In recent years, the unfortunate prevalence of sexual assault on campus has become a political issue of national importance. President Barack Obama has launched a campaign to raise awareness and the U.S. Senate is considering a bill to tackle the issue. Despite this, college sexual assault is ultimately a campus issue that the University administration and community have a responsibility to mitigate. As part of University efforts to curb sexual assault and related issues, such as stalking and harassment, graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to fill out the We Speak survey on sexual misconduct.
As stated by an email to the student body from Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, the “We Speak” survey is a confidential diagnostic and the second study of its kind, the previous one having been conducted a year ago. These surveys collect information not only on the circumstances surrounding an array of campus crimes, from rape to domestic violence to cyber harassment, but also on awareness and effectiveness of efforts to curb these problems. Vice President Calhoun emphasized that all perspectives are valuable, even those from students who have no direct experience with any of these issues.
Last year, we advocated taking the first version of the We Speak survey. We acknowledged that sexual assault and related issues are a difficult problem to study. Surveys conducted by national organizations like the American College Health Association and the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice are often characterized by under-participation. Fortunately, the We Speak survey conducted last year had a high participation rate. This means that not only is the data University-specific, and therefore more relevant to University policy-making, but also likely more accurate than data from other surveys. Even more so after reviewing last year’s findings that 34% of undergraduate women were victims of inappropriate sexual behavior and 27% were victims of sexual assault, the Board continues to firmly believe that a detailed and nuanced understanding of sexual misconduct on Princeton’s campus is crucial to establishing policies to keep all University students safe. Furthermore, we believe there are unique aspects of this year’s version of the survey that make it even more important that students complete it again.
During the last year, the University has begun a number of initiatives to try to address last year’s concerning results. These include the UMatter program, which emphasizes bystander education and intervention, the UMatter Bus to give students a consistent and safe way of returning to their dorms from Prospect Avenue and additional SHARE programing. Because the 2016 We Speak survey asks students whether they experienced misconduct both before and after last year’s survey, it will provide important insight about the efficacy of these new programs. It is not enough to sponsor initiatives that simply hope to address the many problems the survey considers. Since we expect the University to continue the WeSpeak project in the future, it is important to understand long-term trends so that the University can double down on effective programs and rework ineffective ones.
The results of this year’s survey will provide crucial information to that effect, which is why the Board calls on all members of the Princeton community to take it. The Class of 2019 can share information about their new experiences as freshmen this year and upperclass and graduate students, regardless of whether they took last year’s survey or not, have a crucial perspective to share having seen and experienced so much at Princeton.The University has rightly made it a priority to address sexual misconduct. In order to construct effective initiatives to prevent it and provide adequate resources to victims, it is critical that the University have access to the best data possible. All students share a joint responsibility to ensure that that Princeton remains a positive community. Completing the survey is a meaningful way to exercise this responsibility by helping the University better understand the problem and potential solutions. We strongly encourage all students to take it.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.