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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: A closer look at the campus climate survey

Campus safety has been a hot topic at UNC for some time. But this year, there has been even more buzz than usual surrounding the issue of sexual assault.                                                                                                                 

On Oct. 15, the University released the results of the Association of American Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, and the results were concerning, to say the least. 

Thirty-four percent of student respondents reported that sexual assault or other sexual misconduct is "very to extremely problematic" at UNC — a 9.5 percent increase from 2015.

Most notably, the survey revealed that more than a third of all female undergraduate UNC students reported being sexually assaulted during their time in college. In about 72 percent of cases, the offender was another UNC student.

In many ways, these results are hardly surprising. We know that sexual assault on college campuses, especially ours, occurs far too frequently. Still, to see this knowledge unquestionably confirmed through numbers and raw data is a shock.

More than 21 percent of assaults occurred in fraternity houses and nearly 21 percent occurred in University residence halls or dorms, the results said — areas under the University’s direct jurisdiction. 

It’s hard to fault the University for off-campus incidents that occur on private property. But the University is very much responsible for what happens on campus — its authority yields a responsibility to do as much as possible to prevent these instances from happening. And even when incidents do occur off-campus, the University needs to do everything it can to ensure the report is handled appropriately.

Also of note was students’ perception of school policies and practices regarding sexual assault and misconduct. The results reflect the growing divide between students and the University, characterized by students’ clear lack of trust in campus officials and the University as an institution.

When asked how campus officials would respond to a report of sexual assault or other misconduct, only 33.1 percent of undergraduate women perceived that it is very or extremely likely that campus officials would take the report seriously. 

Similarly, just 22.4 percent of undergraduate women indicated that it is very or extremely likely that campus officials would conduct a fair investigation in response to a report of sexual assault or other misconduct.

It’s alarming that students don’t trust the University to seek justice following an instance of sexual assault. In our opinion, expecting the University to do as much as possible to make sure we don’t get sexually assaulted is not too much to ask. Nor is it too much to expect that our experiences are validated and investigated fairly. 

The University still harbors a remarkable lack of transparency when it comes to Title IX cases. In fact, the lawsuit which The Daily Tar Heel filed against UNC for access to public records regarding sexual assault cases on campus is still ongoing. 

Seeing these results should prompt the University to adjust its policies regarding sexual assault prevention and the handling of Title IX complaints. These statistics are not normal. Sexual assault is not inevitable. When one-third of the female student body are victims of sexual assault, there’s something wrong.

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