Stanford joins in nationwide survey on sexual assault and harassment

One year ago, Provost Persis Drell announced Stanford’s plan to join the Association of American Universities (AAU) in a nationwide survey to understand the prevalence of sexual assault, harassment and other forms of sexual violence on U.S. college campuses. Since then, Stanford has been preparing for the survey to ensure maximum participation among students. The survey opened on Tuesday, April 9, and will close Friday, May 10.

“Sexual violence has absolutely no place in the Stanford community,” Provost Drell said. “We are committed to strengthening our efforts to prevent and respond effectively to sexual violence and to supporting members of our community who are affected by it. This survey is an important part of our ongoing work to eradicate sexual violence and sexual harassment from our community.”

An email from Drell containing a unique link to access the survey will be sent to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Responses will be collected anonymously – no identifying information will be connected to a participant’s answers. The survey will ask a series of questions regarding students’ perceptions related to social situations and sexual assault, harassment and other forms of sexual violence at Stanford; their knowledge of related resources on campus; personal experiences with prohibited sexual conduct at Stanford, including questions about sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and relationship violence; and their perceptions of how the university responds to reports of sexual assault, harassment and other forms of sexual violence.

Universities nationwide have been using surveys to better understand their students’ experiences with sexual assault, harassment and other forms of sexual violence, as well as students’ university experiences overall. In 2015, 26 universities that are members of the Association of American Universities participated in an AAU survey. Stanford was one of 30 AAU-member institutions that conducted a different survey, choosing instead to partner with the University of Chicago and Rice University on a survey design based on a survey that had been used by MIT.

Following that survey – known as the Campus Climate Survey – Drell asked an advisory committee chaired by Susan McConnell, professor of biology, to collect input from the campus community and make recommendations on the administration of Stanford’s next survey.

“The advisory committee unanimously recommended to me that Stanford not administer a climate survey in 2018 but join the next AAU survey, to be administered in spring 2019,” Drell wrote in her announcement last year. “I have accepted that recommendation.”

Stanford students agreed that the AAU survey was the better option. Last year undergraduate and graduate student government representatives passed resolutions advocating for Stanford to participate in the 2019 AAU survey.

The AAU survey is being administered to more than 870,000 students at 33 colleges and universities nationwide between February and May this year. To prepare for Stanford’s survey, Drell appointed another committee composed of students, faculty, staff and administrators to coordinate with the AAU on the survey’s design and administration. They were also tasked with developing strategies for maximizing Stanford students’ participation.

“This survey is a community effort across campus that emphasizes the importance of addressing the problem of sexual assault and harassment,” said Hannah Kukurugya, ’21, who is a member of the committee. “It is only given once every four years to not only Stanford students, but to more than 30 other universities nationally. Therefore, it will give us broader information at a national level.”

The survey is being administered by Westat – a social science research firm contracted by the AAU – which will release the survey’s results in the fall. That data will yield important information, including the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, how students feel about the resources Stanford offers and where students feel safe or unsafe on campus. The results of this survey will be used to assess current programs and to shape future policies to encourage a healthy, safe and nondiscriminatory environment on campus.