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Wednesday, April 19, 2017


We got this email just now on the climate survey that we filled out earlier this academic year:  

"Unwanted sexual conduct: A small but meaningful number of respondents experienced a range of unwanted sexual conduct while at KU, and 2 percent, the majority of which were students, reported unwanted sexual contact. Of those students reporting unwanted sexual contact, 72 percent indicated alcohol was involved. The contact was most likely to occur during the fall semester of an undergraduate’s first year. Regrettably, only 12 percent of individuals who said they experienced unwanted sexual contact reported it to KU offices."

This, to me, is completely believable. First, that the number is 2%, that the majority of people reporting it are undergraduate students, and that the conduct occurred in the Fall semester of Freshman year.  To percentage of events involving alcohol and the reporting rate are also highly verisimilar.  A climate survey of this type is almost guaranteed to provide some bad news, and since filling it out wasn't obligatory people who have had bad experienced might be more inclined to answer in the first place.  We know that negative events are more psychologically salient.  The overall finding of the survey are not all that out of line with reality either, though I think more than 68% of the faculty has considered leaving.   

It takes some cognitive dissonance to see this findings and reconcile them with a recent display near the library that paraded the 1 in 4  / or 1 in 5 numbers for rape. 

Students also report social marginalization.  There is a large category that includes both being bullied and being ignored.  It would be useful to know what the breakdown is, since those are two quite different things. Ignoring someone is almost a default in many situations, whereas bulling is active aggression       


Thomas said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. It's a good way of putting things at, say, UT Austin in perspective.

It's a bit hard to know how to interpret that 2% because it doesn't seem make this a percentage of the student sample. (Students might be vastly underrepresented among the respondents.) But if we take it at face value, let's say that 2% of KU students experience some form of "unwanted sexual contact", mainly while drunk (or at a drinking party) in their first semester away from home. That describes a situation that is manageable for the individual, since it's clear how to protect yourself from the danger.

Now, compare UT Austin, where 15% of female undergraduates have been "raped" since enrolling. It just doesn't make any sense, does it? It certainly doesn't make any sense to enroll there.

Finally, I don't think it's particularly regrettable that only 12% report. Rather, I'd say that it's fortunate that only 12% (of the 2%) experienced something they thought was serious enough to report. It's typical of today's administrators, though, that their disappointed when students don't involve them in every aspect of their private lives. And, indeed, regrettable.

Jonathan said...

Thanks. I don't know if students are under-represented in the sample. Since there are 28,000 students and far fewer faculty and staff, it is hard to say. But the email we got doesn't really give us enough information.

We would really need to know the raw numbers of faculty, staff, and students who filled our the survey, and the percentages of each category. I imagine that most people who were groped or kissed when drunk would not think to report this to the university, so your last point is on point.

Thomas said...

Yes, in most cases the consequences of an unwanted sexual advance are swift and entirely sufficient. The punishment that is meted out in the moment, whether it be shame or pain, fits the crime exactly. No further action is necessary.

PS. I hope it's clear that I meant that it doesn't make sense to enroll at UT Austin if you believe that it shifts your chances of being raped from under 1% to 15% (let alone 1 in 4).