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Sept. 21, 2015

MSU releases results of campus climate survey on sexual assault, misconduct

EAST LANSING, Mich. — New data from a climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct show student attitudes, awareness and the prevalence of incidents in the Michigan State University community reflect national statistics.

The results from a survey MSU undertook with the Association of American Universities also provide feedback on why victims of sexual assault and misconduct do not report such incidents to police and university programs, a key finding as the university seeks to increase awareness of and education around sexual violence and encourage reporting.

The survey results were released today, along with aggregate data from 27 universities nationwide. More than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students participated in the national survey during April and May; 8,352 MSU students responded (including undergraduate and graduate/professional).

University leaders will use the survey results – which focus on the overall campus climate, awareness of resources and prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct – to better understand students’ experiences and improve policies and programs.

“The survey underscores that sexual assault on college campuses is a serious national issue,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “I take no comfort that our preliminary analysis of this data suggests the experiences of some of our students are statistically similar to those at other AAU institutions.

“No member of our community should be threatened by sexual violence. We will continue to use a variety of sources of information to guide policy and program improvements. Yet, we must rely on every Spartan to be an active participant in building a culture of respect and caring and to join with other Spartans to prevent sexual assault and relationship violence on our campus.”

Overall, since enrolling at MSU, 13.2 percent of the students responding to the survey said they experienced nonconsensual sexual contact (either penetration or sexual touching) involving physical force or incapacitation. Among female undergraduates, 24.8 percent experienced completed or attempted nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching involving physical force or incapacitation, while 11.7 percent were victims of completed or attempted nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation.

For female survivors of nonconsensual penetration by physical force, 71.9 percent did not report the incident. The primary reason given by students was they did not consider the situation serious enough to report (60.7 percent). Other reasons included feeling embarrassed, ashamed or that it was too emotionally difficult (39.4 percent), or not thinking anything would be done about it (28.2 percent).

“We have long known, both here at MSU and nationally, that sexual assault is vastly underreported,” said Paulette Granberry Russell, MSU's Title IX coordinator and senior adviser to the president.

“We must continue discussions on campus about how serious this issue is and foster a culture that empowers women and men to come forward. This work includes not only increasing awareness and education efforts but also ensuring we have a coordinated response and proper resources in place for survivors.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Students with disabilities and those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender reported higher victimization rates among the population surveyed. Granberry Russell said there is a need for more outreach to these communities to explore experiences in these high-risk students.
  • 84.5 percent of the students surveyed feel it is somewhat, very or extremely likely campus officials will take a report of sexual misconduct seriously.
  • Reporting of sexual assault and misconduct to various campus programs, including Title IX investigators, MSU police, Sexual Assault Program and MSU Safe Place, continues to increase.
  • A vast majority of students, 79.8 percent and 71.9 percent respectively, are aware of the services offered at the Olin Student Health and MSU Counseling centers.

“MSU’s findings are consistent with trends in prior surveys on college campuses, including higher victimization rates among females, among students with a disability and among students identifying as LGBT,” Granberry Russell said. “This survey is another mechanism, among the many we are employing, to inform our work on these important issues.”

This academic year, MSU will be forming a new sexual violence advisory council, with representation from across campus. One of its goals will be to review the AAU results, looking for ways in which the findings can inform improvements in policies and programs.

The survey was sent to all students via their MSU email accounts in early April. Westat, a private research organization, administered the survey and assisted in the analysis of data. For more information:

MSU released a revised Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct policy Sept. 8. That policy is at:

Also in the past year, MSU has created a standalone unit, the Office of Institutional Equity, to handle all discrimination complaints, including sexual assault and relationship violence. That includes the hiring of several new investigators. Additionally, MSU has implemented mandatory training for all MSU faculty and staff.

“While we have made many changes and devoted significant resources in addressing these issues, our work is not complete,” Simon said. “We will continue to persistently and consistently improve the environment on our campus with regard to how we address sexual misconduct and relationship violence. We owe that to every member of our community, from students to employees to families and, most importantly, to survivors.”

By: Jason Cody