Student Experiences Survey - Parent Article Q&A

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2018 Student Experiences Survey: Q&A for parents

This February, Duke released the findings of the 2018 Student Experiences Survey. This survey, conducted in spring 2018, was the second administration of the survey, conducted for the first time in spring 2016. The goal of the survey is to improve Duke’s understanding of the extent and nature of sexual misconduct involving Duke students and to gather students’ views of campus climate in relation to sexual misconduct. The confidential survey asked questions about students’ individual experiences with sexual misconduct, with a particular focus on sexual harassment and sexual assault, including sexual battery and rape.

We spoke with Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, Director of Title IX Compliance Jayne Grandes, Senior Title IX Advisor Howard Kallem and Associate Dean of Students in the Office of Student Conduct Victoria Krebs regarding key findings of the survey. The full report and detailed appendices can be accessed online at https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/sexual-misconduct-prevention-and-response/get-educated, under "Reports." 

What do you see as the most important finding(s) in this survey?

Larry Moneta: The survey results highlight that much work is yet to be done. The findings do highlight the progress made with education and student awareness of inappropriate behaviors. However, the evidence is clear that there are still far too many incidents of sexual misconduct. Based on the increases we’ve seen in campus climate and educational markers in the survey, we feel that the increase in prevalence seen in the survey is most likely due to increased student awareness of inappropriate behaviors, a better understanding of how to report incidents and a feeling of support within the process.

What notable changes have we seen between the 2016 and 2018 surveys?

Moneta: Certainly the initial survey showed a need to increase Bystander Awareness training. This has been underway in our orientation programming, and students expressed better familiarity with information and where to go if they are the complainant of sexual misconduct in this second survey.

What behaviors are covered in this survey? Can you explain the difference between sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and sexual assault? How do the definitions and language used in the survey differ from Duke’s policies/adjudication processes?

Jayne Grandes and Howard Kallem: The survey asked students if they had experienced specific behaviors that were then compiled into several categories:

  • Sexual battery – any unwanted, nonconsensual sexual contact involving forced kissing, touching, grabbing or fondling of sexual body parts. 
  • Rape – any unwanted, nonconsensual sexual contact that involved a penetrative act.

These two categories together constitute sexual assault – any unwanted, nonconsensual sexual contact – in the survey.

  • Sexual harassment was a separate category, including unwanted or unwelcome behavior such as sexual advances, gestures, comments, or jokes; flashing; showing or sending sexual pictures; spreading sexual rumors; or watching or taking photos/videos when the subject was nude or having sex.

Duke’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy uses the umbrella term of “sexual misconduct” to describe sex- or gender-based harassment, sexual/gender violence, sexual exploitation, relationship violence and sex- or gender-based stalking. This includes not only conduct of a sexual nature, but gender-based conduct. For example, repeated derogatory comments of a nonsexual nature related to a particular sex or gender and targeted to a specific individual would be gender-based harassment rather than sexual harassment. Similarly, a physical assault of a student because of their gender or sexual orientation would be prohibited by the Policy as a form of gender violence rather than sexual violence if the assault doesn’t involve conduct of a sexual nature. As a general matter, to be a violation of the Policy, the harassing conduct must be sufficiently severe, persistent, and/or pervasive to actually interfere with a student’s work, education, or living conditions to a significant degree, and the student’s response must be reasonable. In addition, the Policy prohibits retaliation against individuals for complaining about sexual misconduct or participating in the investigation.

More information on Duke’s policies and prevention efforts can be found at https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/sexual-misconduct-prevention-and-response.

The survey shows that 48% of undergraduate women reported being sexually assaulted while at Duke. How does this compare with the rest of the country?

Grandes and Kallem: As noted in the survey report, surveys used by other schools included information on sexual battery, rape, non-consensual contact or touching, and other categories that differ from the categories used in Duke’s survey. Many of the surveys even defined sexual assault differently than in our survey. Thus, comparisons of Duke’s results to those of other schools should be made with caution. As best as we can discern from a review of Association of American Universities data, we feel confident that the prevalence data gathered in this survey are consistent with our peers.

The 2018 survey results show increases in the percentages of students at all levels reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment. To what can we attribute the increase between the 2016 and 2018 numbers?

Grandes and Kallem: The survey results have been presented to Duke’s Sexual Misconduct Task Force, consisting of students, staff and faculty, and they have been asked to explore this very question. At least preliminarily, these increases raise the question of whether they reflect more incidents, an increase in awareness and recognition of the types of behavior that could be misconduct, and/or an increased willingness to report, due to the amount of national attention focused on sexual misconduct since the 2016 survey. This is at least suggested by the significant increases in the percentage of students reporting that they had been sexually assaulted prior to enrolling at Duke.

A number of other institutions have indicated that they will repeat their surveys in fall 2019, so we will not know until then if their figures also show an increase over their prior surveys, as Duke’s did in some cases. However, a recent report by the North Carolina Board of Education also showed increased reporting of sexual misconduct.

What resources exist to support students who report an incident of sexual misconduct or sexual assault?

Victoria Krebs: Confidential sources of support for students who report sexual misconduct include the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention (Women’s Center), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Student Health, clergy, and the student ombudsperson. Students may also confer with staff in the Office of Student Conduct for initiation of the university’s disciplinary process for sexual misconduct allegations against other students. An advisor is assigned to work with students participating in the disciplinary process. The Duke Student Sexual Misconduct Policy can be found here: https://bit.ly/DukeSSMP.

What is currently being done to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault on Duke’s campus? In the residence halls? Off-campus, in bars and restaurants?

Moneta: Expanded exposure to the problems, more frequent and persistent conversations, expanded context with national attention and targeted engagement with groups on campus, to name a few. But, starting this in college is too late. These conversations and interventions need to begin far earlier in young people’s lives.

What are the next steps?

Moneta: The Sexual Misconduct Task Force will dig into the information gathered from this survey and explore further ideas. Of course, no movement on sexual misconduct can be made without student engagement. One example of this is a Bass Connections interdisciplinary team comprising undergraduate, graduate and professional school students, in addition to faculty members, focused on interventions, and paying particular attention to changes in Title IX both federally and state-wide.

What can we do as parents? How can we, as parents, partner with the university to help?

Moneta: Talk, talk, question, talk, and question. Engage with your adult children about these topics and share your opinions and thoughts on the subject.

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