Section: News

Sexual assault survey shows increase in cases

On Jan. 23, a survey was sent out to Kenyon students regarding campus views on sexual assault. The results of this survey have now been compiled and made public in an Oct. 29 Student-Info email signed by President Sean Decatur.

The survey was composed by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS), an organization that facilitates the sharing of information between colleges. This is the third such survey Kenyon has conducted since 2013, when the federal Title IX Guidance asked schools to look into the problem of sexual assault on campuses. More than 100 schools participate in the survey, giving Kenyon the opportunity to compare itself to its peer institutions.

While the survey was created to gather information about campus sexual assault, its questions covered a range of topics. One question asked about Kenyon’s “support system” for students, while another asked how the respondents felt about the Kenyon administration. Erika Farfan, Director of Institutional Research, explained that these items can be relevant.

“We know that campus climate can impact the rates of sexual assault on campus,” Farfan said. “That’s why we think of these two things together. Sexual assault doesn’t happen in a vacuum, so we want to be aware of that.”

One finding of the survey was that students consider themselves more educated about sexual assault and Title IX issues than they did in previous years, despite another finding that the reported rate of sexual assault has gone up. 18 percent of students reported having been assaulted while at Kenyon, compared to an average rate of 10 percent at similarly sized schools. Farfan says that she finds the data concerning, but she also believes that the real picture may be more complicated.

“When we see increased rates of something, is that increased understanding and thus reporting? Or is that an actual increase in incidents?” Farfan said. “We don’t really know, but both are possibilities. Regardless of the origin of this change, the change itself is something we have to concern ourselves with.”

The survey also found a high level of student mistrust in the College administration. Only 47 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “The administration contributes to a positive and supportive campus climate at Kenyon,” a statement that 94 percent felt was true of the faculty and 89 percent felt was true of the staff. President Sean Decatur finds this declining faith in the administration worrying.

“Trust in the administration and general confidence in the administration . . . has been on a sharp downward trend over the course of the past three administrations of this survey,” Decatur said. “Institutional research is planning some follow-up work to try to understand exactly what’s going on there and what that is telling us. As the person who is in charge of the administration, I think there is clearly something that we need to do there to address that.”

Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president of student affairs, recognizes that this is an issue, but feels that it might stem from other sources.

“Maybe there’s more we can do about [this],” Bonham said. “I do think, though, that there’s also mistrust in general in the world right now, with the political climate. I think that people are upset about any number of issues, and they’re looking for people to blame for that upset . . . It’s more convenient to blame an entity—i.e., the administration—as opposed to any one individual.”

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