The Association of American Universities, of which President Amy Gutmann is chair, announced on Friday that it will conduct a sexual assault climate survey of its members in April 2015.
The association has contracted with Westat, a national research firm, to design and administer the survey to as many of its member universities that choose to participate.
It is not yet known whether Penn will take part. In the past, top administrators have expressed skepticism at the calls for more comprehensive surveys on sexual assault on campuses.
The AAU is a nonprofit organization consisting of 60 leading United States and Canadian research universities. All eight Ivy League universities are members.
The survey — which will be administered to undergraduate, graduate and professional students, but not to faculty or administrators — will measure the frequency and characteristics of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment across institutions. The campus surveys will feature a uniform series of questions, except for five that will specifically reference campus programs to measure familiarity with campus resources and support services.
“We hope that this survey will provide solid information on the incidence of sexual assault and sexual harassment on their campuses and on attitudes on the issue among their students,” AAU President Hunter Rawlings said in a statement.
While the AAU will publicly report the holistic results from its participating institutions, Westat will provide each campus with its respective data, and individual universities will decide whether to release the results.
According to an AAU press release, the organization is “deeply concerned” about the possibility of a federal mandate for campuses to conduct a government-developed survey about sexual assault climate.
In September, the White House called on colleges to conduct sexual assault climate surveys. Legislation introduced earlier this year sought to require schools to administer such a survey created by the U.S. Education Department, although the Senate has yet to vote on it.
“Such an initiative would likely be a one-size-fits-all survey that would provide potentially misleading data,” Rawlings said.
Gutmann has posited a strong stance against violent assault at Penn.
“One sexual assault is one too many on any campus,” Gutmann said in a meeting with The Daily Pennsylvanian at the beginning of the semester. “There has to be a fair and effective way of dealing with accusations of sexual assault.”
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