Title IX Office presents climate survey results


The preliminary results of the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Campus Climate Sexual Assault Survey revealed that most sexual assaults at Occidental occurred in residence halls, were perpetrated by someone the survivor knew and involved alcohol use. The results also suggested a lack of trust from students in the administration’s ability to handle formal reports of sexual assault. Title IX Director Ruth Jones presented the preliminary results in a meeting with students, faculty and administrators Tuesday.

The Office of Institutional Research and Title IX Office used the survey to collect information on sexual assault at Occidental and to gauge student perception of the college’s response, according to an email sent to the student body by Jones Feb. 3. The email stated that the college would use the data to improve future policy and education.

The first part of the survey results focused on the frequency and nature of sexual assaults at Occidental. Out of 634 respondents, 51 (8 percent) reported being sexually assaulted during their time at Occidental. Twenty-three individuals were unsure if they had experienced an assault under the survey’s definition of unwanted or non-consensual sexual touching or oral, vaginal or anal intercourse. Fifty percent of the assaults occurred in residence halls and 60 percent occurred within the student’s first year at Occidental.

“All of the statistics are concerning,” Jones said. “Sometimes we can get immersed in numbers, as if the sheer volume can give a response, but each person who answered and reported is an actual person. They may be just one number on a chart, but their impact is real more than being a number. I think of 51 people.”

Results also showed that the assaults were most often perpetrated by another Occidental student (87 percent), and 78 percent of the survivors knew their assailant. Eighty percent of assailants had ingested alcohol around the time of the assault, as well as 75 percent of survivors

Additionally, respondents reported a low level of trust in an Occidental official’s ability to handle reports of sexual assault. Though 60 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that an official would take the report seriously, fewer said the same that officials would support and protect the reporter (around 50 percent), conduct a careful investigation (over 40 percent) and take action against the offender (around 40 percent). Over 80 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe at school, and around 50 percent said that officials do a good job of protecting students from harm and that the school had a good support system for students going through a tough time.

In order to protect privacy, the survey was completely anonymous and only recorded the gender and race—classified as either white or non-white—of the respondents in the raw data given to Occidental by HEDS. The response rate for the survey, which was administered between Feb. 16 and March 6, was 31 percent. The rate of response for females was 36 percent and 24 percent for males. In addition, the rate of response for students who identified as white was 37 percent, as compared to the 23 percent for students who identified as people of color.

Teresa Kaldor, the director of the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning (IRAP), said that the inequity of respondent demographics posed an inherent limitation to the survey results, as they may not be generalizable to the entire school. In addition, the questions only asked about assaults related to Occidental.

Jones and Kaldor followed the presentation of the results by opening up the discussion to audience members. Several students expressed concern about low survey participation, and how to communicate the data to the Occidental community.

Kaldor stated that participation in surveys must be voluntary and that requiring students to participate would be illegal. Communication of the results will include posting the data to the college’s institutional research website and a mass email to the entire community.

Brian Erickson (junior), an attendee, said the findings serve as an effective starting point for further action by the college.

“I think if there’s any concrete action that should be taken as a result of these numbers then that would be a good thing,” Brian Erickson (junior), who attended the presentation, said. “I don’t know that there necessarily would be—as [Jones] said, I think that noticing trends is going to be what is most important and what is going to determine what further courses of action we should take.”

Elizabeth Seibert (sophomore) said she thought the timing of the presentation, held during the Tuesday lunch period, prevented many students from attending.

“It’s just a bad time, which insinuates that they don’t want a lot of people to show up,” Seibert said. “I think that maybe requiring campus leaders … to be present would probably be a good thing to do.”

Jones noted a tension in keeping the survey short enough for busy students to complete and obtaining detailed results. In the future the office may alternate between two climate surveys with different questions to help alleviate this problem.

She added that the Title IX Office is planning to release the number of reports of sexual assaults, we well as how the cases were resolved, at the end of every semester.

In June, the Office of Institutional Research will receive the data from similar colleges so that the results can be compared. Jones said that a more detailed and thorough analysis of the results will be held Sept. 15.


  1. The estimate that 1 in 5 women who attend college are sexually assaulted during the course of their undergraduate education was an estimate based on the best available reported data at the time. Given the particular difficulty with tracking this when reporting rates for these crimes to law enforcement and campus authorities are very low, understand that it was not arrived at with some nefarious motive.

    Now as to this particular survey, it included men, women, and hopefully other genders, though it is not clear if that was available as an option. Regardless, this will help to explain some of your concern with “propaganda” based on the 8% statistic reported here. Men are less likely to be sexually assaulted during their time in college, thus any survey that includes multiple genders will be skewed below the 1 in 5 estimate that is specific to women.

    Additionally that statistic is that through their four years in college 1 in 5 women are estimated to have been assaulted by someone. So if this was a survey of occidental women who attended for 8 semesters you might have found it a bit closer to the oft-reported national estimate. However, it was not, rather this survey included all levels of the college, all genders, and had other issues with participation across demographics.

    Additionally this college-wide survey does not include individuals who were assaulted who left the school, either transferring or dropping out due to PTSD, depression, fear of seeing their assailant on campus, and other effects associated with having your body attacked and abused by someone against your will.

    As Ruth is quoted in the article saying, there are at least 51 people at Oxy currently who were sexually assaulted during their time there. If you take that mere 8% as representative, which we shouldn’t for other reasons, such as not knowing if being a survivor made one more or less likely to respond to the survey, but let’s do it anyways because it is what we have to work with, you are looking at around 160 survivors who were assaulted during their time on campus.

    That is more students than are on the baseball and softball teams combined, more students than work for the Oxy Weekly, the yearbook, and CatAList combined, more students than just about any club on campus besides DancePro. Heck it is almost equal to the number of faculty employed by the college.

    So to be frank, Frank, get out of here with your simplistic and unnecessary dismissal of this as an issue. Many of these survivors, men, women and other genders I know personally as friends, acquaintances, and former classmates but all of them are students at Oxy who earned admission to the college to pursue their education and if you are an alum of this College, you should at least respect that.


    Malcolm Clayton ’14

  2. And I misread the male/female as man/woman so apologies for not noticing that distinction in the earlier post

  3. The legal drinking age is 21. Of the 75% of survivors who had ingested alcohol, how many of them were of legal drinking age? 60% of them occurred during the first year of college, which would suggest that a majority of these survivors were not of legal drinking age.

    From this underage group of assault survivors, are we able to draw any conclusions about how they were able to get access to alcohol? Such information would seem to be of significant value in the struggle against sexual assault.

    Unfortunately you cannot answer such a question unless you design a survey to specifically answer this kind of question. So I would ask Ruth Jones to delve a bit deeper into campus alcohol consumption in the next survey.


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