An online petition seeking a new “Sexual Experiences Survey” has gathered over 900 signatures in the past two days. Director of the Princeton University Survey Research Center Edward Freeland said Tuesday that a potential new internal survey would not be necessary because the University is currently participating in a national study by the American College Health Association that will survey about 50 percent of University undergraduates on topics that include sexual assault.
The annual National College Health Assessment has “tracked changes in health issues and trends” since the year 2000 according to the ACHA’s website. Many of the questions on the survey concern sexual assault and harassment.
“One of the benefits of that [survey] is that you get access to what your institution [looks] like relative to all the other institutions that are participating in the survey, even relative to the group of universities that is most like your institution,” Freeland said.
An email sent to students last month on behalf of the ACHA noted that the survey contained “questions regarding behaviors such as illegal substance use, sexual behavior and mental health.”
The University has participated in the survey for at least the past four years. The results of these surveys, that include both males and females, showed that “1 in 8 students reported experiencing sexual assault, dating violence or stalking in a 12-month period,” according to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua.
It remains unclear whether the University will release this year’s Princeton-specific results once they become available.
Citing RCA training conducted in September 2012 and the playbill of “The Way You Move” that was distributed to all freshmen during the first week of the fall semester, Mbugua said the figure was already shared with students.
“The University actively seeks to raise awareness, engages in preventive programming and offers comprehensive services both on- and off-campus,” Mbugua said.
The petition, authored by Shreya Murthy ‘13, Siofra Robinson ‘13 and Kellie Valladares ‘13, with input from Kanwal Matharu ‘13, is a response to an article published last Monday by The Daily Princetonian that detailed the results of a previously unpublished Sexual Experiences Survey conducted by several University offices in 2008.
“My reaction to the initial article was surprise, a little bit,” Matharu said. “As an RCA, I had heard statistics like this before, but to see that it was at Princeton was a bit tough.”
Directed at the Princeton University Survey Research Center, University Health Services and the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, the petition asks for the “commission of a new survey that provides current, accurate information about the rate of sexual assault on campus,” as well as an official statement concerning the 2008 survey.
University Health Services, SHARE Director Jacqueline Deitch-Stackhouse and Vice President for Campus Life Cynthia Cherry deferred comment to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua.
“Let me note that the 2008 survey was taken for the purpose of informing internal planning and programming and was used for that purpose,” Mbugua said. “Those conducting the survey did not think of it as a survey whose results would be published.”
Following the March 4 ‘Prince’ article, Mbugua noted that the raw data from the survey described was not analyzed or compiled as a report. He added that the lead coordinator of the survey - former Sexual Harassment / Assault Advising, Resources and Eduction director Suraiya Baluch, had left the University before the project was completed.
According to Mbugua, the University administration is looking forward to meeting a group of students to discuss the subject.
The authors of the petition have said they would like to keep the petition going regardless of any internal reactions or national surveys.
“We don’t want to just stop with the petition; it’s the beginning of a bigger campaign,” Robinson said. “We want to bring together a coalition of concerned students to raise awareness of actions and attitudes that can lead to sexual assault on campus and the culture that contributes to it.”
The petition’s authors decided to create the petition to show students’ support for a new survey of sexual assault rates on campus and make it an administration priority, Murthy said.
Another “major impetus” for the petition was the comment section on the first article, Valladares said.
“We felt that the conversation was getting a little bit derailed by semantic and survey design issues ... but what seemed like a much greater issue,” she said, was that “it was evident that there was some sort of issue with rape on campus.”
Murthy emphasized the petition was one everyone could support and the necessity of gathering as many student signatures as possible.
“It’s really important for survivors of sexual assault to know that this is a campus that is a supportive environment for them, that this is an issue that people care about, and people want to help them, and that they know that they are important,” Murthy added.
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