Tufts opens second sexual conduct attitudes survey

Content Warning: This article discusses sexual violence.

The 2017 Tufts Attitudes about Sexual Conduct Survey (TASCS) opens online today, with the goal of anonymously gauging the prevalence and current climate of sexual misconduct on all Tufts campuses.

This is the second iteration of the survey, with the first TASCS conducted in April 2015, according to Lauren Conoscenti, the assistant director of the Office of institutional Research and Evaluation (OIRE). That survey asked students whether they have experienced an instance of non-consensual sexual contact or intercourse/penetration, as well as how they feel about the university’s resources and reporting process, according to the 2015 survey questions. Results from the 2017 survey will likely be released this fall, according to Conoscenti.

“It’s an incredibly helpful tool for us, and it’s a way for students to give us data in a way, hopefully, that they feel comfortable,” Sexual Misconduct Prevention Specialist Alexandra Donovan said.

The 2015 survey was mandated by the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR) after Tufts was found not to be in compliance of Title IX, according to an October 2015 Daily article.

The 2015 survey had a response rate of about 30 percent for undergraduates, according to a summary of the results. Conoscenti said that the 2017 TASCS will be advertised more broadly, with the goal of increasing the response rate. Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) Director Jill Zellmer emphasized that a strong participation rate in the 2017 TASCS will result in more accurate data.

According to Zellmer, the survey questions were devised after consulting with the OIRE, survey experts, students, staff, Group of Six and other campus groups.

Conoscenti noted that a few changes have been made to the 2017 survey. For example, she said the survey will now ask about forms of misconduct other than “non-consensual sexual contact” and “non-consensual sexual intercourse,” such as relationship violence.

The 2015 TASCS showed that 24.7 percent of undergraduates had experienced at least one instance of non-consensual sexual contact or non-consensual sexual intercourse since enrolling at Tufts. It also found that most instances of sexual misconduct were not reported to OEO and most assailants were known by their victims, according to the summary. Conoscenti said that those findings are roughly similar to data from other schools.

“We weren’t surprised to see that the pattern at Tufts is mostly the same as elsewhere,” Conoscenti said. “We expected that the data would show that there’s a problem [of sexual misconduct], and that this problem is of a certain magnitude.”

According to Conoscenti, the 2017 TASCS will serve partially as a gauge of whether the climate at Tufts has changed since the 2015 survey. Through data collection over time, she said, the school can evaluate its reporting process and prevention efforts.

Donovan, who educates students on sexual misconduct through the Center for Awareness, Resources and Education (CARE), said that the 2015 survey data has been extremely valuable for her efforts. According to Donovan, by showing students quantitative data on sexual misconduct, she can make more students aware of the problem.

“The best thing I can do is reflect back [to] what I’m hearing, what I’m seeing and what I know,” she said. “If I can back it up with data, then that’s really important. Students on this campus respond really well to that data.”

In terms of policy, Donovan said that she is interested in seeing how the students’ awareness of bystander intervention has changed. In recent years, Tufts has expanded its education on intervention, particularly through Green Dot training, according to Donovan. She said that the 2017 TASCS will measure whether students are more aware as a result, or if the approach needs to change.

According to Zellmer, the 2015 survey led to improvements in the school’s prevention and training system, and the 2017 data will be applied similarly.

“[The 2015 survey] resulted in more focused and targeted prevention trainings, the identification of locations on campus that require specific attention and resources to keep students safe, and ways we can improve our education and outreach efforts,” Zellmer told the Daily in an email.

Donovan added that TASCS collects qualitative data from students, which also informs her outreach and education efforts. Outside of TASCS, this qualitative data is also collected through focus groups, she said. One particular change that occurred due to students’ suggestions was the development of educational information tailored toward specific groups such as the LGBT Center, according to Donovan.

Zellmer hopes that the 2017 survey results will reflect an increase in students’ awareness of the university’s resources, given the outreach and prevention efforts made by CARE and OEO.

“Given that now, every student at Tufts should have attended OEO prevention trainings, I hope the data shows that more students are aware of all [of] the resources, supports, policies and reporting procedures available for those involved in sexual misconduct matters,” Zellmer wrote.