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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 on Violence Against Women and Childrenlaunched #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. To download the original 2014 campus climate survey, click here. 

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. To download the full 2018 survey, click here.

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. To download the modified survey tool, click here

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.   

 

Campus Climate Survey Results Highlights:

  • Many students experience sexual and dating violence prior to and since arriving on campus, with LGBTQI+ students particularly at risk. 
  • Many students have low awareness of the campus resources intended to address campus violence.
  • Students who have been victimized tend to disclose their experience to formal resources at extremely low rates. Examples of such formal on-campus resources include staff from the Title IX office, the on-campus victim services center (the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance), and Counseling Services.
  • Peers are an important source of support for students who experience interpersonal violence.

Survey Reports

Results for each survey administration are available in the following reports that include full findings (tables for all questions asked) and key findings (summaries):

   New Brunswick

Camden

Newark 

Rutgers Biomedical & Health Sciences (RBHS)

 

Population /issue based short reports on campus climate survey findings

Individual students’ experiences, beliefs, and attitudes regarding sexual and dating violence and awareness of campus resources vary widely. Researchers have analyzed the data from the campus climate surveys to understand the unique experiences of specific student populations and by various topics. Please click the links below to download examples of these reports from the 2018 New Brunswick campus climate survey. 

Campus Climate Focus Groups

In addition to the administration of campus climate surveys, more than 40 focus groups, comprised of over 270 students were conducted to ascertain the perspectives of various student groups and more in-depth information on particular topics. These included survivors of campus violence, LGBTQI+ students, graduate students, students affiliated with cultural centers, student government leaders, resident assistants, on-campus residents, commuter students, members of sororities and fraternities, and athletes. For more information, see the 2018 Findings on focus groups examining dating violence on campus

Focus Group Findings Highlights:

  • As with the survey findings, many students were unaware of resources available on campus.
  • Many students indicated that they were unclear about formal reporting procedures on campus.
  • Some students expressed fear of retaliation or not being believed if they were to report; these issues must be accounted for when providing reporting options that are trauma-informed.
  • Many students indicated an interest in taking prosocial bystander action, but those students with identities marginalized by race and sexual orientation indicated barriers to feeling supported in their ability to intervene and recommended more intersectional, social-justice based approaches to prevention.

Action Plans Resulting from the Campus Climate Surveys and Focus Groups:

Survey results were used to develop tailored action plans on each campus to enhance the response to, and prevention of, campus sexual and dating violence and harassment.

At Rutgers–Newark, a Climate Survey Action Plan Committee was formed and offers many educational brochures, information sessions, and web-based trainings around sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and consent. Click here to learn more about this action report. 

At Rutgers-Camden, a Prevention Working Group offers violence prevention education to all students on an ongoing basis. Many new programs working with diverse campus populations -- including Student Success Coaches, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and Athletics, RUPD, the Graduate School Deans and Program Directors, and Student Health Services (among others) – have emerged to offer coordinated sexual violence prevention and response programming. Click here to learn more about this action plan. 

At Rutgers-New Brunswick,  a collaborative group, End Sexual Violence Now, was created and included staff from across the Division of Student affairs. The strategic areas of the group included outreach and programming, supporting individual office efforts across the campus, and policy training. Additionally, a webpage dedicated to addressing sexual and dating violence on campus was developed and released and programs and incorporated initiatives from the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA). 

At RBHS, an action plan is in progress based on the results of the 2019 and 2020 campus climate assessments.

What’s Next:

Rutgers was awarded a multi- million grant from the Victims of Crime Act funds administered through the New Jersey Attorney General’s office for the period of 2017-2021 to further build upon campus climate findings. These funds will be used to develop innovative programs to engage men and other special populations of students; strengthen partnerships with university neighbors and community-based service providers; expand bystander intervention education; and involve student leaders, as well as faculty and staff, in efforts to build a safe and inclusive campus.

Assessment will continue across the university, along with program evaluation, to measure the university’s response to addressing the climate.

Click here to learn more about ongoing initiatives at Rutgers University. 

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 VAWC for other campuses interested in conducting comprehensive campus climate assessments. 

VAWC 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 VAWC published an article on their assessment model. 

 

Acknowledgements:

#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 on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) at the School of Social Work partnered closely with Student Affairs to conduct the project.

For more information visit vawc.rutgers.edu or contact Dr. Sarah McMahon, smcmahon@ssw.rutgers.edu.

 

Additional Information on the Rutgers Model and Available Resources:

VAWC 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, VAWC 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 VAWC 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 VAWC have published a number of articles related to conducting comprehensive campus programming and evaluation, including the following:

  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838019883275
  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1177/1079063217750864
  • 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.  https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2017.1358629

 

 

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