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Pitt to circulate national sexual assault survey

By Dale Shoemaker / Assistant News Editor

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Pitt announced Monday that it will survey students as part of a national campaign to measure the frequency of sexual assault on campus. 

Pitt is participating in a survey from Association of American Universitie alongside the more than 60 other member universities and several non-member universities. Westat, a firm that specializes in research surveys, designed the survey and will administer it to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students, but not to faculty or administrators, the AAU said in its statement. 

In an email to students on Monday, Provost Patricia Beeson said that the survey “will help us gain a better understanding of the climate at the University of Pittsburgh, and help inform our practices regarding sexual assault moving forward.”

The survey is voluntary and Pitt will send it directly to students via email from Westat, Stephanie Hoogendoorn, senior assistant to the provost for academic affairs, said in an email on Wednesday. 

Pitt students will have access to the survey beginning Thursday, April 22, and the AAU survey will run nationally from April 1 to May 10. The findings are expected to be released in the fall by the AAU.

This survey comes after Chancellor Patrick Gallagher issued a memo to all faculty and staff in February stressing the need to eliminate sexual assault from Pitt’s campus — a move that comes alongside a similar national movement. 

Pitt will not have access to the responses until Westat releases them in the fall. Even then, Westat will have no identifiable information sent to Pitt, according to Hoogendoorn. 

Keeping students’ responses to the survey private, Beeson said in her email, is the biggest concern for Westat, the research firm, the AAU and Pitt. The survey’s questions will be “very intimate,” but Westat will keep student responses anonymous.

When Westat releases the results, it will present them in a summary so that no personal information is attached. 

Westat will give the results of its survey, which it is separating by university, back to each university but will also compile the results to help the AAU measure the occurrence of sexual assault on college campuses across the country, according to Hoogendoorn.

According to Pitt’s crime log, 10 cases of rape and seven cases of forcible fondling were reported to Pitt Police in 2013, the most recent year for which there is data.

Although the survey will not be available until Thursday, several student said they are already willing to participate in the campaign.

Kathryn Kennedy, a freshman biology and French double major, said though she personally doesn’t feel endangered on Pitt’s campus, she would volunteer to comment on sexual assault.

“I’m a 19-year-old girl. [Sexual assault is] on my mind. I’m willing to help,” she said.

Allie McCarthy said, as part of her efforts to stop sexual assault, she would also volunteer to take the survey. 

McCarthy, president of Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance, appears alongside other students in the “It’s On Us,” video played around campus and has signed the “It’s On Us” pledge.

“I trust [Pitt] is being genuine in their efforts,” she said.    

Together with Westat and the AAU, Hoogendoorn said Pitt wants to do its part to stop sexual violence on campus. A representative from Westat was not immediately available for comment at the time of publication and did not return several requests for comment.

“We are hoping as many students as possible respond so that we can have a complete picture of our campuses,” Hoogendoorn said.

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper
Pitt to circulate national sexual assault survey