Emory announces results of first faculty/staff survey on sexual misconduct

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Oct. 6, 2016

Story image

The Emory Clothesline Project was a public art installation featuring t-shirts denouncing relationship violence designed by those impacted by the issue. October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month, which Emory will mark this year with a Take Back the Night march and rally on Oct. 24. Emory Photo/Video

Even as Emory University was unveiling findings last year from its first comprehensive campus climate survey on student experiences and attitudes surrounding sexual violence and harassment, work was already underway to engage the broader community.

In the summer of 2015, the scope of inquiry expanded when Emory University faculty and staff members were invited to participate in a similar survey that examined workplace climate and knowledge of sex discrimination policies — the first its kind at Emory and almost unheard of among U.S. colleges and universities.

“Emory is committed to understanding the holistic climate concerning sexual violence and harassment across the University,” says Stuart Zola, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “To support that goal, it was important to expand the conversation across our community. This survey allows us to go further in developing campus-wide prevention strategies based on data.”

Survey questions sought faculty and staff experiences in four broad areas: sexual harassment; training in how to handle sex discrimination complaints; familiarity and knowledge of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; and comfort levels with guiding students and colleagues through the disclosure process.

Across all groups, the survey found that 21 percent of respondents had witnessed or experienced some form of sexual harassment since coming to Emory, a continuum that can range from offensive jokes and comments to sexual quid pro quo. Of that group, 2 percent said that they had used Emory’s formal procedures to report the incident.

And while a high percentage of faculty and staff expressed familiarity with Emory’s Equal Opportunity and Discrimination Harassment Policy and its Sexual Misconduct Policy, there were notable differences in employees' comfort levels with guiding a student through a disclosure process.

The faculty/staff survey was designed to help the University Senate Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence better understand the campus climate surrounding sexual violence and to help create campus-wide prevention strategies that address all members of the Emory community, says committee co-chair Jessica McDermott Sales, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health.

“This is the first comprehensive employee survey at Emory that has focused on sexual violence, Title IX and sexual misconduct,” Sales says. “And we’re very grateful that so many faculty and staff have participated. Percentage-wise, their response was actually a little higher than that of the students.”

Out of 11,631 faculty and staff contacted, 2,807 accessed the survey (24 percent) with 2,290 of those respondents (20 percent) answering at least one question — 1,667 identified as staff members and 596 identified as faculty. Within that pool, 64 percent were women, 34 percent were men, and less than 2 percent identified as transgender.

Results will shape strategies

The committee conducted its inaugural campus climate survey of Emory undergraduate, graduate and professional students in April 2015 — among a wave of similar surveys launched at universities and colleges across the nation in response to recommendations from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

“At Emory, we are committed to creating a socially just community where all members can learn and work without experiencing or fearing harassment and violence. The survey results are vital to helping us to understand our campus culture and identify where we can better leverage and enhance our prevention efforts,” says Ajay Nair, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life.

Results of the student survey are now being used to help shape the University’s sexual misconduct policy, prevention strategies and response initiatives.

Broadening the focus to include a faculty and staff survey seemed an important and logical next step, says committee member Katie Krause, a graduate student in behavioral sciences and health education in the Rollins School of Public Health.

“We don’t know of any other universities that have surveyed faculty and staff in this way, but this is a community issue we’re all concerned about and it was an important step in our prevention efforts to have this data,” she says. “It sets the stage for our prevention planning and we want it to be reflected in our strategy.”

Results of the faculty/staff survey include the following:

  • Training: Overall, a majority of faculty respondents (81 percent) and almost half of staff respondents (49 percent) reported that they had received training to address issues of sex discrimination at Emory, and a majority of both groups are familiar with Emory’s Equal Opportunity and Harassment policy, Title IX and Title IX coordinators. Respondents who reported that they had received training also reported more knowledge of Title IX and a higher comfort with guiding a disclosure process.
  • Knowledge of Emory policy, Title IX: While over 80 percent of faculty and staff respondents indicated knowledge of Emory’s Equal Opportunity and Discriminatory Harassment Policy and Sexual Misconduct Policy, knowledge of Title IX and Title IX coordinators differed by whether respondents had received training about sex discrimination.
  • Disclosure process: A majority of faculty and staff felt somewhat comfortable or very comfortable guiding a student or colleague through a disclosure process. But there were differences in the comfort level between faculty and staff and based upon whether the individual seeking help was a student or colleague and whether the respondent had received training surrounding sex discrimination.

Next steps forward

At the time of the survey, Sales notes that mandatory Title IX training had been in place for faculty for only a few months; the initiative launched Jan. 27, 2015. Not all faculty members had completed the training at the time of the survey, and training for staff didn’t begin until Sept. 1, 2015, after the survey had concluded, she says.

“We believe that the initiation date of this Title IX training accounts for the differences between faculty and staff in self-report of having received sex discrimination training since coming to Emory,” the report concludes. “The climate survey was conducted at one point in time, which somewhat limits the interpretation of our results.”

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Offer bystander intervention programming for faculty and staff that builds skills to intervene before, during or after sexual harassment occurs with a focus on preventing harassment before it occurs.
  • Ensure that all faculty and staff receive training in Title IX and consider offering refresher training opportunities.
  • Evaluate Title IX training to better understand what creates confidence with guiding the disclosure process.
  • Continue providing training to new faculty and staff members when they arrive at Emory and make training a priority for faculty and staff.
  • Conduct a campus climate survey among faculty and staff every four years to provide regular assessment and measure change.