September 30, 2015
Dear Members of the Tufts Community,
Last spring, Tufts issued a survey to students on all three campuses to gather information about sexual misconduct and to assess their knowledge of campus policies and prevention programs. I am deeply troubled by what we have learned from the survey.
The Tufts Attitudes About Sexual Conduct survey, which was anonymous and confidential, was sent to 11,000 students. It had a 28.7 percent response rate; approximately 30 percent of undergraduate students responded to the survey. The survey—the first university-wide survey on this topic—will provide an important baseline, and we will issue future surveys to determine if our work is having a positive impact.
Approximately 14 percent of students across the university reported having had at least one incident of “non-consensual sexual contact” since enrolling at Tufts; this includes experiencing incidents of non-consensual improper touching, including sexual intercourse. Of the 14 percent, 5 percent of students across the university reported non-consensual sexual intercourse. I encourage you to read the full results of the Tufts Attitudes About Sexual Conduct survey, available on the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) website.
Given the scope of this problem in our society, we knew that the survey would show that we have a great deal more to do to address this problem. Still, the findings are wholly unacceptable. We must do better—and I give you my commitment that we will. Raising awareness about an issue that is so vital to the safety of our students—and putting into place effective support systems and prevention programs related to sexual misconduct—are among my highest priorities. They remain so.
Let me briefly review the work that led up to the survey. In the fall of 2013, I invited a group of faculty, staff, and students from across the university to join me in a concerted effort to address sexual misconduct at Tufts through the Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force.
Since then, the Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force, which I chair, has taken a number of important actions to ensure the safety of our students. Our Sexual Misconduct Policy has been revised and the review of our Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Process is nearing conclusion. We developed and implemented a mandatory training program for all students, staff, and faculty on our three campuses. The new Center for Awareness, Resources and Education (CARE) was launched to support students affected by sexual misconduct. The OEO website and other communications make information on sexual assault issues more readily available to students.
We still have a long way to go. The survey data was particularly distressing when analyzed by gender and gender identity, and by academic status:
- Nearly a quarter (24.7%) of undergraduates have experienced either non-consensual intercourse or other non-consensual sexual contact.
- Approximately 4.7% of students in our professional and graduate schools have also experienced one or both kinds of misconduct.
- About 22% of students identifying as transgender, genderqueer or gender non-conforming, or as another identity other than male/female reported having experienced non-consensual sexual contact.
- The majority of such misconduct incidents appear to have been perpetrated by someone who was known to the victim. Most incidents appear to have taken place in a residential location, and in most cases, the victim and/or the perpetrator was using alcohol.
- Although most victims report telling someone about the incident, they harbor a variety of concerns about telling others, such as thinking the incident wasn’t serious enough to share or not wanting any disciplinary or legal action to be taken. Most victims, consistent with national numbers, do not officially report their incidents to the Office of Equal Opportunity. Those who do generally feel respected, listened to, and supported during the formal process and feel the staff are well-trained.
The survey does indicate that we have made some progress, and we need to continue our efforts to make every student aware of policies, procedures, and resources:
- The majority of students said they are happy (92.3%), feel safe (95.9%), and feel valued in the classroom (93.6%) at Tufts.
- Most respondents felt that most Tufts students respected one another’s personal space (91.5%). Most trusted that their friends would watch out for them at a social event (95.7%).
- The majority of students had received information about university policies regarding incidents of sexual misconduct (81.1%) and complaint and disciplinary procedures (66.6%). Most students (70.3%) knew how to seek confidential counseling about sexual misconduct.
Tufts is not alone in confronting sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Sadly, these behaviors are occurring on college campuses across the country. However, that does not diminish my profound concern about what this survey tells us about the safety of our students.
I have said this many times, and it bears repeating here—sexual misconduct has absolutely no place at Tufts University.
I am once again turning to the dedicated members of the Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force to build on the work they and others in our community have already done to prevent sexual misconduct. The Task Force is analyzing the survey findings in more detail and we will develop additional strategies to strengthen and enhance sexual misconduct resources and education, awareness, and prevention efforts across the university.
As we address these issues with renewed vigilance, it is important for me to hear from the wider Tufts community. To that end, the Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force and I are sponsoring a panel discussion about the survey findings and potential next steps. That discussion will take place on Thursday, October 8, from 7–9 p.m. in the Rabb Room at Tisch College. Everyone is welcome to join us. In addition, we are organizing similar sessions for the Boston and Grafton campuses, and will announce the details as soon as they are finalized.
Please join us in this important work. We will only succeed if we stand together as a community.