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UT System announces survey on sexual assault

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Kelsie Clifton, Features Writer and Columnist

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Chancellor William H. McRaven and Noël Busch-Armendariz responded to questions from the media today (in a conference call), March 24, regarding results of the student survey on sexual assault and misconduct. The Mesa Journal was not notified of the call until it was underway but this is what we learned:

The University of Texas System announced the results of a student survey on sexual assault and misconduct in an effort to help drive improvements to policies, programs, and services at UT institutions. This survey looks at the prevalence, perceptions, and experiences around a range of acts of sexual assault and misconduct that affect UT students.

Thirteen of the UT System’s 14 institutions participated in the survey in fall 2015 and early spring 2016. The Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) report is said to be the most in-depth survey of sexual assault and misconduct ever undertaken by an institution or system of higher education in the U.S. More than 28,000 students voluntarily and confidentially participated in an extensive online survey. Out of those, 26,373 were enrolled in academic institutions, and 1,853 were enrolled at health institutions.

According to the press release, the study is groundbreaking because it 1) uses both qualitative and quantitative research data to better understand, address and reduce acts of sexual harassment, stalking, dating/domestic abuse and violence and unwanted sexual contact on UT campuses; and 2) includes a longitudinal component in which researchers will repeatedly survey a select cohort of students to help understand their knowledge, attitudes, and experiences over the course of their college careers.

“If we want to understand and continuously improve our campus culture in order to facilitate student success, then we have to be open and honest about our students’ experiences beyond the classroom, no matter how uncomfortable it is,” McRaven said. “I’m pleased that UT institutions have numerous, effective programs to serve victims of sexual assault and misconduct, and with new knowledge, we can and must do better. The findings of this study shine a brighter light on sexual assault and misconduct that affects UT students and give us a deeper understanding of how to address these problems.”

Moving forward, additional research will be conducted.

“Interpersonal violence is not just something I read on the headlines or watch on the news. It is something I hear about from my classmates, my coworkers, and my best friends. It’s heartbreaking,” said Binna Kim, student body vice president at UT Austin. “As we move forward from the numbers we see today, we must continue to address the cultural implications to prevent instances like this from happening tomorrow. And most importantly, to the survivors of sexual assault on our campuses, I believe you and it’s not your fault.”

 

McRaven pointed out in the call that they wanted to make sure their students are successful when they get on campus which can be ensured through the right learning environment, also known as a safe environment. He believes that the conversation needs to be had with students, faculty, staff, and parents as difficult as it may be so that they can ensure that wherever a student attends at a University of Texas System institution that the students will be as safe as possible.

“We are working as hard as we possibly can to ensure that we have a safe environment for their children. This was the number one goal going into the study. To be able to focus our problems and address those problems,” he stated. “The statistics as frightening as they may be, they are statistics that have been consistent. If we don’t figure out exactly how to address these statistics in a meaningful manner than we are not going to be able to move the needle. “

Since McRaven became UT System chancellor in 2015, he has championed efforts to better understand the prevalence and institutional response to incidents of sexual assault and misconduct.

“We are taking a proactive approach because student success – which goes hand in hand with student safety, security, and well-being – is our number one priority.” McRaven said. “We will address sexual misconduct, and we will be a leader in creating solutions.”

There is a full report which includes an executive summary and an explanation of the study methodology is posted on the UT System’s CLASE website.

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UT System announces survey on sexual assault