On Thursday, Oct. 8, Interim President Lisa Lynch sent an email to the student body containing the results of the Campus Climate Survey on sexual misconduct issued in April of this year. The survey was sent to undergraduate and graduate students over the age of 18, and contained prompts on consent, reporting incidents of sexual misconduct and awareness of campus resources. Now, the results are available on the Office of the President website.
The results are “deeply troubling,” in Lynch’s words. One of the most discouraging aspects, however, comes even before the results. Only 34.3 percent of students responded to the survey—1,856 out of a total 5,416 students. While no survey will ever receive a 100 percent response rate, such a low number of respondents suggests that the student body does not take the subject of sexual assault on campus seriously enough. The survey was even incentivized: Upon completion, students could choose between a $5 gift card to Amazon.com or Chipotle Mexican Grill. Still, just over one third of the student body offered a response.
Those who did respond provided plenty of data to think about, however. The results are scary, but probably not surprising to activists on campus who have tried to talk about sexual assault and increase awareness for years. As Lynch pointed out in her email, the results of this survey mirror those from other colleges and universities. They are troubling and worrisome, yes, but simply talking about them will not make them go away. Campus culture has to change.
It is not an easy task to change the culture of an entire college campus. Additions to the community such as the Rape Crisis Center and the Office of Prevention Services are positive steps toward this change, but more needs to be done. Bystander training has begun for student clubs and organizations, but this remains a voluntary program. All students should be exposed to bystander training upon entering Brandeis, and current students, faculty and staff need to express the sentiment that sexual misconduct is not acceptable, even if it is uncomfortable to talk about.
Nobody can deny that this is a problem now. If anybody was waiting for concrete numbers before taking action, they now have them. As students, we need to ensure that we do our job to change the campus culture, by being attentive bystanders and by advising classmates in need of campus resources, so that the administration also does their job of effectively supporting victims of sexual misconduct and prosecuting the perpetrators. The administration has a job to do in protecting students, and we have the responsibility of eradicating rape culture from our home.