Sexual Misconduct At My Alma Mater

Ken AshfordWomen's IssuesLeave a Comment

This seems to be right on par with most other universities, i.e., too much.  From Tufts University President Tony Monaco, via email:

Last spring, Tufts issued a survey to students on all three campuses to gather information about sexual misconduct and to assess their knowledge of campus policies and prevention programs. I am deeply troubled by what we have learned from the survey.

The Tufts Attitudes About Sexual Conduct survey, which was anonymous and confidential, was sent to 11,000 students. It had a 28.7 percent response rate; approximately 30 percent of undergraduate students responded to the survey. The survey—the first university-wide survey on this topic—will provide an important baseline, and we will issue future surveys to determine if our work is having a positive impact.

Approximately 14 percent of students across the university reported having had at least one incident of “non-consensual sexual contact” since enrolling at Tufts; this includes experiencing incidents of non-consensual improper touching, including sexual intercourse. Of the 14 percent, 5 percent of students across the university reported non-consensual sexual intercourse.

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The survey data was particularly distressing when analyzed by gender and gender identity, and by academic status:

  • Nearly a quarter (24.7%) of undergraduates have experienced either non-consensual intercourse or other non-consensual sexual contact.
  • Approximately 4.7% of students in our professional and graduate schools have also experienced one or both kinds of misconduct.
  • About 22% of students identifying as transgender, genderqueer or gender non-conforming, or as another identity other than male/female reported having experienced non-consensual sexual contact.
  • The majority of such misconduct incidents appear to have been perpetrated by someone who was known to the victim. Most incidents appear to have taken place in a residential location, and in most cases, the victim and/or the perpetrator was using alcohol.
  • Although most victims report telling someone about the incident, they harbor a variety of concerns about telling others, such as thinking the incident wasn’t serious enough to share or not wanting any disciplinary or legal action to be taken. Most victims, consistent with national numbers, do not officially report their incidents to the Office of Equal Opportunity. Those who do generally feel respected, listened to, and supported during the formal process and feel the staff are well-trained.

The survey does indicate that we have made some progress, and we need to continue our efforts to make every student aware of policies, procedures, and resources:

  • The majority of students said they are happy (92.3%), feel safe (95.9%), and feel valued in the classroom (93.6%) at Tufts.
  • Most respondents felt that most Tufts students respected one another’s personal space (91.5%). Most trusted that their friends would watch out for them at a social event (95.7%).
  • The majority of students had received information about university policies regarding incidents of sexual misconduct (81.1%) and complaint and disciplinary procedures (66.6%). Most students (70.3%) knew how to seek confidential counseling about sexual misconduct.

Tufts is not alone in confronting sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Sadly, these behaviors are occurring on college campuses across the country. However, that does not diminish my profound concern about what this survey tells us about the safety of our students.

Well, identifying the problem is just step one.  Let’s hope this isn’t merely a way to avoid doing step two and step three.  The full downloadable report is below the fold (PDF)

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