Despite Student Vote, Stanford Stays Put on Sexual Assault Survey

(Photo: Creative Commons)

(Photo: Creative Commons)

Despite an overwhelming majority of student voters at Stanford University having asked for a re-do of a controversial campus survey concerning sexual violence, the school has said it will not be doing so.

The results of the annual student government elections were posted earlier this week by the Associated Students of Stanford University, revealing a staggering 90.6% of voters supported a referendum asking the school to administer a new version of the survey.

“The students have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,” said Matthew Cohen, the student senator who spearheaded the effort to redo the survey.

The referendum, which does not hold any authority, is meant as a symbolic call by student voters.  In a unanimous vote earlier in the year, the student senate decided to use the referendum in order to handle the topic of reissuing the survey.

However, the school has refused to put out a new survey, calling the initial attempt “one of the most extensive and detailed of any university.”  The school went on to say that they had no plans to reissue the survey, intending instead to use the same one again in 2018.

The school said that in fact, few people have actually objected to its use.

Despite these claims, student senator Matthew Cohen, who initialized the movement in favor of instituting a new survey, said that many students have criticized the University’s approach to detailing sexual assault data.

“While the university may continue to ignore the overwhelming support for a new survey, this campaign is not over,” Mr. Cohen told Huffington Post. “As a senator who was re-elected to a second term, I will continue advocating for a new campus climate survey on sexual violence.”

Stanford put out the survey in 2015, questioning both undergraduate and graduate students at the school about experiences involving sexual assault that had occurred on campus and whether or not they trusted the school to handle any and all reports of assault.

While pending legislation in Congress would require schools to perform these surveys, a number of universities around the country have already done so after being pushed by activists, policy experts, and the White House.

However, students at Stanford argue that the school did not roll out the survey results in an effective manner.

According to the school, only 1.9% of participants experienced sexual assault while on campus.  That figure not only includes both male and female students, but Tyler Kingkade for The Huffington Post writes that the school was using a limited definition of “sexual assault,” saying an encounter qualifies as such as long as the victim was incapacitated or the assailant used force or threat of violence.

Using that definition, survey results show 4.7% of undergraduate women and 6.6% of “gender-diverse” students have experienced sexual assault while at the school.

The survey also found only 2.7% of victims were reporting attacks to campus authorities, and that female students were less likely than men to trust the school to hold the perpetrator accountable, reports Rachael Revesz for The Independent.

The University is currently involved in four investigations being simultaneously carried out by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights concerning whether the school is in violation of gender equality law Title IX through its handling of sexual assault reports.