AAU members making progress in combating sexual misconduct

Rice University and other members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) are making significant improvements and devoting substantial resources to combat sexual misconduct on campus, according to a report based on the results of a new survey.

Title: AAU Campus Activities Report: Combating Sexual Assault and MisconductThe report, published April 26 by the association of 62 leading research universities, follows up on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, a landmark comprehensive campus climate survey of 150,000 students by AAU in 2015. Rice did not participate in that survey but conducted its own survey in collaboration with several other universities so that the questions could address specific needs.

Rice did participate in AAU’s follow-up survey in fall 2016. The survey asked university administrators about the kinds of activities institutions are engaging in, about collaborations and partnerships and about the resources being devoted to these efforts. It also asked institutions to provide specific examples of programs, training and other activities. The purpose of the new report is to assist AAU schools by providing data and examples of the efforts their peer institutions are making in this area.

Like all the universities surveyed, Rice has conducted a major climate survey of its students on issues relating to sexual assault and misconduct, has improved education and training of students and faculty to try to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual misconduct, and has significantly strengthened programs to assist victims of sexual assault and misconduct.

Among the key findings of the new report:

  • Over the last three academic years, all 55 institutions that responded to the 2015 survey have developed, redefined or enhanced programs to assist victims of sexual assault and misconduct.
  • 100 percent of responding institutions have surveyed students on issues related to sexual assault and misconduct at least once since 2013.
  • 87 percent (48/55) of responding institutions indicated that surveys or data from surveys stimulated new or changed existing conversations with students about sexual assault and misconduct.
  • Over the last three academic years, 100 percent of responding institutions have changed or are in the process of changing their education and training for students and faculty.
  • Over the last three academic years, 84 percent (46/55) of institutions have developed new programs, education or interventions for specific student populations or types of students.

The new report includes a case study of Rice’s Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Title IX Support and notes that Rice offers a range of support and care to students who report an assault or other violence against them, as well as to students who have been accused of perpetrating such violence. Students who have experienced any form of interpersonal violence are encouraged to seek support, and the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Title IX Support offers confidential on-campus counseling and off-campus referrals, plus resources to assure a student’s safety and help navigating the medical, law enforcement and legal systems.

Rice’s “culture of care,” an expectation that students “treat each other with dignity and respect, including in sexual and romantic relationships,” is mentioned. The report cites the pilot course Critical Thinking in Sexuality that Rice offered this spring. The course explored such issues as consent, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and how to intervene in dangerous situations. The university plans to make the five-week class mandatory for freshmen beginning this fall. Attention is also given to the STRIVE (Students Transforming Rice Into a Violence-free Environment) Coalition, a dedicated group of Rice students who have come together to address sexual and domestic violence on campus.

The AAU report also notes that Rice University has working agreements with the Houston Area Women’s Center, the Montrose Center, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, as well as an assigned assistant district attorney from the Harris County Special Victim’s Bureau and a special agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The full “AAU Campus Activities Report: Combating Sexual Assault and Misconduct” can be read here.


About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.