As a part of the college’s continued efforts to address sexual assault on campus, Wheaton is currently administering its first campus climate survey. The survey asks questions about behaviors students have witnessed, and seeks to establish student familiarity with the sexual assault and misconduct policy as well as the reporting process. The deadline to complete the survey is May 8.
“I hope all students will respond to the survey,” says Darlene Boroviak, Title IX Coordinator. Title IX is the landmark law that prevents sex discrimination in education. Under Title IX, schools must work proactively to protect students from sexual and gender based violence.
Following the work of student activists pushing for safer campuses, and the subsequent national conversation about sexual assault, campus climate surveys have emerged as a tool for schools to improve their policies and responses.
“Because sexual assault is, historically, so under reported, there is a real dearth of research on the topic; these climate surveys are meant to close that information gap, so that nationally we all have a better idea of the scope and nature of the problem of sexual misconduct on college campuses,” explains Emily Dimon, Health Educator at Wheaton.
Specific information collected from Wheaton’s survey will be used to strengthen the college’s efforts to make its policies and processes more survivor-friendly.
“We want to assess how well we are doing and identify those areas where we have to do better and do more. This first survey will provide us with baseline data that will help us as we go forward,” says Boroviak.
Ali Safran, the founder of Surviving in Numbers, a nonprofit that provides a space for survivors to share their stories, sees campus climate surveys as critical.
“Campus climate surveys are a crucial step in stopping violence on campus, because a campus can’t begin to solve the problem if they don’t have information about what’s going on their specific campus. These surveys also help survivors feel able to share their experiences without publicly identifying themselves, and, hopefully, to have those experiences be heard,” says Safran.
It is critical that administrators and staff that work on issues of sexual assault are aware of the specific needs of the Wheaton community.
“For me professionally, as a health educator, I know that a trauma like sexual assault has real effects on the health, both physically and mentally, of a student that may compromise their success,” says Emily Dimon.
Dimon envisions the survey responses shaping the future of Wheaton’s response to sexual assault.
“Whether its bolstering our education regarding policies or resources for survivors, or targeting certain living-learning spaces for more education about consent, or determining our readiness-level to intervene in situations of potential danger to our fellow students, the campus climate survey will help up to guide these efforts so we can be intentional with our work and make the most impact,” says Dimon.
Kate Kenny, Dean of Students and administrator of the survey, stresses the impact the survey results will have on the community.
“It is one more way to engage the community in dialogue on this topic and will help us determine what we need to be doing differently, or more of for our campus in regards to prevention, education and training. Student participation will help us create a safer, more informed, and more connected community,” says Kenny.
Wheaton prides itself on its strong sense of community, and this can be a powerful tool in preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors. You can strengthen the Wheaton community by completing the campus climate survey before May 8.
“Because sexual assault and rape is a cultural problem, it requires a community effort to mitigate it,” says Dimon.