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Campus Climate Assessments at Rutgers University

Building Safer Campus Communities

In 2014, Rutgers University was asked by the Obama Administration’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to pilot a campus climate survey tool developed by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. During the 2014–2015 academic year, researchers from the Center for Research on Ending Violence launched #iSPEAK, its first campus climate survey about sexual violence, on the Rutgers University–New Brunswick campus. In an inquiry intended to engage all students across campus, scope, more than 12,000 students shared their attitudes and beliefs about campus sexual violence, as well as their familiarity with campus resources intended to address such violence. Download the original 2014 campus climate survey. The REV Center was asked to provide a report for the White House Task Force on our experience of piloting the tool. Download "Lessons Learned" from our experience piloting the tool

Since then, the Rutgers’ campus climate surveys have evolved based on the best science available and have expanded to address a range of forms of interpersonal violence (sexual and dating violence, harassment, and discrimination). Surveys have been conducted on the Newark and Camden campuses and, in 2018, repeated on the New Brunswick campus. In the 2018 survey, respondents were randomly assigned to either a sexual violence module or a dating violence module. Download the full 2018 survey.

In 2019-2020, a modified survey, which examined sexual harassment, was administered to students at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS). The results from this survey are currently being analyzed. Download the modified 2020 survey tool

In total, the campus climate survey has been distributed to more than 54,500 students at Rutgers University on the New Brunswick, Camden, Newark, and RBHS campuses as of Fall, 2020. More than 22,000 students have returned the survey. These surveys have yielded a wealth of rich information about the experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of students related to sexual violence on campus.  What’s more, they have led to in significant changes in campus policies and services regarding sexual and dating violence and harassment.   

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Three woman comforting friend

Accordion Content

To Learn More About Campus Climate Work at Rutgers

Understanding and Responding to Campus Sexual Assault: A Guide to Climate Assessment for Colleges and Universities is a free, detailed guide developed by REV for other campuses interested in conducting comprehensive campus climate assessments. Click here to download all attachments referenced in the guide

The REV Center also created an Outreach Strategy Toolkit to help institutions create awareness among students about the campus climate survey and motivate them to participate. 

A report on lessons learned was submitted to the White House Task Force.

Researchers from REV published an article on their assessment model.

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#iSPEAK was launched in 2014 at the request of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, using a campus climate survey tool developed by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. 

Researchers from Rutgers’ Center for Research on Ending Violence (REV) at the School of Social Work partnered closely with Student Affairs to conduct the project.

For more information visit email Dr. Sarah McMahon.

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Additional Information on the Rutgers Model and Available Resources

REV provides ongoing evaluation of Rutgers’ initiatives, as well as technical assistance on evidence-based practices to all its campuses, interested institutions across the state of New Jersey, and around the country.

Members of the Rutgers community have been engaged in statewide initiatives aimed at tackling the issue of campus sexual violence, including: 

NJ Conference on Campus Sexual Violence: In 2019, Rutgers partnered with campus programs, non-profit organizations, other institutions of higher education, service providers, state officials, and secondary schools to exchange ideas and resources and develop efforts for collaboration. 

Technical Assistance Workshops: As a result of this conference, REV has organized a series of three statewide workshops covering issues of campus climate surveys, working with diverse student populations, and engaging middle and high school stakeholders.

New Jersey’s Plan for Higher Education: Members of the REV team were among the 19 Rutgers community members that were chosen to participate in the Safe and Inclusive Learning Environments working group as part of the Governor’s Plan for Higher Education.

Researchers from The Center for Research on Ending Violence have published a number of articles related to conducting comprehensive campus programming and evaluation, including the following:

McMahon S, Cusano J, Macri L, Chen A. Development of the Services, Policies and Programs Audit Tool to Address Campus Sexual ViolenceHealth Education & Behavior. 2023;50(3):310-317. doi:10.1177/1090198122111678

McMahon, S., Steiner, J., Snyder, S., & Banyard, V. (2019). Comprehensive prevention of campus sexual violence: Expanding who is invited to the table. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse.

McMahon, S., Wood, L., Cusano, J., & Macri, L. (2019). Campus sexual assault: Future directions for research.  Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 31(3), 270–295.

McMahon, S., Stepleton, K., Cusano, J., O’Connor, J., Gandhi, K., & McGinty, F. (2018). Beyond sexual assault surveys: A model for conducting a comprehensive campus climate assessment. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 55 (1), 78-90.

Four women standing in front of white wall
Woman signaling stop with her hand.
Stop domestic violionce wall grafitti
Four women standing in front of white wall