Univ. releases statistics on campus sexual violence

By DIVA PAREKH | March 14, 2019

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University officials released the results of the 2018 Campus Climate and Sexual Violence Survey on Friday. Provost Sunil Kumar and Vice Provost for Institutional Equity Kimberly Hewitt reported the survey’s principal findings in a schoolwide email about the University’s response to sexual misconduct. 

During February and March 2018, Kumar emailed the survey to all full-time students and called on them to provide their feedback to help improve campus culture. In total, 3,263 students completed the survey, an overall 23 percent of the undergraduate and graduate student body. 

The findings detailed the factors that motivated administrators to conduct the survey.

“The survey was designed to help the university better understand the following about sexual misconduct: (1) the prevalence and risk factors, (2) student perceptions of problems and responses on our campuses, and (3) student awareness and perceptions of available resources,” the report reads.

University officials had conducted a similar school-wide survey in 2015 through the “It’s On Us Hopkins” campaign, which 31 percent of students responded to. Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Vice President Miranda Bannister spoke to the decline in the number of students who responded to the survey in 2018.

“I was very disappointed to see that the number of people that are participating in the survey is going down, which reflects the lack of faith in the campus’ ability to change these issues,” she said. “People aren’t even engaging with the University and the administration because they don’t really believe it’s going to make a difference.”

The 2015 survey showed that 15 percent of respondents reported experiencing some form of unwanted sexual behavior during their time at Hopkins. The 2018 Campus Climate survey showed that 625 students reported they had been sexually assaulted while at Hopkins, an overall 19 percent of the total. Around 1,769 students reported experiencing sexual harassment, 54 percent of the total. 

The 2018 report also showed that female and trans/non-binary students were more likely to report experiencing sexual assault and harassment. Reports of both sexual assault and harassment were most prevalent among trans/non-binary students, with 40 percent reporting that they have been sexually assaulted and 72 percent reporting that they had been sexually harassed. 

Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) Co-President Bella Radant believes that University officials could better address sexual violence against trans/non-binary students by partnering with the campus LGBTQ community. According to Radant, this could help administrators understand the root causes behind why sexual violence disproportionately impacts the LGBTQ community.

She added that she wished University officials had provided students with the raw data from the 2018 Campus Climate survey in addition to the report.

“Because they don’t provide raw data, we’re very much reliant on the University’s interpretation of the data that they choose to present,” she said. “Hopkins should also really present a more specific plan for how they want to address [sexual violence] rather than just going with generic niceties.” 

In the report, University officials wrote that the increase in the prevalence of sexual misconduct from the 2015 survey was concerning and emphasized that they would proceed as if the frequency of sexual misconduct incidents had increased. They further cited possible reasons for the increase. 

“[The 2015] data motivated us to redouble our efforts over the past three years to educate students to understand what behaviors constitute sexual misconduct,” the report reads. “Thus, while the rate of sexual misconduct may be similar to that in 2015, it might be that JHU students in 2018, with improved training, are more likely to identify these incidents as sexual assault, harassment, or violence.” 

According to the report, students have become more aware of the University resources related to sexual misconduct since 2015. The 2015 report showed that 20 percent of students were informed about the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), while the 2018 report showed 63 percent. In accordance with Title IX, OIE seeks to appropriately respond to reports of sexual misconduct, discrimination and harassment.

The report also details how administrators will collaborate with the Sexual Violence Advisory Committee (SVAC) to address sexual misconduct at the University moving forward. Proposed plans include hiring a confidential advocate who would be unaffiliated with the Counseling Center, and increasing transparency of the outcomes of a sexual misconduct case once the OIE investigation is complete. 

Alyse Campbell is the Sexual Violence Prevention & Education Coordinator and a member of SVAC. In an email to The News-Letter, Campbell said that her focus is on developing a plan to coordinate gender violence prevention across all University campuses.

“Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey, we have another picture of how sexual violence is impacting our campuses,” she wrote. “They have given us insight on the work that still needs to be done.” 

In their schoolwide email, Kumar and Hewitt referenced an incident in December, when OIE found 18 reports of sexual misconduct that its website had mistakenly blocked. They explained that all 18 cases have now been resolved or closed and also assured students that they will take measures to prevent similar errors in the future.

“OIE has created a new database, to be operational by September 2019, that will help streamline case management,” they wrote.

Bannister was frustrated, however, that administrators had not instituted similar changes earlier. 

“They’re implementing these changes now that there’s bad press,” she said. “Things need to get worse for them to care.”

Kumar and Hewitt added that they will be asking students to participate in the Association of American Universities (AAU) 2019 Campus Climate Survey.

“Survey responses in 2019 will allow the university to collect additional data that will continue to boost the institution’s efforts surrounding sexual misconduct and allow us a key opportunity to see how we compare to our AAU peers,” they wrote. 

Kumar and Hewitt concluded their email by directing students to the University’s response to the new Title IX regulations proposed by Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education (DoE). Changes proposed by the DoE include restricting the definitions of sexual harassment and allowing students accused of sexual misconduct or their legal representatives to cross-examine the accuser in a live hearing format.

Hewitt’s letter asked the Department to clarify that institutionally prohibited sexual conduct could still be appropriately addressed at an institutional level, even if it was not defined as sexual harassment by the DoE’s proposed new guidelines. 

She added that the University also objected strongly to the Department’s proposed requirement for live hearings during Title IX investigations. 

Bannister appreciated Hewitt’s stance on the cross-examining and live hearings section of DeVos’ proposed changes to Title IX.

“The DeVos regulations are atrocious, so I’m glad the University’s opposing them... I really hope the University resists them down to the very last word,” she said. “If they do, I know the students will be with them.”

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