This week, Student Affairs and Resources (StAR) is putting out a climate survey. It is not a two-question, ten-second survey. I’m not here to grovel to convenience or laziness. The survey is about the sexual and relationship climate at Olin. It takes about fifteen to forty-five minutes, with some variation – for example, many questions are “if yes to previous question”-style. The survey will be open for two weeks and then Jeremy Goodman will parse the raw data into anonymized results, which will be reviewed by a group of students, faculty and staff. This group will release statistical results to the community and recommended action items.
As you can guess, accurate surveys rely on a non-biased response distribution. It’s to everyone’s benefit if these results are as accurate as possible, because as we know from past experience, the survey will have an enormous bearing on Olin climate and policy.
Kate Maschan (now Kate Scully), who graduated last spring, conducted and published a survey on sexual misconduct at Olin. 19% of cis female respondents and 5% of cis male respondents identified being assaulted during their time at Olin; an additional 8% and 2% (respectively) were not sure if they had been. Non-cisgender students and alumni, lumped into one category to preserve anonymity, reported no assaults at the time the survey was done. This was two years ago; a lot has been done since then, and now we look to see quantitatively if we were able to change these staggering numbers.
Staggering is not an overstatement: one in four. Shockwaves rolled through the Olin community, often under the radar, on an individual scale. Kate founded the Peer Advocates to provide a trained and confidential resource for the Olin community. The Honor Board, StAR, the R2s, and many other student and administrative groups significantly reevaluated and reworked how they support survivors on campus and promote campus safety. Some examples of this are the increase of on-campus sessions about Title IX, active bystanding, and supporting friends; PA involvement in the consent discussions during first-year orientation; and the Sexual Respect Team’s policy recommendations to the administration last semester.
I tell you all this to drive home the fact that this survey will do more than be numbers on a sheet – it will do more than we can imagine right now. It will motivate changes, like those I wrote about above, that uniquely address the needs of our current student body. It will bring light and air to experiences that, when held inside individuals, can be unbelievably isolating. It will tell us if things have improved since Kate’s survey. If we are lucky, it will mobilize us to find ways we might support each other, look out for our friends, and empower ourselves.
The survey contains some heavy and potentially triggering questions. Stay tuned for an email from the PAs – we’ll be opening up our rooms to provide spaces for questions, discussion, or just a safe, quiet place to step back from your busy life and get the survey done (plus snacks).
There is a lot I haven’t gone into here about the months of research and discussion that created this survey. If you want to know more, good contact points are Alison Black (Asst. Dean of Student Affairs, Title IX Coordinator), Jeremy Goodman (Director of Institutional Research and Evaluation), or Gabrielle Ewall (student/PA, currently studying away).