The University of Michigan on Monday released the findings of a second campus climate survey of students on the Ann Arbor campus regarding sexual misconduct.
U-M was one of 27 universities across the nation to participate in a survey sponsored by the Association of American Universities, of which U-M is a member. Earlier Monday the AAU released the aggregate results of that survey, which included responses from more than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students on those college campuses.
“Sexual misconduct must be addressed on our college campuses and throughout society,” says President Mark Schlissel. “This research is vitally important to our understanding of this problem so we can design education and prevention efforts in the most effective manner possible.”
Results of the AAU survey on the U-M campus are consistent with the earlier U-M survey regarding nonconsensual sexual behaviors: The most at-risk groups for experiencing unwanted sexual behaviors were females rather than males and undergraduates more so than graduate students.
And, like the earlier U-M study, the U-M AAU findings showed most students do not report nonconsensual behavior to anyone, including any official resource available to them.
“The AAU asked different questions, covering different periods of time and in a different order, so the results of the two surveys cannot be directly compared,” explains William Axinn, former director of the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research, who coordinated the team that designed the U-M campus climate survey. He also has analyzed the AAU survey results for the U-M campus.
The AAU survey on the U-M campus found that 14.6 percent of all U-M students who responded to the survey reported experiencing nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching (or attempts) by force or incapacitation since entering the university. Physical force was defined as “physical force or threats of physical force.” Incapacitation was defined as “unable to consent or stop what was happening because you were passed out, asleep, or incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol.”
Among undergraduate women, 30.3 percent report nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching (or attempts) by force or incapacitation since entering U-M. Slightly more than 22 percent of all undergraduate females reported unwanted penetration or sexual touching during the past school year (compared to 22.5 percent over 12 months in the previous U-M survey).
The AAU survey asked about sexual harassment. The survey found that 54.7 percent of U-M students indicated they had experienced sexual harassment since entering college. Female undergraduates reported the highest rate of sexual harassment at 73.2 percent.
Students said the most common form of sexual harassment was making inappropriate comments about their body, appearance or sexual behavior, followed by making sexual remarks or offensive jokes.
Stalking also was addressed by the AAU survey. Students were asked whether someone made them afraid for their personal safety by making unwanted phone calls, sending emails, voice, text or instant messages, pictures, or videos; watching them or spying on them; or showing up somewhere or waiting for them when they did not want that person to be there.
Among U-M students, 4 percent said they had experienced stalking while at U-M. Female undergraduates reported the highest rate at 6.5 percent. Most often the offender was identified as another U-M student.
Among students, 9.9 percent who had been in a partnered relationship reported intimate-partner violence while at U-M. Female undergraduates reported this most often at 12.2 percent. Questions regarding intimate-partner violence were intended to capture violence associated within relationships that may not be captured by the other sexual assault questions. The most common forms of intimate-partner violence were controlling or trying to control the victim, using physical force and threatening to harm the victim, family, or themselves.
The AAU survey was open to about 38,000 students on the Ann Arbor campus during the first week of April. With 6,700 students completing the survey, U-M had a student response rate of 17.6 percent.
“With regard to some areas of non-consensual sexual behavior, our numbers are higher than the aggregate data, while in other areas we are consistent with it,” says Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of the university’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.
“But in all cases, the numbers are too high and we are committed to continuing to address the issue of sexual misconduct. The data from these surveys are critical to our work. The more we know about our community, the better we are able to tailor our programs to be most effective,” she explains.
About U-M prevention efforts
Every first-year student must participate in an online awareness and prevention education program before arriving on campus. Completion rates for this “Community Matters” program have exceeded 90 percent every year since implementation in 2009. Once on campus, first-year students get three additional exposures to prevention and bystander-intervention training.
In addition, the university expanded awareness and prevention education beyond first-year students to include new staff, graduate students and international students, as well as the addition of bystander-intervention training to new-student programming in the fall of 2014. The university also conducts additional training sessions with student leaders in Greek Life, student athletes and coaches, ROTC cadets, the Michigan Marching Band and other campus groups, which were enhanced for this fall.
U-M has had a Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center on campus since 1986. SAPAC provides educational and confidential supportive services for all U-M community members related to sexual assault, intimate-partner violence, sexual harassment and stalking.
The university released a video earlier this year to bring additional awareness to the university’s commitment to creating a campus free of sexual assault, and broadly share the policy and reporting resources.
The university also is in the midst of a review of the current Policy on Sexual Misconduct Among Students. The Office of Student Life conducted several campus community forums on the policy and procedures in the spring, and will continue with numerous additional forums this fall. The goal is to have any revisions to the policy or procedure in place by early 2016.
The Office for Institutional Equity conducts investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, and identifies resources and support for all parties involved in the investigation process. The office publishes an annual report that tracks the outcome of those investigations.
The U-M Police Department this year created a Special Victims Unit that will provide primary response to and investigation of interpersonal violence crimes that are reported to have occurred on campus. These incidents include sexual assaults, domestic violence, stalking and child abuse.