Emerson College released results today from its student survey, which includes responses to questions related to sexual assault and other forms of power-based violence. Emerson is only one of two colleges in Greater Boston to have conducted and released student survey results to date, and is among a limited number of colleges and universities nationwide to have done so.
Rolled out during the Fall 2014 semester to all undergraduate and graduate students, participation in the survey was very strong, with feedback from 32 percent of students (1,483).
Emerson College President Lee Pelton announced the biennial survey at the beginning of the 2014–2015 academic year as one of several initiatives aimed at creating a community free of sexual misconduct, violence, and abusive relationships. “The survey results will guide important and ongoing campus-wide conversations that will help inform the further development of our comprehensive violence prevention programs,” said Pelton. “The College is deeply committed to creating a positive and safe environment where all members of our campus community will not only succeed, but also flourish.”
The survey questions were developed by a committee comprising students, faculty, and staff, in collaboration with ModernThink, LLC, a nationally recognized survey provider. Student responses were divided into key areas: knowledge of policies and resources, climate and perceptions, and education/training related to power-based violence.
On average, 66 percent of students said that they are knowledgeable of policies and resources at Emerson related to sexual assault and harassment; 92 percent said they understand the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault; and more than 65 percent said they understand how to report sexual harassment and sexual assault.
First-year students and entering graduate students had more positive responses to questions about training and education and knowledge of policies and resources than other students, suggesting that these students have benefitted from the new training that rolled out in the fall orientation programs and that the College should explore ways to expand the training and education to reach returning students each year as well.
Emerson’s efforts around education and training are crucial in helping students understand how to identify and report unwanted behaviors. The College’s Violence Prevention and Response Office (VPR), which was established in May 2014, provides advocacy and support to anyone who has been impacted by power-based interpersonal violence and leads the implementation of primary prevention strategies and education. To date, 1,200 Emerson community members have participated in VPR’s enhanced training programs, including resident assistants, orientation leaders, first-year and graduate students, and first responders.
On average, 70 percent of Emerson students responded positively to questions about fair treatment, and 62 percent responded favorably to climate and perception questions. To reinforce its commitment to creating a campus where all students feel supported by and confident in Emerson’s policies and procedures, the College will continue to work collaboratively with the campus community, particularly on those areas of the survey where fewer students responded positively.
To preserve the privacy of participants and encourage honest responses, all individual responses were confidential, and ModernThink then provided aggregate data to the College.
Sylvia Spears, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, who has already begun leading discussions on campus about the survey, said, “We’re very pleased with the number of students who participated and provided their feedback in this important survey. They want to be heard, and we greatly value their input and look forward to having more in-depth conversations with students, as well as faculty and staff.” Spears will continue to analyze data this summer, with the goal of establishing working groups that will develop action plans to address opportunities for improvement.
In addition to the biennial survey and establishing the VPR Office, other initiatives that have progressed this year as part of the College’s violence prevention and response programs include:
- Bringing Margolis Healy specialists to campus to conduct Title IX training for key staff members;
- Implementing a new unified Sexual Misconduct Policy;
- Appointing a Title IX and Clery Act coordinator, expanding the position from a part-time to a full-time dedicated position;
- Moving from a judicial board hearing model to a single investigator model for the adjudication of cases involving sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, and stalking in order to reduce the re-traumatization of survivors, support the timely resolution of cases, and ensure fairness and consistency in the disciplinary process; and
- Hiring a second full-time survivor advocate professional to join VPR, bringing additional expertise and support to the campus.