by Allie Gross
Nearly 75 percent of female undergrads at University of Michigan who took part in a recent climate survey reported that they have been victims of sexual harassment.
This stat is one of many telling data-points that came to light after the Association of American Universities released its 2015 Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct Monday. Polling over 150,000 students at 27 universities—including University of Michigan and Michigan State University—the AAU and its data reiterates the still very real issue of sexual violence and harassment on college campuses today.
According to the national report, which uses data aggregated during the spring of 2014, 63 percent of female undergraduates reported being victims of sexual harassment and nearly one in four female undergraduate was the victim of sexual assault.
Digging directly into the University of Michigan and Michigan State data we see trends reflecting this collegiate zeitgeist. At Michigan State 25 percent of female undergraduates reported nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation since entering school; at University of Michigan, which tended to poll higher than the aggregated data, 30 percent of female undergraduates reported the same forms of unwanted sexual contact.
"The numbers are too high and we are committed to continuing to address the issue of sexual misconduct," Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of the University of Michigan's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center said in a a statement.
While the numbers on sexual harassment and assault are sobering, the data on student perception of their universities and expected responses is no better. At the University of Michigan less than half the the female undergraduates who responded to the survey said they believed school officials would take a sexual harassment report seriously; less than one-third said a fair investigation would occur. These low numbers highlight one of the biggest issues when it comes to combating campus rape culture: The belief that universities are either discouraging students from reporting sex crimes, or that when faced with allegations they are purposely slow in handling the grievances as they are required by Title IX.
Earlier this month the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found that MSU violated federal law by not promptly dealing with two cases of sexual assault. OCR also noted that the university lacked proper protocols for handling sexual assault reports. Given this reality, it is unsurprising that less than half—43 percent—of MSU female undergraduate students said they believed a fair investigation would occur, and just over one-third of the surveyed female undergrads said they believed underlying issues contributing to a sexually hostile campus would be addressed.