After nearly 7 percent of students at Ohio University’s Athens campus completed a survey about their social experiences and safety on campus, members of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct are trying to figure out what to do with the data.
More than 80 percent of those who took the survey reported they had experienced some type of sexual misconduct victimization.
The committee issued the Social Experiences and Safety Survey to 19,459 undergraduate and graduate students during Spring Semester to assess the scope of sexual misconduct on OU’s Athens campus. The survey launched March 15, and closed April 1. OU President Roderick McDavis established the committee in 2014.
The survey was emailed to students, and more than 2,200 students clicked the anonymous link, while approximately 1,350 students — about 6.9 percent — completed the survey in its entirety. About 73 percent of students who took the survey were women, about 85 percent were white and about 87 percent identified as “heterosexual.”
Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said she was disappointed that only about 7 percent of students took the survey.
“Initially I was just really disappointed that we had such a poor return rate because I know the time and energy that people put into this, and wanting to make it as good as we could possibly make it,” Hall-Jones said.
The Ohio Department of Higher Education recommends campuses receive at least a 30 percent return rate on the survey to have an accurate sampling of the entire population.
Patty Stokes, a member of the committee, said she thinks the return rate might have been higher if there had been a financial incentive in place for each person who completed the survey.
The survey was submitted to the president’s office by the 2015-16 committee members at the end of September. The 23 members included three graduate students and three undergraduate students. The report was released Nov. 8.
“I also hope the university will step up, and send a different kind of signal than they did by releasing it on Election Day,” Stokes, a women, gender and sexuality studies assistant professor, said.
Of the 82 percent of students who said they experienced some type of sexual misconduct victimization on OU’s campus in the survey, the most common type was sexual harassment from other students, with 74 percent.
An example of sexual misconduct victimization includes catcalling, Stokes said.
“(Catcalling) does create a climate, and that’s where it becomes a problem. A climate of entitlement of control over the bodies of people who are not heterosexual, white cis-gender male,” Stokes said. “Even catcalling, as prevalent as it is, normalizes an environment where women are just meat and men are allowed to comment on them, and if you're queer, you're free game.”
Nearly 20 percent of the students who took the survey had experienced dating violence, and 29 percent of the students who responded to the survey reported sexual victimization since starting college at OU.
Twenty-nine percent of women who took the survey said they had experienced sexual assault victimization. Of that 29 percent, 13 percent reported being raped during their time as an OU student.
Despite the low return rate, Hall-Jones said the data the survey produced is meaningful.
“What it boils down to is people have experienced catcalling or some kind of environment where someone has treated them differently because of their sex (or) their gender identity,” Hall-Jones said.
Hannah Koerner, a member of the committee, wants the university to be intersectional in its efforts to address sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
“(Take) into account how students of color and gender minorities are disproportionately affected,” Koerner, a senior studying English, said.
The committee had 10 recommendations to improve the overall climate of OU and lower the rates of sexual misconduct. Those included developing and evaluating a systematic sexual misconduct prevention plan, integrating sexual assault and alcohol prevention efforts, training peers to positively respond to disclosure of sexual assaults and increasing support to investigative units on campus.
“One of the big takeaways in our survey results was that people overwhelming turn to their friends if they’ve been assaulted, and whether that friend responds helpfully or skeptically can make a big difference in that person’s healing,” Stokes said.
Hall-Jones said she hopes the survey happens every two or three years.
“Because we had such a poor return rate we need to do it again and get a better return rate, so we have to figure all that out, but now at least we have this baseline,” Hall-Jones said.
The next time the survey is conducted, Hall-Jones said the university can compare the results of the current survey.
“This data is important to us because it’s going to help shape the way that we try to educate, the way that we try to prevent, the way that we’re trying to eradicate sexual assault (and) sexual violence from our campus,” Hall-Jones said.