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Editorial: every student should take the We Speak survey

The Editorial Board is an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Co-Chairs, the Opinion Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief. It can be reached at


The prevalence of sexual assault has been a persistent problem on college campuses in recent years. Despite government efforts to address the problem, college sexual assault is also an issue that the University’s administration, students, and community have a responsibility to address and mitigate. One commendable effort organized by the University to gain a better understanding of the incidence of sexual assault and sexual misconduct is the annual We Speak Survey. As we have in past years, the Board encourages all students to participate in the survey, to which all students received a link via email.

The We Speak Survey represents a unique opportunity to be a part of what is arguably the nation’s best study on college sexual misconduct. Because it typically has a high response rate, the results from the We Speak Survey are more accurate and more helpful than data from similar surveys, which suffer from under-participation. Moreover, the We Speak Survey is a multi-year project, meaning that students can and should participate even if they have already taken the survey in years past. After this year, the survey will have three years of data, allowing the University to assess its multi-year progress in combatting sexual misconduct, which includes incidents of sexual harassment, stalking, relationship violence, sexual assault, and rape. Between the 2015 and 2016 surveys, for example, there was a decrease in the cases of sexual misconduct experienced by undergraduate women. However, one in four undergraduate women still report being victims of sexual misconduct. The Board believes that continuing our progress in improving student safety requires a detailed understanding of sexual misconduct on Princeton’s campus. To that end, we encourage all students to take part in the survey.

The quality of the We Speak Survey depends on the participation of students to provide the most accurate assessment of sexual misconduct at Princeton possible. Obtaining such accuracy requires the participation of as many students as possible. As stated in an email to the student body from the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct, “We want the results from the survey to be representative of our diverse community’s perceptions and experiences.” 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. All students, including those who themselves have had no direct exposure to sexual misconduct, have valuable perspectives and opinions on these questions.

Since the inauguration of the We Speak Survey, the University has undertaken a number of initiatives to combat the prevalence of sexual misconduct on Princeton’s campus. 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 increased levels of SHARE programming. We commend the University for its continued efforts with these initiatives and for its work in educating students about the availability of resources. The 2016 We Speak survey results indicated that 83 percent of students (an increase from 80 percent in 2015) are personally aware of where to go on campus to find help if they experience sexual misconduct. Consistent and continued participation in the We Speak Survey — in 2017 and beyond — will provide further insight into the success of the University’s efforts, helping the administration double down on effective programs and rework ineffective ones.

For the University to be able to effectively address sexual misconduct on campus, it must have access to the best data possible. Participating in the We Speak Survey is a meaningful way for students to help the University better understand this problem and potential solutions. Students, as members of this community, have a responsibility to help make this a safe and welcoming campus for all students. The Editorial Board joins many campus leaders and organizations in encouraging all students to participate in the 2017 We Speak Survey.