The new academic year has begun for many institutions, and with it comes the excitement of a new class of incoming students and the usual flurry of back to school activities on campus. Student activists have returned to campus with renewed calls for action regarding the issue of sexual violence on campus. For example, students at Penn recently printed hundreds of copies of an offensive and sexually suggestive e-mail targeting female students to participate in “Wild Wednesdays” events on campus. The activists printed posters of the e-mail with wording over it reading “This is what rape culture looks like. We are watching.”
In addition to engaging with student activists, one way that campuses are assessing the climate around sexual violence on their campuses is through the use of climate surveys. Although not federally mandated, the White House encourages the use of campus climate surveys in its Not Alone report issued in spring 2014. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), which is still pending in Congress, also includes a provision that requires campuses to implement campus climate surveys on sexual violence. Though some critics believe that no movement will happen on CASA before the November 8 presidential election, election, there is still momentum on the issue in Congress, with the House unanimously passing the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights on September 28.
Many campuses have already begun implementing campus climate surveys, but for those that are still considering the process, there are a variety of instruments available.
A recent study in the journal Violence Against Women by Wood, et al., titled “Climate Surveys: An Inventory of Understanding Sexual Assault and Other Crimes of Interpersonal Violence at Institutions of Higher Education,” provides an invaluable look at the existing tools available to campuses that are considering conducting campus climate surveys. The article examines 10 different sexual violence climate surveys, including an assessment of the cost and length of the various instruments, the average length of time that it takes users to complete each instrument, and the range of content and constructs measured. The article also contains side-by-side comparisons of several measures among existing national climate surveys that campuses are using, including the instrument developed by Rutgers in conjunction with the White House Task Force and the Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Consortium (ARC3).
NASPA is also working to provide institutions with resources related to campus climate surveys. NASPA recently partnered with the Office on Violence Against Women to host a live briefing titled “Lessons Learned and Findings from the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study.” The briefing focused on the ways that student survivors’ self-reported data about rape and sexual assault can help shape institutional policies and practices, as well as the challenges in getting representative samples of students when conducting such a survey. The free live briefing was recorded and available at the link above.
NASPA has also launched a Survey on Campus Climate Surveys to gather information on how institutions have implemented or are planning to implement campus climate surveys on their campuses. The questions address several factors, including understanding which employees are primarily responsible for designing and implementing the surveys on campus, the extent to which a team approach is used, ideal response rates for climate surveys, and how institutions are publicizing the results of their surveys. NASPA will analyze and publish a summary of findings this fall as a resource for campuses that are navigating the campus climate survey process. The survey, which takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, can be found at: https://naspa.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_2ir2QJQn22gIknP, and the deadline to complete the survey is October 17th.
Finally, for those professionals whose daily duties involve some aspect of preventing or responding to sexual violence on campus, the NASPA Sexual Violence Prevention and Response conference offers participants the opportunity for a deeper dive into discussions centered on evidence-based, promising practices on campus. The early registration deadline for the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response conference is November 4th and the link to register for the conference is here.
The conversation about campus sexual violence continues to capture national media attention. The legislative focus at both the federal and state level continues to have momentum as well, with eight states enacting new campus sexual violence legislation between January and September 2016. NASPA recognizes institutions’ need for assistance in effectively designing, implementing and assessing data from campus climate surveys, and intends to meet that need with the aforementioned professional development activities and additional programming in the year ahead. Campus climate surveys are one facet of the ever-evolving and complex issue of sexual violence on campus. With these efforts and more, NASPA strives to provide the field with up to date and practical information for student affairs professionals who work tirelessly to address sexual violence on campus.