The UAA Justice Center conducted a survey emailed to 10,000 undergraduate degree-seeking students throughout the University of Alaska system that examined estimates for students who experienced sexual assault, dating violence, sexual misconduct and stalking/harassment. The survey also assessed students’ protective behaviors and their view of the campus climate. Results were released in May.
According to the estimates, approximately nine percent (1,558 individuals) experienced sexual misconduct behavior and approximately 11.7 percent (2,025 individuals) experienced stalking or harassment.
Mary Gower, chief Title IX officer for UA, said that the survey informs the university about policies, outreach and other efforts to address sexual assault and misconduct.
“It’s informing our decisions on policies. It’s informing our decisions on outreach activities and training… How do we need to adjust the training that we’re doing? How do we need to adjust the outreach that we’re doing?” Gower said.
The survey is also part of the university’s Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The university entered the VRA in February 2017.
Brad Myrstol is an associate professor and director of UAA’s Justice Center. He has researched and published previous studies regarding sexual violence within the UA system, and he said that the survey also helps provide a “marker.”
“We have this survey now and to the extent that surveys are done in the future, it provides a framework by which the university can monitor its progress and success over time,” Myrstol said.
Another important point, Myrstol added, is that the availability of the survey maintains transparency.
“By publishing the report, the university is really engaged in an effort to open the conversation by making everything transparent and accessible to the entire university community as well as external constituencies,” Myrstol said.
The survey also assessed students’ responses in regards to university training and victim disclosures. UA undergraduates were more likely to to disclose their experience to a close friend and none of the respondents disclosed to university police.
This isn’t surprising to Sara Childress, UAA’s Title IX Coordinator. She said that while the survey results about disclosures are not surprising, it is still helpful.
“For something like that, being able to increase the trust in reporting to a responsible employee or reporting to the Title IX office, that would be my goal,” Childress said.
“I would love to raise the number that actually makes reports because [students] trust the process and understand the process and know the process,” she added.
Out of the 10,000 undergraduate students who were emailed the survey, there were only 710 respondents. The responses were then estimated to a larger population to provide a “projected ‘snapshot’” of undergraduates’ experiences between the fall 2016 and fall 2017 semesters, according to the report.
The low number of responses is a concern for Childress. She hopes the university can increase students’ participation in the future.
“For our next [survey], I would say that would be one of the challenges. How do you get more responses to be more reflective?” she said.
Alaska has high rates of sexual assault and violence, but Myrstol advises people to be careful when making comparisons between the state’s rates and the university’s rates.
He said that there are differences in methodology, measures and the overall population. For instance, the Alaska Victimization Survey is a representative sample of non-institutionalized, English-speaking adult women in Alaska, whereas the university’s campus climate survey was not limited to women.
Myrstol said that the findings in the university’s report are “largely consistent” to what has been found in other university campuses.
While this report serves as a benchmark, the university is planning to conduct another survey in the spring of 2019, Gower said.
“I think that will be potentially even more valuable than this survey because that will allow us to measure the success that we’re making with new policies and procedures, the increased training, the non-discrimination statement and the increased amount of outreach that we’re doing to measure the success of those actions,” Gower said.
The survey results can be found online on the UA Title IX Compliance page.