KU launches student-focused survey on sexual misconduct, violence in campus community

photo by: Mike Yoder

In this file photo from Sept. 16, 2014, demonstrators sit outside Strong Hall to protest Kansas University's handling of sexual assault investigations.

A recently launched survey at the University of Kansas is meant to provide a better understanding of students’ experiences with sexual misconduct and sexual violence on campus.

Shane McCreery, director of KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, said two versions of the anonymous survey — one for undergraduate students, the other for graduate students — were distributed late last month. Unlike previous surveys, this year’s questions are fewer in number and more specific to students’ personal experiences and perceptions, McCreery said.

“The whole motivation of this survey is to get the pulse of undergraduate and graduate student experience so that we can engage in continuous program and policy improvement,” said McCreery, also KU’s Title IX coordinator.

McCreery said there’s an awareness in his office that many cases of sexual misconduct and sexual violence aren’t being reported. He wants to know if students who haven’t reported incidents are still using the support resources available to them and/or if students even realize that these resources exist on campus.

Shane McCreery

He said he also wants students to know the university values their experiences in developing policies and programs to combat sexual misconduct. If students express in the survey that they don’t feel safe on campus, they’re asked what might help them feel safe, McCreery said.

“Obviously if we need to pivot where we’re assigning resources from one point to another to better accommodate students’ needs and serve the campus community, we need to do that,” said McCreery, who drafted the survey questions with input from KU’s Office of Graduate Studies and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center.

The number of incidents reported to McCreery’s office increased 27 percent from 2016 to 2017, he said. Because the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access is responsible for processing complaints and concerns as wide ranging as harassment, discrimination and retaliation, McCreery said, the recent uptick doesn’t necessarily mean that sexual misconduct and sexual violence are on the rise at KU.

Also, the number of students who choose to come forward, he said, has remained about the same. This means the increase could be partially attributed to those who are not victims of sexual misconduct or sexual violence themselves but may have witnessed an incident that happened to someone else, McCreery said.

“Part of the reason for that is, when students are engaging the IOA, they are getting the help they want and choose not to file a complaint,” McCreery said.

McCreery also said he’s been encouraged by the response to the survey so far. As of Friday morning, nearly 1,500 people total — with more than 1,000 taking part in the undergraduate edition — had participated in the two versions of the survey. The deadline has been extended to Wednesday.

McCreery plans to compile the results of the survey into a final report this summer, he said. The goal is to have the report published on the IOA website by the fall semester, with the findings ideally being updated each academic year as new trends are identified.