UCLA and other University of California members of the Association of American Universities will not take part in the association’s sexual assault climate survey in April.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a December email to AAU’s president that the UC chancellors of AAU member universities thought the survey would duplicate existing findings about sexual assault on college campuses.
“We understand the need for data about the problem, but the group felt that multiple approaches to data gathering at the campus, system and national organization levels will not work in a synergistic fashion,” Block said in the email to AAU President Hunter Rawlings.
The AAU is an association of 62 public and private research universities in the United States and Canada. The majority of UC campuses are AAU members. Twenty-eight universities, including the California Institute of Technology, USC and the University of Oregon will participate. Many of the AAU member universities not participating in the survey are conducting surveys of their own or are participating in state university system surveys, AAU said in a statement.
With more than 800,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students attending the participating universities, the survey is expected to be one of the largest surveys on sexual assault in history. The survey will cost $87,500 for each university and will be partially based on the survey instrument developed by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
Tod Tamberg, a UCLA spokesperson, said the university thinks its participation last year in the UC Campus Climate Study covered some aspects of the AAU survey. The Campus Climate Study focused mostly on climate for underrepresented racial minorities, staff, women, queer and transgender communities, and included a section on offensive misconduct.
Tamberg added that the 2013 California State Auditor review of UCLA’s compliance with Title IX, a federal law banning gender discrimination in federally funded schools, and the UC President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault addressed many of the topics in the AAU survey.
Savannah Badalich, the UCLA Campus Wellness commissioner who heads a campus campaign against sexual assault, said she thinks participating in the AAU survey would be redundant and take away resources from survivors. Badalich is also on the UC President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault.
“Extra time spent conducting the AAU survey would be time from specific campus resources spent away from helping survivors now – time spent conducting a survey that (UCLA has) the answers to already would essentially be a waste of precious time and precious resources,” Badalich said.
The main purpose of the survey is to help AAU institutions gain a better understanding of sexual assault on their campuses and nationally by measuring the frequency and characteristics of sexual assault, harassment and campus climate, Rawlings said in a statement.
“Our first priority, and theirs, is to ensure that students not only are safe but feel safe. Universities will be using their data to inform their own policies and practices regarding sexual assault,” Rawlings said in the statement.
Some critics have said they think the AAU survey will not improve transparency about sexual assault data and campus climate at individual universities.
Jennifer Freyd, a University of Oregon professor, and 15 other sexual assault researchers from universities around the country penned a letter in November to AAU university chancellors urging them not to participate in the survey.
In the letter, the researchers said they think releasing aggregate national results but not individual university results does not provide the public useful information for comparisons.
Barry Toiv, an AAU spokesperson, said the survey’s main focus is not to compare campus climates at schools but to provide them with useful data.
The UC President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault has already made recommendations calling for systemwide implementation of several policies by July 2015, including response teams and advocacy offices at all campuses.
Some of the universities taking part in the survey said they are participating to learn more about sexual assault on their campus.
Andrea Smiley, a University of Arizona spokesperson, said the campus is participating after looking at many options for sexual assault climate surveys.
“(The University of Arizona) chose to participate in the AAU climate survey after carefully weighing alternative approaches for documenting the frequency and characteristics of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment in order to support a safe campus community,” Smiley said in an email.
The AAU survey is still being developed and will be conducted in April.