University of Iowa climate survey to poll students on sex assault

'There is absolutely no place for these actions on our campus'

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa on Monday will disseminate a first-of-its-kind “Speak Out Iowa” survey to its more than 32,000 students in hopes of assessing campus climate related to sexual misconduct — including harassment, dating violence, stalking, and assault.

All degree-seeking students will receive an email invitation to participate in the online survey Monday, and they’ll have until Nov. 20 to answer questions related to their knowledge, opinions, and beliefs on a variety of subjects. Topics will include campus policies and resources, and respondents will be asked to share their perception of campus climate and the prevalence of sexual misconduct.

Participation is voluntary, and all responses are anonymous.

The university decided not to participate in a recent massive Association of American Universities-backed survey around campus sexual assault and instead conduct this UI-specific climate study.

Iowa State University, meanwhile, did participate in the AAU research and found that 1 in 10 ISU students experienced some sort of unwanted sexual misconduct during their college years. The ISU rate — according to the study, which involved 27 campuses and more than 150,000 student respondents — was under the national average of 11.7 percent.

UI officials said they had concerns about both the timeline of the national study and its completeness, and Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin said information gathered from this fall’s assessment will be used toward ensuring a safe and health campus environment.

The instrument UI is using for its climate study was created by a group of experts committed to using current and empirically-supported measures — although it was modified slightly to reflect UI-relevant issues.

Results of the survey will be made public in the spring and used to inform UI’s initiatives to address campus sexual misconduct.

“There is absolutely no place for these actions on our campus,” Monique DiCarlo, UI sexual misconduct response coordinator and deputy Title IX coordinator, said in a statement. “The climate survey will assist in our prevention work and in our efforts to support survivors and hold offenders accountable.”

Earlier this fall, the university reported a jump in reported sex offenses on campus — although DiCarlo said that could be the result of more individuals willing to come forward and not representative of more violent behavior.

UI took 17 reports of rape and 59 reports of fondling on campus in 2014, up from a 2013 total of 13 forcible sex offenses — a category that changed last year but would have previously included both rape and fondling incidents, according to UI police.

Of the 2014 fondling reports, 50 were related to one case that resulted in an arrest. If those 50 were combined into one case, rape and fondling reports at UI increased from 13 in 2013 to 27 in 2014.

The university recently has been focusing its efforts on addressing sexual misconduct on campus, changing the language in its community warnings, introducing new training programs, launching a variety of initiatives, and updating policies.

UI administrators over the summer new stalking and sexual harassment policies, for example. The institution also spent federal money over the summer to provide additional training for judicial administrators and UI police in the areas of sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

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