Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

HEDS survey reveals students feel less safe on campus

<st Thursday, Title IX Coordinator Laura Riehle-Merrill presented results from a Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Sexual Assault/Campus Climate Survey to a group of students, faculty and staff.

According to Riehle-Merrill, survey results indicate that “in general, Carleton students feel less respected, less cared for, less safe and more unfairly treated in 2018 than they did in 2015.”

Eighty-one student-student Title IX cases were brought to attention between 2017-2018. Of these cases, 42% fell under the category of sexual assault, defined as any sexual touching without consent. Seventy-eight of the filings were resolved informally, through non-adjudicated measures. Such measures include having a conversation with Riehle-Merrill or attending a training on sexual misconduct. Three of the cases were resolved formally and moved through campus adjudication.

The HEDS Sexual Assault/Campus Climate Survey also collects data on student perceptions regarding campus climate and sexual misconduct. According to a Carleton Title IX report, the HEDS “survey opened with a series of questions for all students about campus climate, campus safety, and perceptions about institutional responsiveness to sexual assault.” If the survey respondent had been sexually assaulted on Carleton’s campus, or on a Carleton-sponsored off-campus activity, the survey prompted them to share about their experience in greater detail.

The HEDS survey has been administered twice: in 2015 and 2018. Regarding the 2018 survey, Riehle-Merrill said, “We did everything we could to spread the word and encourage all students to complete the survey.” However, from 2015 to 2018, the response rate dropped from 24% to 18%. Only 350 Carleton students submitted survey responses in 2018, a notable decline from the 461 responses recorded in 2015.

“There’s no question that, for survivors of sexual assault, completing the survey is a big ask,” said Riele-Merrill. “My colleagues in Institutional Research have requested that, should we do this particular survey again, HEDS provides us data on how many students began the survey but did not complete it.”

Students Evie Odden ’19 and Kate Hoeting ’19 were both present at Thursday’s Title IX meeting. Both Odden and Hoeting are working with Carls Talk Back to generate greater Title IX activism on campus. In response to the survey, Hoeting said, “I found the results just as concerning as they were unsurprising.”

Odden said, “I’m glad the Carleton administration is actually surveying students to get a real sense of what kind and how often sexual misconduct is happening on campus, since the number of incidents that are actually reported and go through either a formal or informal Title IX process is incredibly misleading.

“Many campuses use those numbers to narrate the prevalence of sexual misconduct, and in doing so, paint a false picture that sexual misconduct is less prevalent, and that the sexual misconduct that does happen falls within a tight definition.”

Title IX cases are not strictly student-to-student. “Since 2016, there has been one Title IX case involving faculty,” said Mary Dunnewold, Sexual Misconduct Advisor and Investigator for faculty and staff. “That case was involved in a formal, adjudicated resolution. There have been a couple of other cases that have been investigated as possible Title IX cases, then determined to not be Title IX cases, or that have been resolved on other bases.

“The consequence for having a formal complaint move forward is that an investigation ensues,” Dunnewold added. “If, after that investigation, the Dean determines that the faculty member violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy, the faculty member could be subject to a range of sanctions.”

As stated in the Faculty-Staff Sexual Misconduct Procedure, “sanctions will be tailored to the severity of the policy violation. Sanctions may include verbal or written reprimands, training, and counseling or other behavioral intervention, and may range up to suspension or termination of employment.”

According to Odden and Hoeting, information on student-faculty adjudicated processes is scarce. “The answer that has been given to me when I’ve asked about it is that all this information is available on the Carleton website, but the numbers are small,” said Odden. “The information about the process that is available to students is vague, and the numbers are probably small because the prevalence of this on our campus hasn’t been seriously investigated.”

According to a publicly available document titled “Carleton College Sexual Assault Data Reported to the State of Minnesota in Fall 2017,” three Title IX cases were referred for disciplinary process between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. The document does not differentiate between complaints against students and complaints against faculty.

Student-faculty adjudicated processes are handled by the college. “Dean Bev Nagel decides whether a policy violation has occurred, based on the information collected in the investigation. Once a case is determined to not be within the purview of Title IX, it is addressed by the Dean’s office under general faculty disciplinary procedures,” said Dunnewold.

“Because faculty adjudicated processes are handled by human resources (HR) and the Dean of the College rather than the College Board on Sexual Misconduct, data on faculty-involved processes would be held by HR and the Dean of the College,” said Hoeting. There appears to be no past data available on student-faculty adjudicated processes accessible to students.

Student-faculty Title IX proceedings were not addressed during Thursday’s meeting. To this end, Odden said, “The powerpoint was largely focused on student to student sexual misconduct, and left a glaring gap in anything that has to do with staff or faculty, whether involving students or not. I would like to see as much attention paid to these cases as to student to student cases. There are many students here who have been repeatedly victimized by professors in ways both large and small, and these perpetrators have gotten no more than a slap on the wrist.

“The sanctions that have been administered have been actively covered up,” Odden continued. “Students have a right to know that these kinds of cases are taken seriously. If they’re not taken seriously by the administration, students have the right to be aware of known harassers on campus so they can take precautionary measures for themselves.”

Hoeting said, “It’s hard for me to feel safe on campus when Carleton continues to protect faculty, staff, and affiliates who sexually harass and assault students.” In regard to student-faculty Title IX complaints, Hoeting said, “the College has a long way to go in the realm of protecting students.”

According to both Odden and Hoeting, having a full-time Title IX coordinator is a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s really important that students have a full-time professional to go to for support, and Laura Riehle-Merrill seems like a really genuine student advocate,” Odden said. “Having been on campus since 2015 and experienced Carleton without a Title IX coordinator, I’ve seen many cases of sexual misconduct be handled personally as a result of distrust in the process, but perhaps doors are opening.”

“It’s certainly great that we now have a full-time Title IX coordinator, but I’m not going to give Carleton a pat on the back for finally complying with Title IX,” said Hoeting. “Considering the institutional amnesia that happens from students turning over at Carleton, we can’t let go of the fact that we only gained a Title IX coordinator after widespread community outrage. Now, it’s a matter of making sure that Laura Riehle-Merrill has the resources and support Title IX needs––she’s got one of the most important jobs on campus, and she seems excited to turn the survey results around.”

Reflecting on her 16 months at Carleton as Title IX Coordinator, Riehle-Merrill said “my top priority was responding swiftly and compassionately. I have seen an increasing number of students who have been referred by a peer leader or friend because they know someone who had a positive experience seeking support. I feel we’re moving the needle on students’ awareness that reaching out for support does not initiate a formal complaint process, but rather allows them to hear all of the options available to them in terms of support and response.

“The most common request I receive from complainants is that I have a conversation with the responding party, to hold them accountable and let them know the impact of their actions so they have the opportunity to change their behavior,” Riehle-Merrill added. She also expressed sadness upon initially reading the HEDS data. However, she said “the data on campus education was much more optimistic and that was comforting.”

According to the HEDS survey, from 2015 to 2018, there was a 16% increase in students who “reported they received education about how to prevent sexual assault.” Sexual misconduct and prevention education begins before Carleton students start their first year on campus, with an online course entitled Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates. The course has a 98% response rate.
Programs like Green Dot bystander intervention and programming like CarlTalk: Consent provide avenues for continued education on sexual assault and prevention on campus.

According to Riehle-Merrill’s presentation, 198 students have been Green Dot trained so far this year. Further, a new NCAA mandate requires all 362 student-athletes to receive annual sexual violence prevention education.

Riehle-Merrill, along with a newly hired, full-time Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator—who begins at Carleton today—will continue to support and expand upon Title IX’s efforts. In regards to readministering the HEDS survey in the coming years, Riehle-Merrill said, “While it’s important to provide an anonymous option for feedback, we might do well as a campus to consider over the next couple of years what other options might be available.”

As for 2019, the Title IX team will work to make campus improvements with the data it has procured.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *