President's Commission on the Status of Women
Student Sexual Harassment Report Summary, Spring 2007
The Campus Climate Committee is pleased to report that the Slippery Rock University Student Sexual Harassment Survey was done at the beginning of the Fall semester 2006-07. The survey was conducted electronically utilizing StudentVoice to compile results. A total of 1334 students participated in the survey, which represents 16.2% of the total number of students registered for the current semester. Approximately 15% of enrolled freshmen and seniors participated in the survey, while enrolled sophomore and junior participation reflects roughly 9-10% of those populations. As a voluntary survey given campus-wide, the results of the survey cannot be considered as accurate as those that would have come from a scientifically constructed sample of the student population. Further, the ratio of male and female participants disproportionately favors the female population on campus. Nevertheless, the survey provides a cross-section of the student population over the full range of student classifications. And if bias exists in such a self-selecting sample of respondents, it might be assumed that those who have had experience with sexual harassment would be more interested in participating in the survey. The data gathered by StudentVoice may be manipulated to select specific sub-populations to correlate responses from variously constructed populations (ie., “male only,” “female only,” “senior only”) to gain further insight from the results of the survey (Included with this preliminary report are results that use various filters to represent specific populations: one report providing raw data without filters, the other three providing data from populations as labeled). The Campus Climate Committee intends to devote significant time and effort to interpret more carefully the results of the survey using the tools provided by StudentVoice in the weeks ahead to generate more specific conclusions. However, what follows in this report are some preliminary observations that undoubtedly will be expanded significantly from the Committee’s continued work.
The most significant finding presented by the data is that SRU students seldom encounter sexual harassment from members of the SRU faculty. Certainly, sexual harassment in its various forms are perceived to be a problem, as indicated by responses to Questions 10-25 that show that as much as 20-30% of the respondents think that various inappropriate behaviors occur. However, those perceptions do not correspond with the data resulting from Questions 26-33 that asks students if they have had personal experienceswith various forms of sexual harassment. The level of responses from individuals indicating personal experience with such inappropriate behaviors reveal that only as much as 10% of respondents have had any experiences inappropriate behaviors, with most the with the most egregious forms of sexual harassment being experienced by less than 2% of respondents in most cases. While the Campus Climate Committee is pleased to conclude that both student perceptions and experiences indicate that sexual harassment is not a significant problem experienced by the larger majority of students, it also acknowledges the need to continue efforts to create an educational atmosphere that is free from sexual harassment for all of its students.
A second observation is that students are not clear regarding what is and is not sexual harassment in its more subtle forms. Questions regarding perceptions and experiences with “sexist comments” and “undue attention” are less likely to be viewed as harassing behavior by students, with male students being the least cognizant of the pressures that such behavior provides. It can generally be assumed that female students are more aware of these behaviors as forms of harassment, which could also explain why women disproportionately responded to the survey in the first place. As the level of imposition rises in the forms of the inappropriate behavior, greater certitude is expressed by members of both sexes that those behaviors constitute sexual harassment. One further related finding is that female students are more likely to report experiences with sexual harassment than are male students, which leads to a final observation.
The survey indicates that both male and female students are largely unaware of who they should report experiences of sexual harassment and what the process is for conducting the investigations that follow. In most open-ended responses to question 80, a variety of individuals were listed (a trusted faculty member, department chair, president of the University, and police). Very few respondents noted that they would be likely to contact the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, which is best equipped to receive such reports and to conduct investigations. The fact that the majority of students did indicate that they would report various behaviors to someone is encouraging (and the assumption can be made that those individuals would know to direct them to the correct office) but clearly greater efforts to educate the students regarding the function of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity is warranted. In addition, open-ended responses to questions 81 and 82, demonstrate that students are largely unaware of the outcomes that a report of sexual harassment might produce (ie., “nothing,” “retribution against the student,” “firing of the faculty member”). Since all investigations must remain confidential, consideration should be given to how we can better educate the campus population regarding the general procedures for investigating reports of sexual harassment (and possible outcomes of those investigations). A better educated student population will be the greatest tool for developing an educational environment on the Slippery Rock University campus that is conducive for learning for all of its students.
 While the survey indicates that females experience sexual harassment at a higher rate than males, it also demonstrates that both female and male students have had experiences with sexual harassment.