Baylor campus (copy)

In a new survey, 31 percent of Baylor students said they have experienced sexist gender harassment by a faculty member, instructor or staff member. 

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

According to a newly released survey, 62.5 percent of Baylor University students believe the school would very likely or likely take a report of sexual misconduct seriously, while 21 percent believe the person making the report would be labeled a troublemaker.

The first of its kind at Baylor, the survey came after the school upgraded its Title IX office in the wake of a damaging sexual assault scandal that led to a massive overhaul of the school’s leadership, including athletics. The numbers, serving as a benchmark, indicate strides and missteps in the university’s response to sexual violence in recent years.

The survey was administered between Jan. 31 and March 13. It was sent to 15,754 Baylor undergraduate and graduate students and over 4,500 — or 28.7 percent — responded. School spokesman Jason Cook said the response rate was “very significant” for the survey that some students took over an hour completing. The rate is above or on par with such studies at most universities. The University of Texas saw a 17 percent response rate on a similar survey, though the school has a much larger enrollment — 51,331 undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled in 2016 — and thus had more respondents.

More than half of the respondents — 53.3 percent — say Baylor would very likely or likely support the person making a report of sexual misconduct, and nearly the same number — 53 percent — said it would very likely or likely be handled fairly.

Seventy-three percent of respondents say they know where to get help on campus if the respondent or a friend experienced sexual misconduct. Just over 46 percent understand what happens when a report is made, and almost 69 percent know where to make such a report.

In a statement, Baylor President Linda Livingstone said many of the responses “demonstrate significant progress and provide hope for our campus community,” but “others have shown that more assistance, training and resources are needed as part of our ongoing commitment to continuous improvement.”

One of those areas for improvement involves faculty and staff, Cook said. Sixteen percent of respondents say a faculty member, instructor or staff member had made offensive sexist remarks once or twice, and 31 percent say they have experienced sexist gender harassment by that group.

“It’s important for us to understand what’s happening on our campus,” Cook said. “When we see issues of this nature, it gives us an opportunity to address them. So now that we’re aware this could be an issue, we’re going to be able to create some specific educational training for faculty and staff. We released the survey and we have the results. Now, the next step is using the results to inform our training and education efforts as we move forward.”

According to the survey, 76 percent of Baylor students strongly agree or agree they feel safe from sexual harassment on campus, and 11 percent strongly disagree or disagree. Thirteen percent were neutral.

“When we initially started, most of our education efforts were simply towards awareness,” Cook said. “Now, the next phase is looking at specific findings that have been identified in the survey.”

That only about 60 percent of students say their university would take the report seriously is unsurprising, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, LLC.

“Reports not being taken seriously is a consistent concern among sexual assault survivors,” Carter said, citing two decades of research on the matter.

What concerned Carter, however, was that about one in five respondents said Baylor would very likely or likely consider the person making the report a troublemaker.

“I would have to imagine that a lot of the ongoing controversy in recent years at Baylor is a large factor in that,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of work that remains to be done in addressing the campus climate at Baylor. That’s not something you turn around overnight.”

The survey will be administered on a regular basis, in accordance with the 105 recommendations Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP gave the university last year after the school hired Pepper Hamilton to investigate its response in recent years to reports of sexual assault.

Other findings include:

  • Twenty-eight percent of respondents who said they experienced sexual violence said the perpetrator was an acquaintance, 24 percent said it was a friend and 19 percent said it was a romantic partner.
  • Fifty-three percent of those same respondents said they had not used alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident, and 45 percent said they had. The other 2 percent said they did not remember if they had used alcohol or drugs.
  • Of respondents who experienced sexual harassment, stalking, domestic violence or sexual violence, 81 percent said they told a close friend. Twenty-seven percent said they told a parent or guardian, and 7 percent told Baylor’s Title IX office.
  • Ninety-three percent of all respondents indicated consent must be given at each step in a sexual encounter.
  • Nineteen percent of all respondents strongly agree or agree that sexual violence is a problem at Baylor, and 26 percent said there is not much the respondent can do about sexual violence at Baylor.
  • Of respondents who experienced sexual harassment by a student, 44 percent ignored the perpetrator and did nothing.

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

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