Editorial: All students need to participate in sexual assault survey

By The Beacon | February 22, 2017 8:12pm

Students protested against the school's dealings with sexual assault at a donor event in December. They now have a chance to voice their opinions in a formal setting.

Media Credit: Hannah Baade and The Beacon / The Beacon

University of Portland students have come together through silent protest, clubs and demonstrations to raise awareness about the University's handling of sexual assault cases during the last year, and express discontent with the process. In response to the backlash, criticism and questions it has received, the administration is taking action in the form of a campus-wide survey to go live on Monday, Feb. 27.

The survey, which seeks to better understand the needs of students, will be used to make changes to sexual assault education and prevention programs, according to Associate Vice President for Student Development Matthew Rygg.

The Beacon is calling for all students to take this opportunity to share their experiences and give feedback to the University as it puts its best foot forward in creating a safe and respectful campus culture through institutional change.

For clarification, this sexual assault survey differs from the questionnaire on Title IX policy and procedures. According to a campus-wide email sent out by University Provost Thomas Green on Tuesday evening, the questionnaire will assess evaluations of all community members on aspects of Title IX including “interpersonal violence prevention and education efforts; staffing resources; the procedure for reporting an incident; investigations and conduct hearings; and case reviews.” The email invites all community members to review Life on The Bluff and take the questionnaire. This questionnaire, which is available now, will close on Feb. 27.

The survey, which will be administered by a third party to ensure confidentiality, will not be used as a reporting tool, according to Director of Institutional Research Elizabeth Lee. Lee says students can be assured that when survey results return to the University, their identity will in no way be connected to the feedback and experiences they share. Their input will only help administrators in their efforts to improve the campus culture surrounding sexual violence.

According to the Department of Public Safety’s Crime and Fire Report, only three sexual assaults were reported during 2015 (the report only includes on-campus assaults). But the National Sexual Violence Resource Center has found that more than 20 percent of women fall victim to sexual violence during college.

These statistics lead The Beacon to wonder if the annual number reported through Public Safety accurately represents the number of sexual violence survivors on The Bluff. If the student body actively participates, this survey should help administration better understand the experiences of students and help make this a safer place.

Men and women, who have and haven't experienced sexual violence, should all contribute their experiences and understandings of culture on campus to this effort.

In the past, The Beacon editorial board has suggested changes to the way sexual assault is handled on campus. While we stand by these suggestions, we are pleased to see the University taking this step to qualitatively assess the actual experiences of students. We hope that in the near future, the University will follow this survey with implementation of an affirmative consent policy, the hiring of a full time Title IX Coordinator and increased transparency about the way sexual assault conduct cases are handled by the student conduct board.

The Beacon would like to impress upon students the importance taking this survey. Let your voice be heard and share your experiences (anonymously) with the people who are making the decisions on this campus.

The results from this survey have the potential to spark overdue change on this campus in the context of both educational and prevention programs, victim protection and overall campus culture towards sexual assault.

On-campus resources for victims of sexual violence:

File a Title IX report

Campus and Community Resources (Confidential and non confidential)

Off-campus resources for victims of sexual violence:

Portland Police Bureau: 24-hour emergency: 911

24-hour non-emergency: 503.823.3333

“What Happens When I Report” to Portland Police?

Multnomah County District Attorneys Office- Information on “Sexual Assault Victims Advocates” program and medical exams (Note: Survivors may request a medical exam and “rape kit” after an assault even if they choose not to report the incident to Portland Police)

Portland Women’s Crisis Line: 503-235-5333

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE

“What is a rape kit?” (RAINN)