Sexual Assault Climate Survey Results Raise Questions, Concerns for Students, Administrations

Mary Jane Coppock and Dominic Frempong • The Student Life

Administrators and students at the Claremont Colleges have begun discussing and responding to the results of last spring’s Sexual Assault and Campus Climate Survey, which were released Nov. 5 with approximately 31 percent of 7C community members responding to the survey.

“It is our hope that the results of the survey will shed light on questions we have around incidents on campus and will certainly guide next steps toward preventing sexual assault on campus,” Pomona College Title IX Coordinator Daren Mooko wrote in an email to TSL. “If survivors are experiencing barriers to reporting to the Title IX Coordinator and if they are, then it is critical to identify those barriers and work to remove them.”

7.2 percent of the respondents indicated they they were survivors of sexual assault and, at 12.3 percent, those identifying as “other than heterosexual” reported the highest rate of incidents of sexual assault.

“I found all the data points to be valuable, and one trend or theme that stood out for me was the response of LGBTQ students and how their experience differed significantly from heterosexual students with respect to Climate and reported incidents of sexual assault,” Mooko said.

Adriana di Bartolo, director of the Queer Resource Center (QRC), wrote in an email to TSL that she is “sure the number of sexual and gender minoritized students who have experienced assault is higher that what is reported.”

“We will be looking to other LGBTQ centers across the country to see how they have not only responded to and supported queer and trans survivors but what proactive programming and education they have implemented,” di Bartolo wrote. “I also hope to work very closely with the EmPower Center to bridge support.”

KC Chaviano PZ ’16, a member of Pitzer College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, highlighted the discrepancy between straight and queer students.

“As a queer student, it’s baffling and very disheartening. I hope the administration pays attention to that more,” they said.

According to Chaviano, another aspect of the survey relevant to the queer community is the survey’s distinctions of different kinds of assault, which they said could create a “dangerous hierarchy.” Currently, Pitzer has no precedent for judicial sanctions of students convicted of assaults other than penetrative non-consensual sex.

The survey results show that only a small fraction of incidents of assault are reported to Title IX coordinators. Harvey Mudd College had the highest percentage of such reports at 22.2 percent, while Pitzer has the lowest percentage at 2.4 percent, which Chaviano described as “very explicitly a response to not feeling comfortable reporting to the administration.”

Pitzer Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault are pushing for an expansion of the current sexual assault education program, from a presentation during orientation to “continued group discussions” in first-year seminars during the first few months of the school year.

“The would-be assailants especially need to have this,” Chaviano said. “We shouldn’t be only focused on teaching potential victims on how to protect themselves.”

On Nov. 12, Pitzer Interim President Thomas Poon announced that Pitzer would create a new full-time Title IX Coordinator/Chief Diversity Officer, in response to recent discussions at the 5Cs about inclusivity. According to Poon's email to the student body, Pitzer Title IX Coordinator and Director of Human Resources Marni Bobich will help in the search process for the new coordinator.

Pitzer Student Senate and Pitzer Advocates held a Town Hall meeting on the results of the climate survey on Nov. 12 where students generated ideas, including making Teal Dot training mandatory for students, taking a closer look at intersectionality with class and race, and revising the code of conduct or judicial council procedures.

In addtition, many of the 5Cs have sent out emails inviting students, faculty, and staff to participate in discussion sessions about the results. On Nov. 10, Scripps College hosted a discussion attended by over 30 people and led by Interim President Amy Marcus-Newhall, Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson, Title IX Coordinator Sally Steffen and Director of Assessment and Institutional Research Junelyn Peeples.

“This should not be the end of the discussion. This should be the continuation of the discussion,” Marcus-Newhall said during the meeting.

At the event, some students raised concerns about the lack of intersectionality in the categories offered to survey participants, like “white” or “non-white” and “heterosexual” or “other than heterosexual.” Peeples responded by explaining that in addition to the restrictions of population sample size, the consortium agreed ahead of time on the categories to protect the privacy of student information and eliminate the potential for exposure.

Another student at the Scripps meeting asked how the organizers of training programs and prevention initiatives could ensure the participation of perpetrators and potential perpetrators, given that programs like Teal Dot are completed on a voluntary basis. Johnson indicated that to target participants or make training mandatory would contradict the Green Dot philosophy, after which the Teal Dot program is modeled. She also noted the importance of strategic networking by student leaders, administrators and organizers.

Dean Johnson went on to ask students to continue discussing and suggesting with her and other administrators how the school can make training that normally occurs during orientation more accessible throughout the rest of the year as well as other ideas and initiatives for addressing and preventing sexual assault on campus. Tiernan Field House Assistant Director Deborah Gisvold, who was also in attendance, went on to remind students of the current available resources, including the Live Safe app, which was launched at the beginning of the semester, as well as the Peer Health Educators on campus, who this past week hosted a series of Health & Wellness events, including a sexual wellness Q&A.

Throughout the rest of the campuses, student advocate groups also expressed concerns over some of the survey results as well as the manner in which the survey was conducted.

“We have a response rate of about one third, and obviously that leaves possibility for potential huge non-response bias,” Jacob Feord PO ’18, a Pomona advocate, said. “A lot of people are under the idea that survivors would be more likely to fill out the survey and that the numbers would be inflated, but there’s no evidence to back that up. There could be non-response bias in either direction here.”

According to Feord, the bar graph visual representation of data in the reports could also give rise to potential bias and “impact the way people think about these numbers” because “the raw data is masked.”

A trend consistent across the consortium is that most assaults occurred during the survivors’ first year of college, although most survivors did not report the assaults until their junior or senior years.

“What is representative from my experience [as an advocate] is when the assaults occur,” Feord said. “A lot of assailants really take advantage of the youngest people on our campus.”

Bobich said that last year was the first time that the Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Sexual Assault and Campus Climate Survey has been completed at the Claremont Colleges and that the results of the survey will establish a baseline for future surveys.

Claremont McKenna College's Chief Civil Rights Officer and Title IX Coordinator Nyree Gray emphasized efforts to improve prevention and support for survivors of sexual assault.

“Any one incident is really one too many,” Gray said. “I want students to know that people want to support them. Students, staff, and faculty are all working on ways in which we can prevent this from happening. I want us to continue to partner in these efforts where the community as a whole work to resolve this problem.”

Feord said that he “would like to commend the consortium on taking on this survey.”

“I don’t think it’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but even if it’s just a candle in a cave, I think it’s important to at least have this initiative to try to reach out,” Feord added.

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