By Ariel Liu
As students carry out their civic duties this week, they will notice a referendum on the elections ballot for a new Campus Climate Survey.
The referendum calls for a Campus Climate Survey addressing sexual assault cases at Stanford to be conducted “no less often than every three years” and to be conducted via a methodology “such that Stanford’s data will be easily comparable to that of our peer schools.”
Earlier this year, the ASSU Senate passed a unanimous resolution to reissue the Campus Climate Survey. The resolution, sponsored by Senator Matthew Cohen ’18, arose as a result of the low sexual assault rate reported by the University, which some students thought was unusual and was not representative of the actual rate.
However, the resolution has not prompted administrative action as the University may have wanted to use its own surveys in order to adjust the questions for greater applicability to Stanford and control the amount of data released to the public, according to Cohen.
“After a series of meetings with University administrators, it became clear that [reissuing the Campus Climate Survey] was not going to happen,” Cohen said. “And I just wanted to get [a signal] from the student body to show that it’s not just senators that support it, it’s really the entire student body.”
The referendum calls for the adoption of the Association of American Universities (AAU) survey, which was implemented by Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth and 23 other peer schools. This survey uses a broader definition of sexual assault and returned more detailed data, according to law professor Michele Dauber, who helped write Stanford’s sexual violence policies.
“I think being able to have that richer data and also to be able to compare ourselves to our peer schools would be worth repeating the survey,” Dauber said in an email to The Daily. “I also believe that Stanford’s narrow definition of assault is not consistent with community values or with our goals for prevention education.”
Members of the AAU are working to provide policymakers with data to combat sexual assault and misconduct on university campuses. According to its website, AAU “decided in 2014 that the best way to help its members address this issue was to develop and implement a scientific survey to better understand the attitudes and experiences of their students with respect to sexual assault and sexual misconduct.”
When Stanford administered the Campus Climate Survey in spring 2015, the results showed that 1.9 percent of respondents have experienced sexual assault, and 14.2 percent have experienced another form of sexual misconduct, according to the Stanford Report. The 1.9 percent is 10 times lower than most peer schools’ reported sexual assault rates, according to Dauber.
This result was heavily contested by community members, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News. According to Dauber, the University’s low rate was partly a result of Stanford’s allegedly narrow definitions of sexual assault, which excludes “sexual touching due to force and incapacitation” and “many felony sex crimes such as sexual battery and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person” (one of the felonies for which Brock Turner was convicted).
“My first reaction to the 1.9 percent number was that it’s not credible, it’s too low to be correct,” Dauber told the Mercury News. “I thought, ‘There must be some mistake.’ That’s probably lower than some convents.”
Contact Ariel Liu at [email protected]