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OSU aims to assess sexual assault climate on campus

Ohio State is joining 26 other universities in an effort to assess the services it provides for sexual assault victims.

The schools are collaborating with the Association of American Universities, a nonprofit organization that connects 62 “leading public and private research universities” in the U.S. and Canada, according to its website.

Together, the universities are conducting a “climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct” this month. The survey was sent out to all OSU undergraduate, graduate and professional students with a note included from President Michael Drake.

“The results will be used to guide policies to encourage a healthy, safe and nondiscriminatory environment at Ohio State,” the note said. “Your well-being is our top priority, so participation is important, even if you believe these issues do not directly affect you.”

Kellie Brennan, OSU’s Title IX coordinator, said sexual violence on campus is a growing concern, and the survey is a good way to figure out how OSU is doing.

“A campus climate survey allows the university to examine the prevalence and incidence of violence on our campus and enhance resources for support, response and prevention,” she said in an email.

She added that it’s expected to be the largest campus survey ever, with about 800,000 students participating across the 27 schools.

The survey asks about various hypothetical situations, including if a student has ever experienced sexual assault, worried for their safety because of someone else’s behavior or been assaulted while they were drunk or otherwise intoxicated.

It defines sexual assault and sexual misconduct as “a range of behaviors that are nonconsensual or unwanted.”

“They also could include threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior such as nonconsensual or unwanted touching, sexual penetration, oral sex, anal sex or attempts to engage in these behaviors,” the survey says.

It also asks whether students know about the resources OSU already offers and if they’ve ever used the services. If a student answers that they’ve seen or been a victim of certain situations, the survey prompts them to answer whether they’ve contacted any of the services or reported the incident before.

OSU’s Undergraduate Student Government last month released the results of a survey that also assessed the results of campus climate and knowledge about sexual assault and services on campus.

That survey included 634 students, and in its results, USG called for improvements to some campus resources, including a cohesive center where survivors could go for help.

Sarah Hudacek, the deputy director of academic affairs for USG and a second-year in public affairs, said at the time that USG didn’t want to burn students out with too many surveys, but the results of the survey were important.

“We speak for the student body, particularly on issues when the student body can’t speak for themselves and with an issue as sensitive as sexual violence when people might be afraid of stepping up and saying something, I think it’s important that we speak for them and that they have the ability to speak through us,” said Hudacek, who also served as the co-chair of the task force that directed OSU’s survey.

Some students said they planned to take the university’s survey.

“I feel like this campus is a little bit safer than most, but anywhere you go, sexual assault will always be an issue,” said Shawn Sutton, a second-year in industrial systems engineering.

Catherine Fabian, a first-year in biology, said she has friends who have experienced sexual assault, but at the time, she didn’t know about any resources OSU offered.

“I feel like I’ve known about these (sexual assault resources) since the summer. They make it more obvious now,” Fabian said.

She added that she took the survey and thinks it will help raise awareness about the issues.

Brennan said OSU strives to be a leader with its resources.

“Sexual violence negatively impacts a survivor’s physical and emotional health, educational success, and many other aspects of daily life,” she said. “Ohio State is committed to ensuring a safe campus climate for all of our students and the entire university community.”

The survey runs through April 27 and all responses are kept confidential.

Brennan said some questions might be difficult for survivors of sexual violence but that participants could choose to skip any questions that make them uncomfortable.

Robert Scarpinito contributed to this article.

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