Campus Climate Survey
2018-2019 Campus Climate Survey
In response to the passage of New York State Education Law Article 129-B (Section 6445), in 2016, a taskforce led by the college’s Title IX coordinator developed the Mount Saint Mary College Campus Experiences Survey. The law requires that each institution of higher education in New York administer a survey on their campus every other year.
In 2018, the taskforce agreed to replace our internally developed questionnaire with an instrument closely based on the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct developed by Westat in 2014 for the Association of American Universities (AAU). The use of an existing national survey provided additional assurances of validity and reliability in our results along with benchmarking comparisons to external data.
The survey was administered to all enrolled students between November 1st and November 26th during the Fall 2018 semester. 604 (26%) students responded to the invitation to participate with 384 students providing a complete response. This was a significant improvement over the 2016 survey which only yielded 115 complete responses.
The 2018 survey had a core set of approximately 60 questions that were asked of every respondent. Additional questions were administered if respondents reported being victimized. For Harassment, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence, approximately 7 follow-up questions were asked for each type of misconduct. These follow-up questions asked for information across all reported incidents for each form of victimization.
- Overall, 7 percent of student respondents reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled at Mount Saint Mary College.
- The incidence of sexual assault and sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation among female student respondents was 8 percent.
- Overall rates of reporting sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking and/or harassment ranged from 17 percent to 71 percent, depending on the specific type of behavior.
- The most common reasons for not reporting incidents of sexual assault and sexual misconduct were: “Felt embarrassed, ashamed, or that it would be too emotionally difficult” and “I did not think it was serious enough to report”.
- More than seven in 10 student respondents (74 percent) believe that a report of sexual assault or sexual misconduct would be taken seriously by campus officials.
Students were asked about nonconsensual sexual contact as a result of physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation. This combination of tactics and behaviors generally meets legal definitions of rape and sexual battery (sexual touching).
Overall, 7.0 percent of MSMC students reported experiencing nonconsensual contact by force or incapacitation since enrolling at the college, compared to 11.7 percent of students attending any of the 27 universities participating in the most recently published AAU study.
This overall rate masks large differences by gender and enrollment status. Females have higher rates of this type of victimization than males at 8.4% and 2.2%, respectively, at MSMC. The victimization rates for females and males across the 27 AAU institutions shows an even larger disparity at 18.9% and 4.3%, respectively. Males represent approximately 40% of the AAU population while only 20% at MSMC which can skew the overall comparison between AAU and MSMC.
Coercion is defined as involving threats of serious non-physical harm or promising rewards.
For the time period since students entered MSMC, nonconsensual contact involving coercion was reported by less than 1 percent of the students. Females and males were about as likely to report this type of tactic (0.9% for females; 0.0% for males). These victimization rates are consistent with the AAU results.
The survey captured emerging student codes of conduct which make it a violation if both partners in a sexual encounter do not explicitly consent. To develop the questions, affirmative consent policies from institutions in AAU and the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) were reviewed. To our knowledge, this is one of the first surveys to measure this type of tactic. The question on absence of affirmative consent (AAC) was introduced with the following definition, although the MSMC definition of affirmative consent was provided to survey respondents earlier in the survey:
Since you have been a student at MSMC has someone had contact with you involving penetration or sexual touching without your active, ongoing voluntary agreement? Examples include someone:
- initiating sexual activity despite your refusal
- ignoring your cues to stop or slow down
- went ahead without checking in or while you were still deciding
- otherwise failed to obtain your consent
Females were the most likely to be victimized by this type of tactic. For example, since enrolling at MSMC, 4.5 percent of undergraduate females were victimized by this tactic compared to 0.0 percent of males. The AAU victimization rate for the same tactic for undergraduate females attending one of the 27 institutions participating in the study was 11.4 percent.
Sexual harassment was defined as a series of behaviors that interfered with the victim’s academic or professional performances, limited the victim’s ability to participate in an academic program, or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive social, academic, or work environment.
Overall, 24 percent of MSMC students indicated that they have been the victim of sexual harassment since enrolling at the college.
Students identifying as female are most likely to be victims of sexual harassment; 29 percent of female and 14 percent of male undergraduates report being sexually harassed.
The most common behavior cited by the students was making inappropriate comments about their body, appearance, or sexual behavior (20%); followed by making sexual remarks, or insulting or offensive jokes or stories (14%).
The offender’s affiliation to the Mount was most often described as a student (92%). The most common relationship of the offender to the victim is a friend or acquaintance (70%), followed by a stranger (46%).
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
The measure of IPV was intended to capture violence associated with relationships that would not be captured in the questions on nonconsensual sexual contact. These questions were administered to anyone who said they had been in any “partnered relationship” since enrolling at MSMC. This was approximately 65 percent of the student population. A partner relationship included:
- casual relationship or hook-up
- steady or serious relationship
- marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or cohabitation
To be classified as a victim, respondents had to say that a partner had done one of the following:
- controlled or tried to control you?
- used any kind of physical force against you?
Since enrolling at MSMC, 8 percent of the student population who had been in a partnered relationship reported experiencing IPV.
To measure stalking, students were asked whether someone:
- made unwanted phone calls, sent emails, voice, text or instant messages, or posted messages, pictures or videos on social networking sites in a way that made you afraid for your personal safety
- showed up somewhere or waited for you when you did not want that person to be there in a way that made you afraid for your personal safety
- spied on, watched or followed you either in person or using devices or software in a way that made you afraid for your personal safety
To be considered stalking, the respondent had to say that these behaviors, either singly or in combination, occurred more than once, and were done by the same person.
Overall, 10 percent of students reported that they had been the victim of stalking since first enrolling at MSMC. Female undergraduates reported being victims of stalking at the highest rate (13%).
Most often, the offender’s affiliation to the college was described as a student (86%), particularly among undergraduate students. In describing the relationship of the offender to the victim, students most often indicated that it was a friend or acquaintance (48%), followed by a stranger (38%), and someone they had dated or were intimate with (14%).
One important policy concern is whether victims of sexual assault and misconduct contact a college or community-based resources for assistance. To understand how often this happens, those students reporting a victimization were presented with a list of agencies tailored to specific resources. This list ranged from agencies concerned with prosecuting offenders (e.g., the Dean of Students Office) to those concerned with assisting the victim with the consequences of the incident (e.g., health care providers; counseling; victim services).
Students who reported victimization were asked if they contacted any of these agencies.
Overall, the rates of contact varied considerably. The following data represents the percentage of students who contacted an agency:
- 100 percent of students who reported harassment
- 71 percent of students who reported penetration by incapacitation
- 59 percent of students who reported stalking
- 20 percent of students reporting sexual touching involving both physical force
- 17 percent of students reporting sexual touching by incapacitation
- 19 percent of students who reported IPV
If an incident was NOT reported, students were asked why they did not report. The dominant reason differed based on the severity of the assault. For the incidents involving penetration the most frequent reason for not reporting was I felt embarrassed, ashamed, or that it would be too emotionally difficult. For incidents involving sexual touching, stalking, or IPV, the most frequent reason for not reporting was that it was not considered serious enough. Most students (between 67% and 100%) reported telling someone else about the incident, although the percentages differ by the type of incident.
Those who reported to an agency during the current school year were asked to evaluate their experience. For those victims who reported at least one incident to an agency, 12 percent said it was somewhat useful, 38 percent said it was very useful, and 50 percent said it was extremely useful. In contrast, 0 percent said it was not at all or a little useful.
Students were asked if at any time they felt pressure from the agency on whether or not to proceed with further reporting or adjudication. All students answered that they were not pressured. The students were asked to rate the program on a scale that went from “excellent” to “poor.” When asked to rate the program on showing respect to the student, 67 percent said “excellent” and 33% said “very good”. No students answered either “fair” (0%) or “poor” (0%). When asked to rate how well the agency helped to understand the victim’s options, 69% said “excellent”, and 31% said “very good”, 0% answered “fair” or “poor”.
The survey included a wide variety of measures of the climate with respect to sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Students were asked a series of questions about what would happen if an instance of sexual assault or sexual misconduct was reported. Overall, the majority of the students generally said it was “very” or “extremely likely” that a positive result would happen as a result of reporting:
- 50 percent believe that it is very or extremely likely that the victim would be supported by other students in making a report.
- 74 percent believe it very or extremely likely that the report would be taken seriously by campus officials.
- 70 percent said it is very or extremely likely that the individual’s safety would be protected.
- 68 percent believe it is very or extremely likely that a fair investigation would occur.
- 64 percent of students thought it was very or extremely likely that campus officials would take action against the offender.
- 61 percent believe it is very or extremely likely that campus officials would take action to address factors that may have led to the sexual assault or sexual misconduct on campus.
Students were asked whether they have been a bystander to the occurrence of sexual assault or misconduct, and if so, the extent to which they intervened and the reason for their intervention decision.
Overall, 10 percent of respondents have suspected that a friend may have been sexually assaulted. Among those who reported they suspected a friend had been sexually assaulted, 82 percent took some type of action, with most speaking to the friend or someone else to seek help (76%).
Overall, 23 percent of respondents reported they have witnessed a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter. Among those who reported being a witness, 62 percent indicated that they did nothing, with 18 percent saying they weren’t sure what to do, and 44 percent saying they did nothing for another reason.
Overall, 11 percent of respondents indicated that they had witnessed someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner. Among those who witnessed this, 53 percent indicated that they did nothing, with 23 percent saying they weren’t sure what to do, and 30 percent saying they did nothing for another reason.
Students were asked a series of questions related to their knowledge of policies related to sexual assault and sexual misconduct:
- 45 percent of students reported they are very or extremely knowledgeable about how the college defines sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
- 54 percent said they were very or extremely knowledgeable about where to get help if they or a friend are victims of sexual assault or misconduct.
- 43 percent said they were very or extremely knowledgeable about where to make a report if a student or friend experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct.