Institutional surveys that Penn gives out regularly, including senior surveys, will now include questions about sexual assault.
The University said in November it would add more questions about sexual violence to existing Penn surveys, shortly after the American Association of Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct was released.
When the results were released on Sept. 21, Penn President Amy Gutmann called them “deeply troubling.” Students reported a relative lack of knowledge about campus resources — only 12.6 percent of the students who took the survey knew where to go to make a report of sexual violence and only 10.7 percent even knew Penn’s definition of a sexual assault.
They were also less likely than average, among peer institutions, to think a victim of sexual violence would be supported by other students in reporting what had happened, that campus officials would take the report seriously or that the safety of the victim would be protected. In response, the administration announced a number of initiatives in November to improve students’ confidence in the University and their knowledge about resources.
First, it said it would require freshman orientation modules for all undergraduates. These modules, which are now called Thrive at Penn, were made available to all undergraduates to optionally complete over winter break. Before the first day of spring semester classes, 23 percent of sophomores, juniors and seniors had completed the module.
Executive Director for Education and Academic Planning Rob Nelson said the modules will be required before the fall of next year for all students.
Penn’s administration also said they would revise regular surveys to include questions about sexual assault. They are doing this now, starting with the senior survey, which launches this week. Nelson said the questions will be especially geared toward gauging knowledge about resources for victims and measuring perceptions of sexual assault on campus.
Similar questions will also be included on a survey of graduate and professional students in April, and next year in a University-wide enrolled student survey.
Nelson said the administration wants to see “whether we’ve seen any improvement in those numbers,” in light of their efforts in the past year, especially with regard to the Thrive at Penn module.
Finally, the administration also announced in November that there would be a push for launching and expanding programs that educate students about sexual violence and work to prevent it.
Penn Anti-Violence Educators launched in the fall of 2015, as well as It’s On Us Penn, which is responsible for posters around campus that seek to educate students about being “active bystanders” and to step in if they witness a situation that could turn into a sexual assault.
Other campus groups include Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention, which plans and sponsors Take Back the Night, a campus-wide protest of sexual violence, and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, a men’s group that uses peer education to fight sexual violence.
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