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Stanford University launches survey on sexual assault

Results to be shared publicly

Stanford University is sending out a survey next week that will probe students' experiences with sexual assault, knowledge about university resources and perception of the university's handling of reports of sexual misconduct.

The anonymous online survey will ask students about their perceptions of campus culture and safety. Stanford plans to use the resulting data to better understand the prevalence of sexual assault and to "meaningfully enhance our prevention, education and awareness programs, and resources for students," a university press release reads.

The survey, which the university said is not expected to take longer than 10 to 15 minutes, will be emailed to all Stanford students over the age of 18 who are enrolled in degree-seeking programs – undergraduate, graduate and professional. The survey will be open until May 8; a random sample of students will be selected for more intensive follow-up afterwards.

The university is encouraging all students to participate, whether or not they have had a personal experience with sexual misconduct. One goal of the survey is to determine how frequently acts of sexual misconduct occur on campus, and a high response rate is critical to the reliability of the results, the university said. (And Stanford is providing a small incentive for students to complete the optional survey: a choice of either a $20 Amazon gift card or anonymously allocating $20 to one of four local and national nonprofit organizations.)

"Nothing is more important than ensuring a safe campus community here at Stanford," President John Hennessy wrote in an email to all students, encouraging them to participate in the survey. "Hearing the experiences and perspectives from all of you is critical to that effort."

If a student indicates in the survey that he or she has experienced sexual misconduct, the university will not follow up or identify their response. A student who wants to report an incident for the university to investigate should contact Stanford's Title IX office at titleix@stanford.edu.

NORC, a survey organization at the University of Chicago that conducts social-science research, will collect and analyze the results. Summary results of aggregated data will be posted on Stanford's Not Alone website, which was created last year and contains information about university policy, procedures and resources for sexual assault.

The core content of the survey is drawn from a 2014 campus survey developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that is now considered a model for other universities.

Stanford's survey was also formed by best practices provided by the federal government and academic literature, the university said.

Modifications and campus-specific items were added with input from Stanford faculty and students. The final survey also reflects collaboration with experts at the University of Chicago and Rice University, which are administering parts of the survey to their students this spring, according to Stanford.

The survey comes on the heels of the release of a comprehensive report from a university task force that pointed to the importance of data in driving forthcoming reform of sexual-assault policies and procedures at Stanford.

The university last developed a similar survey in 1988, the year before a previous sexual-assault task force was formed. "The Stanford Survey on Attitudes, Awareness and Experience of Sexual Violence" found that one in three Stanford women and one in eight Stanford men had been pressured to have sex against their will.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to collect news articles, social media reaction and other content related to the ongoing sexual assault issues at Stanford University. To view it, go to Storify.com.

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