Despite Opt-Outs, University Group Confident in Sexual Assault Survey
Nearly half of the members of the Association of American Universities will not participate in the group’s groundbreaking survey on the sexual-assault climate on college campuses. That hasn’t altered AAU’s plans to conduct what it calls the largest survey of its kind.
Though more than two dozen of its members have declined to participate in a survey on the climate of sexual assault on college campuses, the Association of American Universities said last week that its plans will not change and the survey will be conducted on schedule.
Twenty-six of AAU’s 60 U.S. members told Inside Higher Ed that, for a variety of reasons, they have decided against participating in the survey, which has received its fair share of criticism. Some universities said they planned to run their own sexual assault surveys, while others were simply noncommittal.
“There were too many remaining unknowns of how the AAU effort was likely to unfold,” Princeton University Vice Provost Michelle Minter told the publication. “We believe it is likely to unfold well, but we didn’t have quite enough information at this point.”
AAU remained confident in its survey’s validity, despite the number of member institutions opting out.
“We also opened this up to members of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education. Our memberships have some overlap, but we welcomed their non-AAU members to participate as well,” said Barry Toiv, vice president for public affairs at AAU. “Bottom line: This is going to be, by far, the largest sexual-assault climate survey ever conducted. We are quite confident that we will have a strong, valid survey that is useful not only to the universities participating, but also to policymakers and other researchers.”
Toiv said the survey will represent a good cross-section of AAU’s membership.
“It’ll be about half and half public and private, just like AAU is,” he said. “It will be geographically representative, and there’s a good cross-section in terms of the size of the institutions. We feel like we’re in very good shape.”
When asked about the independent surveys that other universities opted to participate in, Toiv said AAU isn’t in a position to judge their effectiveness.
“We were asked by a number of our members to undertake this survey because they thought that an association survey would be most effective, but the fact that others have decided to conduct their own—that was a judgment call that they were free to make,” he said.
And while there have been some internal discussions about conducting the survey again in the future, Toiv said no decision has been made. “Truthfully, we’re focused on the hard work of getting this initial survey conducted,” he said. “Development of the survey is nearly complete, and the next step is to get it out into the field in April.”