Willamette issues campus climate survey on Oct. 27

by Erin Dahl,

During the last three years, Willamette University has made a concerted effort to address sexual and interpersonal assault and harassment on campus.

On Oct. 27, the university will email an anonymous survey to all graduate and undergraduate students to check if the changes are working.

The 10-minute survey questions students on their awareness of resources for survivors of sexual violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, stalking and domestic violence. It asks them to gauge their sense of safety on campus, and it questions them about their own experiences with harassment or violence at Willamette. 

Tracking Progress

When the survey was first emailed in 2013, more than 1,100 students, or 45 percent of the recipients, completed it.

The results revealed the need for further improvements in some areas. For example, about half the responders believed a victim could be partially responsible for sexual violence and that a person could sexually assault someone unintentionally.

But overall, the results were positive. Ninety-eight percent of respondents reported feeling safe on campus during the day; 83 percent felt safe at night.

Ninety-seven percent believed reducing sexual harassment and sexual violence is a communitywide responsibility, and 95 percent said they would, or already have, interceded with people who tried to take advantage of inebriated peers.

Carli Rohner, director of Community Education, says these results are encouraging — especially pertaining to bystander behavior. Both Willamette and national data show most people will intervene in high-risk situations.

“When we know that most people want to help those around them, it helps us feel less isolated,” she says.

Positive Changes

In response to student feedback, the university has made several changes to its sexual misconduct programs and policies.

A new comprehensive prevention strategy uses in-person trainings and workshops, print and poster campaigns, and social media education sessions to inform the campus community about bystander intervention, healthy relationships, stalking, drugs and alcohol and access to available community resources.

Since 2013, Willamette has also been using the Green Dot program to empower  students, faculty and staff to actively reduce interpersonal violence, including sexual assault and stalking.

Used in colleges, high schools, rape crisis centers, church groups and other organizations in 35 states and multiple countries, the program offers free workshops to teach people how to help in potentially volatile situations.

As Willamette’s Green Dot program website explains, the goals are also to build a campus environment where violence of any sort won’t be tolerated, and where everyone plays a part in creating such change.

“We’ve utilized different ‘tools’ or approaches to make our campus a safer, healthier place,” Rohner says. “This change has allowed our community to look at sexual and relationship violence for the complex, multi-faceted issue it really is.”

Student Response

Having worked with Sexual Assault Response Allies (SARA) for the past three years, Madi Rotter ’17 believes in the value of such training.

SARA provides confidential support from peer advocates to all members of the Willamette community who’ve experienced sexual or domestic harassment, assault or violence. It’s also begun offering community trainings in residence halls and to on-campus organizations.

The initiative is partly in response to the campus climate survey, which showed that 60 percent of Willamette’s population needed more education about how to help survivors of sexual assault.

“The campus climate survey is essential to gauge how our community understands issues around interpersonal violence,” Rotter says. “Increasing these conversations — and finding ways to motivate more folks to get involved — can be an effective means of improving our shared spaces and communities.”

Proud of the steps Willamette has taken so far, Title IX Coordinator Jackie Balzer hopes the next survey results will reveal that real progress is being made.

“We’re continuing to build a campus climate where people feel safe to come forward,” she says. “We need students to help us continue to improve our programs and policies. This survey is designed to do that.”

Students will have several weeks to respond to the survey, and faculty and staff members will continually encourage them to participate. This winter, the university will release survey results to the campus community.