09:05 AM

Ohio State releases latest campus climate survey results

Student awareness of resources, reporting avenues has increased

Student awareness of Ohio State University resources and reporting avenues available to survivors of sexual assault has increased by more than 11 percentage points in the last four years, according to results of a new survey.

Over the same time period, student understanding of how sexual assault and sexual misconduct are defined at Ohio State more than doubled, the survey showed.

Ohio State was among 33 institutions that participated this year in the second multi-institutional Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct overseen by the Association of American Universities (AAU), of which Ohio State is a member. Ohio State was one of 27 institutions that participated in AAU’s first national survey in 2015 and conducted its own campus climate surveys in 2016 and 2017.

The 2019 survey, administered by Westat, collected comprehensive data on students’ reports of their own experiences with nonconsensual sexual activity or sexual misconduct and associated consequences, attitudes about the campus climate surrounding sexual misconduct, and knowledge and use of their universities’ resources and policies.

Ohio State’s gains in student knowledge matched or exceeded national gains in these survey categories. Specifically:

  • In 2019, 39 percent of students were very or extremely knowledgeable about where to get help at Ohio State if they were a victim of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, compared to 24 percent in 2015. Nationally, 37 percent of students were very or extremely knowledgeable about where to get help at their respective universities in 2019.
  • In 2019, 32 percent of students — mirroring national results — were very or extremely knowledgeable about where to make a report of sexual assault or sexual misconduct at Ohio State, compared to 21 percent in 2015.
  • In 2019, 51 percent of students — compared to 37 percent of students nationally — knew how Ohio State defined sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

These results suggest that the university’s messages are getting through to students, said Katherine Lasher, associate vice president for institutional equity at Ohio State.

“Preventing sexual assault and misconduct and fostering a culture of respect are our primary goals,” Lasher said. “Communicating to this large student body about what constitutes sexual misconduct and how to access resources they might need someday is extremely important. Seeing an upward trend in awareness is a good sign that our efforts are effective and our students want information about the university’s resources and policies.”

The survey responses indicate that the prevalence of nonconsensual sexual activity at Ohio State has not changed dramatically in the past four years and generally aligns with national data. Respondents were asked to report on experiences of nonconsensual sexual intercourse or sexual touching by physical force, threats of physical force or inability to consent since they had enrolled at the institution:

  • Female undergraduate student respondents: increased from 24 percent in 2015 to 24.9 percent in 2019 at Ohio State; the rate is 25.9 percent nationally.
  • Male undergraduate student respondents: increased from 5.3 percent in 2015 to 6 percent in 2019 at Ohio State; 6.8 percent nationally.
  • Female graduate/professional student respondents: increased from 9.7 percent in 2015 to 13.3 percent in 2019; 9.7 percent nationally.
  • Male graduate/professional student respondents: decreased from 3.2 percent in 2015 to 3.1 percent in 2019; 2.5 percent nationally.
  • TGQN student respondents at all ranks (those who identified as transgender, genderqueer or nonbinary, questioning or not listed on the survey): 26.8 percent in 2019 at Ohio State (data for 2015 were disaggregated by class rank: rates were 22.7 percent for undergraduate TGQN students; data for graduate and professional students were suppressed due to small sample sizes to protect confidentiality). National rates in 2019 are 22.8 percent for undergraduates and 14.5 percent for graduate/professional students.

Twenty-six percent of Ohio State students, and 25 percent of students nationally, responded that sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campus is very or extremely problematic.

The overall response rate at Ohio State in 2019 was 11.6 percent, or 7,443 students. The national response rate was 21.9 percent, and the response rate at public institutions was 16.5 percent.

Information about students’ experiences, attitudes and knowledge is an important component in developing long-term strategies to address sexual misconduct and adopting immediate enhancements to services and policies if needed, Lasher said.

“We can’t identify problems adequately if we don’t ask these questions,” she said.

The Office of Institutional Equity that Lasher oversees represents a significant structural change at Ohio State. Consolidation of the sex- and gender-based harassment and discrimination reporting and response functions reflects Ohio State’s continuous work to develop enhanced, robust protections for students, faculty and staff. Additionally, Ohio State implemented mandatory sexual misconduct prevention education for incoming students in 2016 and expanded this requirement in 2018 to all students, faculty and staff.

More broadly, the university advanced ongoing efforts to address sexual misconduct with the launch in 2015 of Buckeyes ACT, a community-wide approach to combat sexual misconduct through action, counseling and support, and training.

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