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Campus climate survey on sexual assault seeks faculty, staff responses

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | July 14, 2015

When Emory’s Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence sought information earlier this year about perceptions and experiences surrounding sexual violence, they first reached out to community members at the heart of campus culture — students.

This month, the scope of that examination is expanding to include Emory faculty and staff, with an invitation to participate in an online Campus Climate Survey on sexual violence — the first of its kind at Emory, says Jessica McDermott Sales, co-chair of the Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Assault and associate professor at Rollins School of Public Health.

Sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Division of Campus Life, the survey seeks input from faculty and staff across campus about issues relating to the university’s sexual misconduct policy, as well as sexual assault prevention and response initiatives, according to Ajay Nair, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life, and Lynell Cadray, associate vice provost of equity and inclusion and university Title IX coordinator.

“As an institution, Emory is committed to creating a community of care where all members can learn and work without experiencing or fearing violence,” Nair and Cadray stated in a joint email released this week inviting campus participation in the survey.

Reaching out to include faculty and staff voices in that conversation will help illustrate a broader, more complete picture of the climate surrounding sexual violence across campus, explains Sales. 

“Anything we learn from the survey will help us think about what we’re doing currently with programs and policies and tell us where we can do a better job moving forward, which is critical to making a strong prevention agenda work,” she says.

Initial year for surveys

The recommendation to conduct a Campus Climate Survey arose last fall from a report presented to the University Senate by the Sexual Violence Prevention Visioning Task Force, which began meeting last summer, Sales says.

Work on the survey began this past spring with graduate and undergraduate students at both Emory and Oxford College, who were asked to participate in an online survey over a three-week period in April. 

Of the 20 percent of students who accessed the survey, about 19 percent provided answers — an initial response rate that the committee found encouraging, says Sales.

“In the years to come, as more work is integrated around sexual violence prevention on campus we hope that more of the student body will feel invested and involved, and that response rate will go up,” she says.

The decision to expand the survey focus to include faculty and staff this summer was influenced in part by work launched by Cadray’s office this year to begin offering mandatory, university-wide sexual assault training for all Emory faculty and staff, Sales says. 

Trainings were launched this past spring with Emory faculty, so the effort to include employee voices in the inaugural Campus Climate Survey “fits nicely with a university initiative to strengthen faculty and staff training on sexual misconduct,” she explains.

The online Campus Climate Survey sent to faculty and staff this month is voluntary and brief — it can be completed in 10 to 15 minutes. Participants are asked to complete the survey by Aug 31, 2015.

To encourage participation, faculty and staff who return surveys will be eligible to have their names drawn to win a prize. Incentives range from $250 VISA gift cards to gift cards for items at Cox Hall Food Court, the Eagle Convenience Store, and the Rollins Café. Prizes will be awarded for completing the survey and will not be tied to responses; claiming them will not compromise survey anonymity.

Responses will be treated with complete anonymity, reported in terms of groups rather than individual cases, and referred to only by a number, Sales says, with only aggregate data being reported.

Anyone who feels upset at the nature of the questions is invited to call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program and will be provided a list of resources to find support and information. Questions that are uncomfortable may be skipped and respondents are permitted to exit the survey at any time, she notes. 

Opportunity to create change

The Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence is now in the process of analyzing data from this past spring’s student Climate Survey. The goal is to have a summary of those findings — and perhaps some initial recommendations — completed around the mid-point of the Fall 2015 semester, Sales says.

“Hopefully early in the Spring 2016 semester, we will do a comparable report on the faculty and staff survey findings, with a combined report across both groups available towards the end of the academic year,” she adds.

The committee is also considering the timing of conducting a regular campus climate survey in the future. “We know this is something that we would like to see occur on a regular basis,” Sales says.

Sales, whose personal research interests include the impact of violence and trauma on women throughout global communities, says participating in the Campus Climate Survey provides an opportunity to engage the entire campus community towards the goal of understanding and preventing sexual violence.

“This is not a unique problem or issue to college campuses — it’s a pervasive issue throughout society,” Sales says.

“But we do have unique opportunities on a campus to really facilitate change at multiple levels of a system, a community and an environment that we might not have in other environments,” she adds.

For more information about the survey or its content, faculty and staff members are encouraged to contact Judith Pannell at jpanne2@emory.edu.