Last Spring, the Office for Equity and Inclusion completed climate and culture surveys with both students and faculty/staff. This week, the results of this survey were emailed out to the campus community. The results of this survey—including the jarring statistic that “nearly half of staff respondents did not agree that Wesleyan’s review process rewards strong job performance”—come in the wake of yet another Title IX case filed against the university by a female faculty member, this time Former Assistant Professor of Physics Christina Othon.
In the survey results report itself, there are a several items of particular interest:
Low response rate
There was such a low response rate among both faculty/staff and students (and a particularly high number of respondents who withheld their demographic information) that the report “questions … the reliability of conclusions which might be drawn from such limited data.”
While people may have chosen not to participate or disclose their demographic information for any number of reasons, I was particularly surprised to see how few faculty and staff disclosed their demographics. In light of the recent Othon Title IX allegations, it’s not hard to imagine a fear of identification and retaliation (despite the survey’s anonymity) within a department if one speaks candidly about their experiences.
“A situation that is unacceptable”: many students report experiencing sexual assault
Additionally, the report states that for students, “with respect to other experiences, victimization reports are spread out similarly across groups; sexual misconduct impacts all students and continues to be embedded in campus culture,” and that “Female reports are highest. Students who identify as Trans* and GNC- reports are also high, but the sample size is small and the results may not statistically be representative of the whole population. However, the 9% of students reporting either yes or maybe to being sexually assaulted indicates a situation that is unacceptable.”
This report acknowledges that Wesleyan has a severe problem with rampant sexual assault, but does little to assess why this is the case, whether this situation is or is not consistent with national trends, and whether continuing existing initiatives (as is suggested in the report’s recommendations) is sufficient to address the problem.
Lack of context: Looking back at the Title IX/Scott Backer/administrative transparency protests of 2016-2017
While there was no indication in the initial survey request (included below) or results report that this survey was conducted in response to the Victim Rights Law Center’s March 2017 Title IX External Assessment, the specific focus on sexual misconduct in the results and the inclusion of the Annual Sexual Violence Information in the Appendix of the report indicate that this survey was particularly focused on assessing Wesleyan’s campus culture as it relates to Title IX and sexual misconduct, in addition to the survey’s stated purpose: “to capture [ students, faculty, and staff’s] experiences and perceptions and provide actionable information that would help us in becoming a more equitable, safe, and compassionate community.”
For context, the VRLC’s report was conducted following the dismissal and administrative cover-up of former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer when a Boston Globe article revealed that Backer had been fired from his previous position at a private high school for sexual misconduct with a student. This news sparked a wave of student activism and protests, including calls for the firing of President Michael Roth and former VP for Equity & Inclusion Antonio Farias. (For a full roundup on this period in campus news, check out our 2016 Year in Review.) Suffice to say, the campus climate in 2016-2017 was not very “equitable, safe, and compassionate.”
Moving forward, Debbie Colucci will be holding five feedback forums to discuss the results of the survey and solicit input from the campus community on next steps. You can read the text of her email (including times and dates for the feedback forums) and the initial survey request below:
On Wednesday, October 17, Interim Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer Debbie Colucci sent the following email:
Dear Wesleyan Community;
As you may recall, last spring we completed the final phase of our climate and culture survey. Thanks to everyone who participated!
The survey attempted to capture the experiences and perceptions of the Wesleyan campus community in a manner that would provide actionable information to help us on our journey toward a more equitable, safe, and compassionate community.
You can find the overall results in the 2018 Campus Climate Survey Results.
The next step is to provide an opportunity for each of you to help us better understand the data. What’s missing? What else do you want to say? What else do we need to know?
To facilitate conversation, we are holding five feedback forums, each of which will include a power point of non-personally-identifiable data for discussion.
In an effort to have as much participation from the community as possible we have scheduled options every day of the week, both during and after fall break, and at different times including common time.
- Monday, October 22nd (11:30am – 12:30pm) in Judd #116
- Tuesday, October 23rd (8:30 – 9:30am) in Judd #116
- Wednesday, October 24th (4:30 – 5:30pm) in Judd #116
- Thursday, October 25th (11:30am – 12:30pm) in Usdan #108
- Friday, October 26th (9:00 – 10:00am) in Judd #116
We very much hope you will take (at least) one of these opportunities to tell us what you think.
The information provided by the surveys and in-person discussions will be shared and used by various standing faculty, staff and student committees focused on our campus climate and enhancing our lived culture.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me or any member of the writing team included in the report.
Interim Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer
Equity Compliance Director / Deputy Title IX Officer
Office for Equity & Inclusion
North College #112
The initial survey request was sent out by Director of Institutional Research Michael Whitcomb on September 18, 2017:
I’m writing to ask you to please to complete a brief but very important survey that I’m sending to Wesleyan students. This survey is part of our efforts to understand how students view and experience Wesleyan’s campus climate — the perceived atmosphere that can influence to what extent individuals feel valued, safe, listened to, and treated fairly and with respect. What you tell us will help inform our understanding of what is going well here at Wes and where we need to continue to improve. We need as many students as possible to participate in order to ensure that the information we collect is as comprehensive, representative, and informative as possible, so please complete your survey today.
Your participation is, however, voluntary and your decision whether or not to participate will not affect your standing at Wesleyan in any way. If you decide to participate, you are free to stop at any time and may skip any questions you do not wish to answer. Your survey response will not have any additional identifying information attached to it.
Participants in this study may experience distress over the nature of some of the questions. Some questions ask about sexual assault or other potentially unpleasant
experiences. Some individuals might experience emotional discomfort while answering some of the questions. If you experience emotional discomfort or distress as a result of your participation in this study and would like to seek support, please contact Wesleyan’s Counseling and Psychological Services at 860.685.2910. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can reach a therapist after hours at 860.685.2910.
Please complete your survey: [LINK]
This is a unique link that will only work once. Please do not share it with others.
Thank you for helping us with this important study.
Director of Institutional Research