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Penn State Releases Results Of Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey

The university released the results of last fall’s sexual misconduct climate survey, which was implemented by recommendation of the sexual assault task force. The survey was completed by nearly 10,000 students representing 23 of 24 Penn State campuses.

“This survey marks the first time that we’ve asked our entire student community about the issues of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct impacting their daily lives on campus,” President Eric Barron said in a video release. “As you might expect, the results vary widely from campus to campus.”

Here’s a breakdown of the most important statistics from the 32-page report from University Park. All reports from every campus can be found here.

Students responded favorably to questions about how the university handles cases of sexual misconduct, with more than 80 percent of students overall agreeing that the university “would maintain the privacy of the person making the report.” The least favorable topic in this section is the university’s perceived willingness to “provide accommodations — such as academic, housing, or other safety accommodations — to support the person who experienced an incident of sexual misconduct.”

LGBTQ students reported lower rates of confidence in the university’s ability to handle such matters. Specifically, 67.8 percent of all undergraduate students feel that the university would handle reports of sexual misconduct fairly, while just 51 percent of LGBTQ undergraduate students agree.

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“It is easy to oversimplify what are actually complex human relations, and that is certainly true of sexual assault or harassment. But one thing that cannot be oversimplified is Penn State’s deep and sincere commitment to do all it reasonably can to prevent sexual misconduct among students wherever it may occur,” Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, who led the sexual assault task force, said. “We will continue to respond effectively to all reports of sexual assault or harassment, promising fundamental fairness in our processes, and providing support whenever our support is required.”

The majority of students feel safe on campus, but it’s clear that male students feel significantly more safe than female and LGBTQ students. While 71.4 percent of undergraduate students feel safe from sexual harassment, 89.6 percent of men feel safe, while just 57.6 percent of women and 54.5 percent of LGBTQ students agree.

While more than 90 percent of students agree that “sexual misconduct is a problem at University Park,” more than 20 percent of students don’t think there is much they can do to help the issue. Most students remembered receiving the Student Code of Conduct with resources for sexual misconduct, but less than half of undergraduate students reported knowing how to report and incident or where to get help in cases of sexual misconduct. Other than University Health Services (UHS) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), less than 25 percent of students were aware of other resources like the Center for Women Students (CWS), the SHARE website, and the Centre County Women’s Resource Center.

The survey also found that 18.1 percent of undergraduates and 6.7 percent of graduate students reported being a victim of an instance or attempt of sexual assault. This average includes more than 25 percent of female and LGBTQ students who have been victims of an instance or attempt of sexual assault. Most of these students reported being incapacitated at the time of the incident. When you consider the number of students enrolled here, the sheer volume of victims is astonishing. More than 20 percent of the undergraduate students surveyed were also victims of stalking behaviors, with 33.7 percent of LGBTQ students, 27.8 percent of female students, and 11.6 percent of male students experiencing these behaviors.

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While 86.5 percent of students would feel comfortable reporting sexual misconduct to a close friend and 68.6 percent would feel comfortable reporting to a roommate, just 2.2 percent would feel comfortable reporting to university faculty or staff, and just 3.3 percent would feel comfortable reporting to the Office of Student Conduct. The most common reason victims of sexual misconduct did not report is that “It would cause more trouble than it was worth.”

When witnessing other cases of sexual misconduct, less than 50 percent of students reported that they would intervene in any way. The most common reasons for this were “not having enough information to determine if it was concerning enough to intervene, not noticing the situation due to being intoxicated, and being concerned for their own safety.”

In comparison to other universities that conducted similar surveys, Penn State seems to have more favorable perceptions on how the institution will handle instances of sexual misconduct. Unfortunately, other areas of the survey cannot be accurately compared because of the way that Penn State chose to phrase the questions.

“To continue this momentum, we need your help,” Barron said in the video release. “Please take a look at the results of the climate survey, and think deeply about how you can help fight sexual misconduct, sexual violence, and sexual harassment on campus and throughout society. Too many individuals have already been profoundly impacted.”

Where do we go from here? With four sexual assault cases reported in the past week, it’s clear that the university must use this new data to inspire progress.

“As a university community, we must do everything in our power to address these issues and make our campus as safe as possible,” Barron said in the video release. “Together, we are taking an honest and straightforward look at sexual misconduct. Together, we are working towards prevention, and together, we can change our campus climate.”

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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