This week, the Association of American Universities released its 2019 sexual assault and misconduct survey results, which will be used to guide administrators on future prevention methods and resources.
The 54-question nationwide 2019 Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct was conducted at 32 AAU universities. While 181,752 students took the survey, the overall response rate was 21.9%. A&M was lower with a 5.9% rate — a drop from the 9% rate of respondents on the 2015 survey.
A&M’s results showed that there was a major increase in people’s awareness of sexual violence and harassment issues such as available resources, school policies and available training.
However, there were also high numbers of female students who reported experiencing “nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or inability to consent.” There was also an increase in the number of transgender and nonbinary respondents who said they had experiences with sexual activity by means of “coercion without active, ongoing voluntary agreement.” These patterns were also found across other AAU universities.
“We are grateful to the students who took the time to complete the survey,” A&M President Michael K. Young said to website Texas A&M Today. “These results give us additional information that helps inform all our work underway to prevent incidents, provide resources where needed most and respond appropriately when incidents occur.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, AAU President Mary Sue Coleman said this was the largest college-based probability sample survey carried out on sexual assault and misconduct. Coleman said the nationwide results show that rates of sexual assault and misconduct have increased a bit since 2015.
“The results provide cause for both hope and continued concern,” her statement reads. “They reveal that, while students know more about university-sponsored resources for victims of sexual assault and misconduct, they still aren’t using these resources often enough.”
The increase in awareness could be due to the #MeToo movement and A&M’s push in the “Step In. Stand Up.” bystander intervention program, according to Texas A&M psychology professor Mindy Bergman. However, reports made to the Title IX office at most universities still remain low.
“Most victims are assaulted by someone they know, and they may not report for fear of destroying their social system — their networks, friendships and affiliations,” Bergman told Texas A&M Today.
AAU conducted the survey in partnership with social science research firm Westat. Schools sent out the survey throughout the spring semester, and at A&M it was available to students between
Feb. 1 and March 2. The last Campus Climate Survey was conducted in 2015, but AAU also had a survey in 2017 that focused on the efforts that AAU institutions were making to combat sexual assault and misconduct on campus.
At A&M, there have been many initiatives put into place to address the issue, including the hiring of additional counselors, investigators, a deputy coordinator and case managers. There are also additional training courses provided to employees who are obligated to report violations.
A&M also launched internal and external investigations concerning its Title IX investigation process in 2018 after then-A&M student Hannah Shaw tweeted about a member of the swimming and diving team sexually assaulting her.
Following the investigations, the university outlined 11 changes to how Title IX investigations and sanctioning are handled. As a result, the dean of students — not coaches or organization leaders — is responsible for determining restrictions on accused students, and anyone who files a claim is assigned a case manager so they do not have to tell their experience to multiple people.
Assistant Vice President and Title IX officer Jennifer Smith called on the campus community to continue its work to ensure that the university is providing a safe environment for learning and working. Smith works in the A&M Department of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations.
“We ask that everyone be engaged in this critical work by continuing to learn about these issues, practicing bystander intervention, and supporting those impacted by violence,” Smith told Texas A&M Today.
Visit titleix.tamu.edu/our-stats to view A&M’s full survey results.