BU social climate revealed in survey

Will Barksdale | Multimedia Journalist

Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

While 73 percent of Baylor students are aware of campus resources for instances of sexual misconduct, according to Baylor’s Social Climate Survey only 53 percent said they believed Baylor would support the individual making the report.

Results from the 2017 Social Climate Survey were released last week, offering insight into students’ perceptions and experiences regarding sexual harassment, stalking, domestic violence or sexual violence.

“The focus of the social climate survey was to establish a baseline of Baylor’s campus culture in the areas of interpersonal violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment,” said Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications. “Now that we have that baseline, we will be able to look at the findings of that survey and tailor our future educational and training programs to specifically address some of these findings.”

The social climate survey was sent to 15,754 undergraduate and graduate students and was offered from Jan. 31, 2017 to March 13, 2017. The survey garnered 4,523 respondents — a 28.7 percent response rate — which, according to the report, is above the national average.

When looking at the numbers, it is important to consider non-response survey bias and how “individuals who did not complete the survey might bias the survey results, positively or negatively, due to their lack of participation,” the report states.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s best practice recommendations, schools who conduct their own climate surveys “are better equipped to address campus sexual assault because they have data that specifically describes their community.”

The survey examined “peer norms,” statements or actions that a student believed their friends would approve or disapprove of. Over 95 percent of respondents indicated their friends would strongly disapprove of “forcing someone to have sex” or “using physical force such as hitting or beating to resolve conflicts with dates.”

Furthermore, 93 percent of the survey’s respondents indicated they strongly agreed or agreed “that consent must be given at each step in a sexual encounter.”

As for Baylor’s institutional response, 63 percent of respondents said they believed it was likely or very likely that Baylor would take reports of sexual misconduct seriously.

A majority of respondents who indicated they experienced sexual harassment or violence (72 percent) agreed Baylor “did/would create an environment where this type of experience was safe to discuss.”

Fort Worth senior Caroline Grace, who is the president of Title IX’s “It’s On Us” Student Advisory Council, said she believes more organizations on campus are becoming comfortable with talking about issues related to sexual harassment or violence.

“I’ve been working more with fraternities and sororities in this aspect and kind of bringing [awareness] into more of an interdisciplinary field, where it’s not just the sexual assault group that’s doing it, it’s everybody as a stakeholder,” Grace said. “I think that is the ideal evolution of ‘It’s on Us,’ that everybody is participating in the discussion and not just people that normally advocate for it.”

Among respondents who experienced sexual harassment, stalking, domestic violence or sexual violence, 75 percent agreed Baylor did/would “actively support them with either formal or informal resources.”

A majority of respondents indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe on or around campus from sexual harassment (76 percent) or violence (77 percent).

“While many of the responses demonstrate significant progress and provide hope for our campus community, others have shown that more assistance, training and resources are needed as part of our ongoing commitment to continuous improvement,” President Linda Livingstone said in a statement.

For example, 41 percent of respondents indicated they experienced sexist gender harassment by a student and another 31 percent said they experienced the same type of harassment by a faculty, instructor or staff member.

Cook said that over the past couple of years, recent training and educational efforts have been focused on general awareness of sexual assault and resources available to students. He said now that Baylor has the survey’s results, the university will be able to target its actions further.

“One thing that we have to consider is we have 17,000 students who all have different backgrounds, different life experiences, different personalities and different interactions,” Cook said. “[Baylor’s] role is to continuously work to establish a safe and caring campus community. We do that through education and the services that we provide for our students.”

The campus climate survey was conducted in response to Pepper Hamilton’s recently implemented105 Recommendations” for Baylor to “identify challenges in the current campus climate that affect the educational or employment environment or create barriers to reporting, and test for prevalence

Additional climate survey findings:

  • 30 percent of respondents said they experienced “crude gender harassment” by a student.
  • 13 percent of respondents indicated they experienced “unwanted sexual attention” and 17 percent said they experienced “sexual harassment via electronic communication” by a student.
  • 81 percent of respondents who indicated they experienced sexual harassment, stalking, domestic violence or sexual violence indicated they told their close friend about the incident, 54 percent told a roommate, 36 percent told a romantic partner.
  • 57 percent of respondents who indicated they experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence indicated that a community leader or residence hall staff member was “very useful.”
  • 70 percent said Baylor University athletic department coach or staff were “not at all useful.”
  • 89 percent of respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, “If a person doesn’t physically resist sex, they have given consent.”
  • 61 percent of respondents said they strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, “I don’t think sexual violence is a problem at Baylor University.”
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