On Monday, the Association of American Universities (AAU) released data from a large-scale survey on sexual assault climate among 27 of its member institutions, including large state schools like the University of Florida and smaller private universities. The comprehensive results of the survey are sparking discussion and concern among many institutions where sexual assault was revealed to be much more prevalent than previously thought.
Among them, Yale University, whose 28-percent prevalence of sexual assault is one of the highest among the surveyed institutions, quickly followed up on the survey’s results with a clear message from the school’s president and provost. “The prevalence of such behavior runs counter to our most fundamental values. It threatens individual students, our learning environment and our sense of community,” wrote President Peter Salovey.
Though the numbers are disheartening, the AAU survey shows a refreshing sense of transparency about deep flaws within some of the most admired universities in the nation.
The initiative that the universities have taken through participating in the survey and conducting open dialogue about its findings is a huge leap from the longstanding tradition of stifling discussion about college sexual assault. It is admirable that schools with such large reputations prioritize the wellbeing of their students over a good image.
While the University of Miami is not a member of the AAU, we should also model this candid approach to campus sexual assault. Right now, the university’s sexual assault information web page is filled with generic links and instructions for victims.
The bulk of the information still sheds no insight on UM’s campus climate. There are no links to published statistics about sexual assaults reported at UM. There are no particular messages from any deans, provosts or presidents. Rather, a catch-all non-discrimination policy closes out the page.
UM has gone through the motions to show that sexual assault matters, though no concrete results have been produced so far. The university created a campus coalition on sexual violence in 2014 and even conducted a campus climate survey last year through Blackboard, but what has become of the survey’s findings is a mystery.
The number of “forcible sex offenses” included in the annual campus crime report hardly encompasses the complexity of a problem that afflicts college campuses across the country. If the AAU believed that sexual assault was alarming enough to warrant such a large-scale investigation, shouldn’t UM have a more deliberate approach as well?
If the school has more comprehensive information about sexual assault and campus climate among our students, this data should be made accessible. When the school shows it is willing to conduct candid discussions on sexual assault rather than hiding unsavory issues behind a PR-heavy website, it may actually increase the administration’s credibility.