The Association Of American Universities Releases 2019 Sexual Assault Student Survey Results
The Association of American Universities, an organization of leading research universities of which Texas A&M is a member, released results this week from a nationwide 2019 Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. Texas A&M University was one of 32 AAU universities out of the 62 eligible which opted in to participate in the survey. Results for Texas A&M were released on the university’s Title IX website.
While response rates were lower than expected – 5.9 percent compared to the AAU aggregate response rate of 21.9 – university officials said that the survey offers value both for Texas A&M and aggregate AAU results and learnings.
“We are grateful to the students who took the time to complete the survey,” Texas A&M President Michael K. Young said. “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.”
The 54-question anonymous survey of enrolled students at the Texas A&M campus in College Station was conducted Feb. 1 through March 2 of this year by the research firm Westat, based in Rockville, MD. Invitations to participate in the survey were distributed through a variety of traditional and social media formats. The last such survey at Texas A&M was in 2015.
Encouraging results include a sharp increase in awareness of issues related to sexual violence and harassment as compared to the 2015 survey, including knowledge of services and resources, the school’s sexual assault policies and procedures, and ongoing trainings.
Among areas of concern in the results of both the aggregate AAU report and at Texas A&M is the prevalence of “nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or inability to consent” among female undergraduate and graduate or professional survey respondents. Also a rise was reported by survey respondents in incidents of sexual activity by means of “coercion without active, ongoing voluntary agreement,” particularly by women and people who identified as TGQN (transgender man, transgender woman, genderqueer or nonbinary).
Texas A&M psychology professor Dr. Mindy Bergman, attributes the increase in awareness to a combination of factors that include the #MeToo movement and the university’s efforts through the “Step In. Stand Up.” bystander intervention program that started four years ago.
While the survey results showed that awareness has increased, it also highlighted that students who have been victimized were not likely to report the incident to a program or resource. The fact that students are not reporting sexual misconduct is not a surprise, Bergman said.
She said that the number of people who report to the police or Title IX office at this or other universities is 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 said.
Texas A&M launched external and internal investigations into its Title IX investigation process following concerns raised in 2018. In addition to the myriad actions taken before that, these include:
- Policies, guidelines, resources and other communications uploaded onto a redesigned Title IX website for ease of access to key resources in one place;
- Hiring of additional counselors, investigators, a deputy coordinator and case managers to keep pace with the growth in student body enrollment and need;
- Positioning staff at various locations on the university’s expansive campus to allow for greater access and discretion for students;
- Release of a sanctioning matrix model for full transparency regarding the severity of violations and that clearly shows how each violation can result in reprimand, probation, suspension or expulsion;
- Additional trainings scheduled for employees who are required to report violations. This includes learning how to better help someone who has filed a grievance; and
- A notation made on all transcripts when there is an academic or conduct case resulting in separation from the university, including for suspension or expulsion.
The complete recommendations and actions underway resulting from the external and internal reviews can be accessed on Texas A&M Today.
Officials say that the survey results will help them continue to hone in on areas for improvement and resources.
“As a campus community, we will continue our dedication and diligence to ensure that Texas A&M is a safe place to learn and work,” said Jennifer Smith, assistant vice president and Title IX officer in the Texas 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.”