Community well-being survey on sexual violence seeks student responses

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | March 23, 2018

Emory students have an opportunity to help influence sexual assault prevention and support strategies by participating in an online campus climate survey that focuses on their experiences with unwanted sexual activity.

Part of an initiative sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs and the Division of Campus Life, the Emory Student Community Well-Being Survey was emailed to nearly 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students on Emory’s Atlanta and Oxford College campuses on Monday, March 19.

This is the second time Emory has conducted a comprehensive survey of its student body to better understand perceptions and experiences surrounding a broad range of unwanted sexual activity and harassment, from offensive comments to intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

The survey, which is anonymous, also seeks student views on university education, prevention and response initiatives. It will be administered by RTI International, an independent, non-profit research organization.

Three years ago, Emory conducted the first comprehensive climate survey of its kind at the university, which examined the experiences of students, faculty and staff.

“This semester, we’ll be doing something very similar to the first survey,” says Jessica McDermott Sales, associate professor of behavioral sciences and health at Rollins School of Public Health, who chairs Emory’s Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence.

“We really encourage all students to share their voices on this very important topic,” Sales says. “This year, we hope that everyone understands that as a result of the first survey, people listened and change was made.”

A follow-up survey aimed at Emory faculty and staff will hopefully follow in the future, she adds.

As with the earlier survey, results will be compiled and shared with the campus community later this fall, according to Sales.

“It’s important for us to keep monitoring all the elements that appeared on our first survey so that we can note any shifts that might be due to changing programs or strengthening a Title IX presence on campus,” she says.

 “Just talking about sexual assault and sexual violence can play a role in bringing it into the Emory community’s consciousness, influencing campus climate and attitudes,” Sales adds. “It’s another opportunity for Emory to have a snapshot about this issue on our campus across the student population and to make sure we’re aiming our initiatives in the right direction to make Emory the best it can be.”

Sales hopes for robust participation in the online survey, which offers Emory students an opportunity to help shape university policies surrounding sexual harassment and violence.

“What we’ve found in the past is that this is an issue that’s very important to leaders of the university, who take the survey findings very seriously,” she says.

“The survey really does help us make recommendations that carry weight for making our campus a safe community for everyone,” she adds. “Students should know that by participating in these survey opportunities, they are being heard.”

In response to 2015 climate survey results, Emory’s Respect Program was able to add another staff member and enhance some of its previous program efforts. More support was also provided to the Oxford College campus, which now has a designated Title IX coordinator and advocate support, Sales says.

In addition, the earlier surveys highlighted an opportunity for Emory graduate students, who are often serving as instructors in a classroom setting, to have the same training about how to respond appropriately to sexual misconduct that is required for Emory faculty and staff, she notes.