Last week, the administration announced the results of the Sexual Assault Climate Survey. The survey polled sophomores, juniors, and seniors about their thoughts on sexual misconduct at Haverford. 57 other colleges and universities participated in the survey through the Higher Education Data Sharing consortium (HEDS), the organization that created the survey.
“It is clear from the data we have shared that we can point to some significant accomplishments in certain areas, but also that there is a great deal of work to do,” Dean Martha Denney wrote in an email to the Haverford community.
In her email, Denney highlighted areas of achievement: 85% of Haverford students believe that “campus officials do a good job of protecting students from harm”; 85% “knew what sexual assault is and how to recognize it”; 85% “were aware of Haverford’s confidential resources for sexual assault and how to locate them”; 94% report feeling safe on campus; and 95% believe that “faculty, staff and administrators are genuinely concerned with students’ wellbeing.”
When looking at all colleges and universities in HEDS, 66%, 83%, 77%, 60%, 83%, and 85% of students agree with these statements, respectively.
However, the survey also revealed some areas for improvement at Haverford: 69% agreed that “campus officials respond quickly in difficult situations”; 69% claimed “they knew how to report a sexual assault”; and 41% believed they were “familiar with the procedures for investigating a sexual assault.”
In these categories, Haverford’s results were also higher than the average; 54%, 62%, and 37% of HEDS participants agreed with these statements.
However, students’ responses to the statement “there is a good support system to help students through difficult times” was lower at Haverford than at other schools; while 61% of Haverford students agreed with this statement, 62% of HEDs participants agreed.The full results of the survey can be found here.
For Alexander, this is a complicated issue. “I wasn’t shocked,” said Qui Alexander, Program Coordinator of the Women*s Center. “I think it spoke to the larger challenges of dealing with sexual assault on campuses, not just at Haverford. This is something that college communities have to deal with.”
The administration is interested in why students did not respond as positively to the statement about Haverford’s support system and is planning to follow up on the survey results. According to Title IX coordinator Dean Steve Watter, the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee (SMPAC) will address these issues. SMPAC includes various staff and faculty members, as well as students.
“We plan to utilize the results in ways that will allow us to better address areas that need attention and, in so doing, more effectively meet the needs of the community in this regard,” said Watter.
Although this was the first year that the survey was conducted, 50% of the Haverford student body participated in the survey, compared to 20% at other colleges and universities that were involved in the same survey, according to Denney.
Alexander agrees with Denney that student participation was one of the successes of the survey.
“Making space for as many people’s voices as possible is really, really important,” said Alexander. “It helps us really get a better picture of what’s going on.”
Currently, reporting sexual assault at Haverford involves three levels of confidentiality: confidential resources, such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS); resources that must report an incident, but do not give personal information, including the Women*s Center; and resources that must report sexual assault, such as Customs People and deans.
“I think we have a lot of resources and people know that the resources are available, but I’m interested in why people don’t feel comfortable accessing those resources,” said Alexander.
According to the survey, 5.9% of Haverford students who took the survey self-reported being assaulted and 3.5% self-reported that they thought they had been assaulted.
For Alexander, it is important to consider how we approach these results: “To encourage people to take this information and understand that it’s real and it’s true, but also that we can approach this work from a place of love and really just looking out for each other, rather than being scared—that feels really important.”