BYU Releases Findings from First-Ever Campus Climate Survey

The campus climate survey was implemented after a 2016 report gave 23 recommendations for how the school could improve its handling of sexual assaults.
Published: November 20, 2017

In 2016, Brigham Young University’s Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault conducted a report which gave 23 recommendations for how the school could improve how it handles sexual assaults. One of those recommendations was to conduct a first-ever climate survey. Those results were released on November 16.

The survey was conducted in last spring in consultation with Brown University professor Lindsay Orchowski, a national expert on sexual assault on college campuses, according to The Daily Universe.

The survey committee chair and dean of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences Ben Ogles says one major intention in conducting the survey was to get a better idea of what students were experiencing.

“When we started looking at how we handle sexual misconduct, one thing that was clear to us early on was we didn’t know how students felt,” Ogles said. “We didn’t know whether they felt safe, what they were experiencing or how many students were experiencing (unwanted sexual contact).”

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Forty-three percent of BYU students participated in the survey, which Orchowski says “far exceeds that of many other institutions who have conducted similar surveys.”

The results indicate 1 in 16 women and 1 in 83 men have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact at BYU in the year prior to the survey.

Sexual Assault and Alcohol Consumption at BYU

Rosemary Thackeray, a BYU health sciences professor, says BYU is unique in comparison to other universities because of its low rate of alcohol use by perpetrators and victims. Only six percent of participants said a perpetrator had used alcohol or drugs prior to the incident and only two percent of victims reported using alcohol or drugs prior to the incident.

All BYU students must agree to obey the school’s honor code, which bans alcohol consumption and premarital sex. The school is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says 54 percent of sexual assault perpetrators have consumed alcohol prior to the assault. The number is nearly the same for victims, with 54.5 percent indicating they had consumed alcohol prior to being sexually assaulted.

Thackeray also says BYU stands out because its students are more likely to be assaulted by a current dating partner or spouse than on most other campuses.

Of those who have experienced unwanted sexual contact, only 36 percent of the incidents were reported to formal sources of support. The majority say they sought help from their ecclesiastical leaders first.

Ogle says students who reported speaking to an ecclesiastical leader were asked about their experience in doing so. The majority said it was helpful and they “felt support from those leaders”.

Ogles also says although he does encourage students to speak to ecclesiastical leaders, he would also recommend they report to other resources on campus, like the school’s victim advocate or Title IX office.

Additional Changes Made to BYU’s Title IX Policy, Sexual Assault Response

Other recommendations from the council which were implemented by BYU include the creation of a full-time victim advocate position, hiring a full-time Title IX coordinator and introducing an amnesty clause for victims and witnesses of sexual violence.

Only 3 percent of participants who experienced sexual assault say they reported it to the Title IX office and 75 percent said they disclosed the incident to informal sources like friends or family. Only 41 percent reported knowing where to take a friend to get support for sexual assault.

Of students who say they experienced sexual assault, 57 percent say they did not think the incident was serious enough to report and 21 percent say they did not report because they were worried about honor code discipline or that their ecclesiastical endorsement would be questioned, reports The Daily Herald.

The amnesty clause BYU adopted last year was put in place to “ensure that, unless the health or safety of others is at risk, the Title IX Office does not share information with the Honor Code Office about the complainant without the complainant’s consent,” according to a statement from BYU president Kevin Worthen.

The clause also extends amnesty to witnesses and calls for leniency for other honor code violations not directly related to the assault but discovered during the investigation.

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