Opinion

As Semester Runs Out, No Sign of Sexual Assault Survey

Loyola University Chicago | Flickr

Last December, The Phoenix reported Loyola would release a survey early in the spring 2017 semester to gauge the community’s experience with what Loyola classifies as gender-based misconduct.

That was according to Title IX coordinator Tom Kelly, whose department handles gender-based misconduct reports. This includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking.

The email survey would ask Loyola students, faculty and staff if they have ever experienced gender-based misconduct. Kelly also said the survey would ask questions about how the community thinks Loyola handles reports of gender-based misconduct.

But now we’re entering the last full month of school, and there’s still no sign of a survey. Meanwhile, several attempts to contact the Title IX office about an updated release date have gone unanswered.

At first glance, the survey might sound trivial. It could possibly end up being one of the many Loyola emails students overlook in their inboxes.

But, at other universities, surveys like this one have proven to be a crucial first step in addressing sexual assault, and other related crimes, on their campuses.

After all, you can’t fix a problem unless you know it’s happening.

Yes, Loyola has some idea of how many gender-based misconduct incidents happen on campus from the number of cases reported to Campus Safety or the Title IX office.

But those are only the reported ones.

An anonymous survey like this allows people who didn’t file a report the chance to share their story, giving Loyola a better understanding of gender-based misconduct issues are on campus.

In the fall of 2015, the Association of American Universities conducted similar surveys at 27 schools, and found that nearly 12 percent of students reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact.

Since then, more colleges — including Jesuit institutions such as Fordham, Georgetown and Rockhurst Universities — have conducted sexual assault surveys.

At Fordham, 6 percent of respondents said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact by someone using force or threat, and 7 percent said they experienced unwanted sexual contact when they were not able to give consent or stop what was happening.

Last semester, Loyola’s Title IX office received 76 total reports of gender-based misconduct. That was 27 more reports than the office received during the fall 2015 semester, and only eight less than were reported during the entire 2015-16 academic year.

Of those reports, 26 were sexual assaults. Eight of those reports were for incidents that happened last semester, while seven did not have specific dates and 11 occurred prior to the fall 2016 semester.

Of the eight that happened that semester, six were included in the Campus Safety police logs.

This semester, only one report of sexual assault has been included in the logs.

But clearly, that’s not an accurate view of sexual assault on campus.

Not every sexual assault report is filed with Campus Safety. Whether or not a report is, depends on what the person filing the report wants to do. But that’s only if a survivor decides to
file a report in the first place.

It’s not a question of whether or not sexual assault, and other gender-based misconduct incidents, are an issue at Loyola. It’s a question of how big that problem is and this survey could help develop an answer to that.

But, we’re running out of time.

Any student or professor on campus could tell you we’re about to enter the most hectic time of the semester.

Adding to finals and term papers, soon the Student Government of Loyola Chicago ballots will be emailed and it’s only a matter of time before everyone’s inboxes become inundated with end- of-the-semester course evaluations.

A survey this important deserves everyone’s time and full attention. But in these final weeks of the semester, both of those will become very limited.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault says most universities reach their goal sample size after the survey has been live for 28 days, but recommends at least a full month. As of March 29, there are only 20 days of school left for the spring semester.

So it would appear we’ve run out of time.

Loyola has said time and time again that addressing sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct incidents is a priority. But until a survey is released, it’s a priority we can’t start to address.

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