College distributes survey on sexual violence

This past weekend, The Office of Student Affairs sent out a survey about sexual violence on campus. Data collected from the survey will help guide Macalester’s efforts towards sexual violence prevention and serve as a benchmark to compare our efforts with those of other institutions.

Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, Vice President of Student Affairs Laurie Hamre, and Associate Dean of Students Lisa Landreman are heading this effort to collect information from students about sexual violence at Macalester.

This survey is unique because it is not campus-specific. Over 35 other colleges and universities will also be taking this survey, which will allow each institutions to compare its results on both a national scale and within a subset of similar schools. “Looking at our results in a larger, more national context felt really important,” Landreman said.

Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, which Macalester is already a member of, is conducting the survey for a reduced price. “We know them and we know it’s all confidential,” Landreman said. “We can’t trace surveys to individuals, we don’t have access to individual names.”

After the data is analyzed, Landreman said there will be “some sort of executive summary that we’ll make available to people.”

“We don’t want to rest on our laurels,” Landreman said. “There could be a support group that we are having that we think is a great resource, but someone might say it isn’t working. Or we might not have something that could be helpful.”

Other goals of the survey are to get students involved, have conversations with one another, intervene on each other’s behalf and challenge accepted norms about sexual violence on college campuses.

Currently, climate surveys of U.S. university and college campuses are not required. However, in light of recent events involving rape, sexual assault and violence at a number of U.S. institutions, there is reason to believe that Congress may soon mandate this type of survey be taken by students nationwide.

“This is really our way of saying that we haven’t done this in a while, it feels important, and whatever we can glean from that survey can inform our planning for next year,” Landreman said. “So, instead of waiting until it’s mandated, we are just trying to do it proactively.”

The survey might also help the college understand if current prevention methods are effective.

“We have a record of who reports sexual violence and it would be interesting to compare that to people who believe they have experienced sexual assault and the disconnect between reports and what’s actually happening,” Landreman said. “How do you know if it’s a chilly climate and people aren’t reporting or if prevention is really working.”

Student responses to the survey were divided. Delanee Hawkins ’18 explained that she didn’t attach a lot of significance to the survey.

“I don’t think the survey is going to help prevent sexual assault. People who would sexually assault people are not going to change their behaviors just because they had to answer a questionnaire,” Hawkins said. “I initially just deleted it when I saw it in my email. It’s not because I’m not interested in preventing sexual assault, it’s just because I don’t see how a survey is going to help anything.”

Alia Baitie ’18 felt the survey was a good initiative put forth by Macalester.

“I think it is a great idea to do this kind of thing now. Why not now!” Baitie said. “The questions asked about what to do if you saw someone in a certain situation, if something happens to you. They asked if people knew where to go for help and I think those are very important questions to be asking. I feel very safe at Macalester, and I think Macalester is doing what it should be doing.”