over half of the Yale respondents said they had faced some form of sexual harassment since arriving on campus, and 16.1 percent responded that they had experienced sexual assault.

Following the publication of survey results, Yale introduced a series of initiatives, including the creation of school-specific committees on sexual climate and the expansion of sexual climate training programs. The Office of Student Affairs and Communication and Consent Educators developed a training program for first years to discuss campus sexual norms and raise awareness about the resources that Yale offers to address misconduct. Boyd told the News in November that the office also increased collaboration with the cultural centers and the LGBTQ community in response to the 2015 results.

Salovey sits on the board of the AAU.

Serena Cho |