UM to survey students on sexual misconduct

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

In an effort to assess and prevent sexual misconduct, the University of Michigan is conducting a random online survey this week of undergraduate and graduate students.

“During my first semester as president, I spent a great deal of time engaging with the campus community in various forums, fireside chats, interviews, and other informal meetings,” President Mark Schlissel wrote in an email sent to students on Monday. “At many of these sessions, students spoke openly and personally about sexual assault issues at the University of Michigan, or wrote me directly to share their views on this very important issue.

“I appreciate this dialogue, and I strongly encourage you to complete the survey if you receive it. In order to provide the safest possible environment for our students, we must understand our existing campus climate and culture as thoroughly as possible ... Your participation will support our work to ensure a safe, healthy, and nondiscriminatory environment for our students and help keep all students safe.”

The survey comes as UM is still under federal investigation for its handling of a sexual misconduct case. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights opened the case last year — along with three cases at Michigan State University, one case at Grand Valley State University and nearly 100 other cases on college campuses across the nation.

Sexual misconduct has become an issue that many colleges and universities are working to improve as victims across the country have spoken out, demanding that their schools better handle situations. The White House has established a task force that made recommendations to better serve students who are victimized or accused of misconduct.

UM updated its sexual misconduct policy in fall 2013 and in November 2014, the university released a baseline, first-of-its- kind report listing alleged incidents during a 12-month period and how they were handled.

This week’s online survey will be conducted by the Ann Arbor-based Survey Sciences Group. Questions were culled from previous surveys, and also recommendations from the federal government.

Questions will be asked to assess students’ knowledge and understanding of the university’s sexual misconduct policy and their awareness of resources on campus for victims, according to UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald. The survey also will ask students more personal questions, such as whether they have been assaulted or harassed and whether they have assaulted or harassed someone.

“We’re trying to assess the prevalence and the range,” Fitzgerald said.

The 3,000 students who will be surveyed are only a sample of the university’s more than 40,000 students. Students will be encouraged to participate with assurance that their responses will be confidential and will receive a payment starting at $15. Participants can donate the survey payment to the United Way.

Meanwhile, the entire university will participate in an all-student survey that will be conducted this spring by the Association of American Universities.

Results of UM’s survey are expected next summer.

“I am committed to providing the safest possible environment for all students at the University of Michigan,” Schlissel said.