First of two climate surveys on sexual assault to begin

University of Oregon students will receive an invitation on April 17 inviting them to participate in an Association of American Universities sexual assault climate survey that is being conducted this spring on 28 college campuses with more than 800,000 students

The email from Vice President for Student Life Robin Homes will include individualized links inviting them to take the survey and emphasizing that their participation is confidential and voluntary.

Holmes said the goal of the survey is to learn about students’ experiences and perceptions about all forms of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence and stalking on campus. The survey will ask questions on a number of topics related to sexual misconduct and assault, including affirmative consent, support services and investigatory resources.

“This survey provides us an opportunity to learn more about what’s happening on our campus and the experiences of our students,” Holmes said. “It will ultimately help us improve how we address sexual assault.”

To increase the response rate, the university will be offering incentives to students who participate. A sample of 6,000 students will be offered a $5 gift card for completing the survey. The remaining students will be entered into a $500 lottery for visiting the survey website.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault has recommended that college campuses conduct climate surveys. The AAU survey will be administered by the research firm Westat, which developed the survey based on guidance by the White House task force.

Two UO advisory groups, the President’s Review Panel and the University Senate Task Force to Address Sexual Assault and Survivor Support, have also recommended the UO conduct a climate survey.

The AAU survey is one of two that will be conducted on the UO campus this spring. A second survey, created by UO psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd’s lab and other researchers, is expected to be conducted in late May or early June.

Earlier this year, interim President Scott Coltrane appointed a committee of faculty and staff to provide advice about conducting both the AAU and local climate surveys. The committee recommended doing both surveys and worked to coordinate how they will be conducted on campus. 

“We are fortunate to have the ability to learn from both the national and local research efforts,” Coltrane said. “The AAU survey will allow us to compare ourselves to other universities across the nation and the local data will give us additional insight, both into our campus culture and the methodology for gathering this information.”

The UO plans to release data from both surveys subject to confidentiality and legal protections. As part of the university’s comprehensive efforts to address sexual assault and understand the problem, the UO will conduct regular climate surveys in the future. The frequency of those surveys has not yet been determined.