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Spring 2018 Issue 6 (May 11, 2018)

Title IX Lead Team Runs Campus Climate Survey

May 16, 2018
By Ellie Grabowski '19, Editor-in-Chief

On Monday, April 30, this year’s Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey closed for responses from Carleton students. It was the second time the survey has been administered at Carleton. According to Title IX Coordinator Laura Riehle-Merrill, the survey’s response rate was 18% this year. This is a decrease from the last time the survey was administered at Carleton in 2015, when the response rate was 24.3%. The Title IX office has not yet received this year’s survey results.

“It’s really just a part of our practice, in terms of getting information from students about their experiences, both lived experiences of sexual misconduct and also their feelings about our response to that,” Riehle-Merrill said.

Institutional Research and Assessment (IRA) helped coordinate the survey both this year and in 2015. IRA works with HEDS and carries out data analysis, according to Riehle-Merrill. Riehle-Merrill hopes to continue administering the HEDS survey periodically, about every three years.

“We conducted the initial survey in 2015, the first year it was offered,” she said. “This provided valuable baseline data. Administering the survey every few years allows for initiatives and training to be implemented to address any concerns that have arisen and then for the climate to be assessed again, with these new approaches in place.”

Vice President and Chief of Staff Elise Eslinger, to whom the IRA office reports, similarly said, “Student input is critical to assessing and continually improving Title IX processes at Carleton. Surveys like this one help us understand students’ experiences more broadly, which is important.”

Since the survey was first administered, Riehle-Merrill has become Carleton’s first full-time Title IX Coordinator. Additionally, two new student employment positions have been created within the Title IX office. These student workers, currently Nam Anh Nguyen ’19 and Hannah Zhukovsky ’21, work on communications and event programming for the office, according to Nguyen. Nguyen worked on promoting and distributing the survey to encourage responses.

“Right now, I think people just associate the survey a lot with sexual assault and specific instances of it,” she said. “They feel it’s very emotionally draining, so they just don’t want to have to do that. So it’s really hard to ask people to do that.”

Despite the low response rate, the Title IX office hopes the data will help build a clearer picture of sexual misconduct at Carleton.

“The survey is one of the only completely anonymous ways we have of gathering that data about what Carleton students have experienced,” Riehle-Merrill said. “I’ve also been tracking data from all of the students that I’ve worked with over the course of this year. So it’ll be interesting to see, ‘how do these two points match up?’ Because we know, research shows us, that a great deal of sexual misconduct that happens goes unreported. So, what’s the real picture of what’s happening at Carleton?”

The data will allow the Title IX office to design their programming more specifically for Carleton, according to Riehle-Merrill.

“It’ll be good to be able to be really thoughtful in what we provide to students based on whatever that information tells us,” she said.

Now that the HEDS survey has closed, the Title IX office is continuing work on other initiatives. These include a newsletter to be released later this term, educational infographics about work going on in the office and another survey, according to Riehle-Merrill.

“For fall and winter terms, I conducted a ‘Title IX Experience Survey’ for students, staff, and faculty with whom I worked,” she said. According to an infographic made by the Title IX office, this separate survey revealed widespread satisfaction among complainants, respondents and reporters with how they were treated by the Title IX office.

“Most students are opting for something else” other than the formal complaint process, Riehle-Merrill said. “And so, what does that look like? It could just be requesting a mutual no contact order. It could be a student just wants one small academic accommodation to get through a difficult term. It could be just seeking counseling through SHAC or something like that. Now that I have some of that data, I want to be able to tell the story of what that looks like.”

Nguyen said that having a full-time Title IX Coordinator has led to some change about Title IX at Carleton.
“It’s just more organized,” she said. “There’s someone who knows everything and who can oversee things that are happening, instead of different people. So I guess it eliminates the bureaucracy of it. Having Laura be the person who’s fully responsible for it makes it easier to navigate the Title IX office, and it just shortens the response time, too, for any complaint case.”

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