Yesterday, LaToya Hill, associate vice-president and Title IX coordinator, distributed the long-anticipated Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) survey. This marks the first step in the UT System’s goal to conduct a four-year comprehensive study of sexual assault on UT System campuses.
The release of this survey comes at a watershed moment: the Association of American Universities’ sexual assault study found that roughly one in five UT women and one in four American female students nationally are sexually assaulted during their undergraduate careers.
Additionally, the widely reviled Safe Campus Act is currently before Congress, which aims to restrict universities’ abilities to investigate sexual assault allegations. For every student who was selected to participate in the optional survey, this is an opportunity to identify the contributing factors of what this Board considers one of the most serious, pervasive social plagues of our generation. We urge you to take this survey.
The University has shown that this is an issue of great importance, and the administration is doing what it can to ensure students’ safety. It is your responsibility to help them keep you and your peers from experiencing the trauma and shame that sexual violence causes. Not taking the survey is remaining apathetic towards an endemic that plagues college campuses across the country. Not taking the survey condones the injustices against one in five women on this campus. “Not having the time” is not a valid excuse.
We’ve written before about the importance of making the survey mandatory, so as to avoid distorting the responses with selection bias. It’s unfortunate that that’s not the case, and it makes it that much more important that every one of the selected students complete the survey in its entirety. If only the students who have experienced sexual violence feel the survey is necessary to take, the results will not accurately reflect the current climate, making the issue that much more difficult to address.
The term “rape culture” can be used as a term to end a conversation — to insinuate that sexual assault is an epidemic that’s unsolvable without a massive, vaguely defined cultural reform. This survey does the opposite, tackling the issue head on by shedding light on what sexual assault means and who it impacts the most. That’s a critical first step towards addressing the problem, but it cannot succeed without your help.