University shares updates on its response to sexual misconduct on campus

Johns Hopkins releases results of 2018 Anonymous Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct, outlines action plan to enhance prevention, support, transparency, and accountability

More than 3,000 students from all nine academic divisions completed Johns Hopkins University's 2018 Anonymous Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct, providing a snapshot of the prevalence of sexual misconduct incidents and students' perceptions of risk, attitudes, and culture on JHU's campuses. The university released a report of principal findings Friday and outlined its vision for a coordinated action plan to enhance prevention, support, transparency, and accountability.

Among the survey participants, 625 students (395 undergraduates and 230 graduate students) reported that they had experienced sexual assault while attending the university, for an overall prevalence of 19 percent—higher than the 15 percent prevalence reported in the university's 2015 survey for unwanted sexual behavior.

In an email to the university community, Provost Sunil Kumar and Vice Provost for Institutional Equity Kimberly Hewitt called that increase "troubling … and one that we take extremely seriously."

They said the data from the 2018 survey underscore the importance of ongoing improvements in the university's response to sexual misconduct.

"Over the past two years, while we saw significant increases in the number of reports to OIE, we heard legitimate concerns from our community about the length of some investigations," they said. "As a result, we increased staffing in the office, cleared a backlog of pending cases, and introduced new protocols that improve the timeliness and efficiency of our processes while maintaining high standards for investigations and findings."

Kumar and Hewitt said that in 2017, 20 sexual misconduct required formal investigations that took more than 180 days to complete. As of this month, only one sexual misconduct case has remained open in OIE for more than 180 days, and otherwise none have been open more than 120 days. In addition, all 18 of the reports that were delayed in reaching OIE due to a computer error have been resolved or closed.

Of the student survey respondents, 68 percent of undergraduates and 44 percent of graduate students said they experienced some form of sexual harassment. For those reporting that they had been in a partnered relationship during some part of their time attending the university, 14 percent of undergraduates and 6 percent of graduate students reported experiencing intimate partner violence. A smaller percentage of students reported experiencing stalking while attending the university (9 percent of undergraduates and 5 percent of graduate students, for a total of 216 students).

Kumar and Hewitt said they believe the increase in reports over the 2015 survey is due—at least in part—to the university's It's On Us campaign launched with the last survey.

That effort and other important cultural changes have increased students' understanding of what constitutes sexual misconduct and how they can seek assistance," they said. " Notably, students taking the 2018 survey reported a greater familiarity with OIE, Campus Safety and Security, the Counseling Center, and the Student Health and Wellness Center as resources for matters related to sexual misconduct."

Since the 2015 survey the university has taken steps to enhance its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. These efforts include:

  • Increasing membership on the Provost's Sexual Violence Advisory Committee
  • Increasing Office of Institutional Equity resources and transparency, including releasing OIE's first annual report
  • Enhancing Counseling Center services and staff available to assist those impacted by sexual misconduct
  • Creating a Clery Compliance Administrator position
  • Initiating communications outreach campaigns to better inform the community about the Sexual Assault Helpline, OIE, and other confidential and nonconfidential resources
  • Engaging in a universitywide training initiative for all faculty, staff, and students
  • Updating and enhancing the university's Sexual Misconduct Policy & Procedures and the Sexual Assault & Prevention website

OIE has experienced a significant increase in the volume of reports to its office since 2016. The office received 410 reports of sexual misconduct and other types of discrimination and harassment in 2017. Early data indicated that OIE received more than 670 reports last year.

Amid this growth, OIE has:

  • Expanded available resources for investigations by creating two new positions for equity compliance investigators and a new position to support the ADA compliance officer, bringing in additional support from outside counsel, and redirecting internal efforts
  • Revised and simplified its processes and identified new strategies to manage the increasing caseload
  • Created a new database, to be operational by September 2019, that will help streamline case management and facilitate improved and consistent data collection for reporting purposes

Kumar asked the Provost's Sexual Violence Advisory Committee this semester to develop a coordinated action plan that responds to survey data. Among the items under consideration for that plan are additional evidence-based prevention strategies (such as expanded bystander intervention training), increased survivor support resources, enhanced training for existing staff members (such as those working in student health and campus security), and continued community education and engagement. Additionally, the Office of Student Affairs will review existing programs for ways to enhance support for students based upon the findings of the survey.

In addition, Kumar and Hewitt encouraged all student to participate in the American Association of Universities 2019 Campus Climate Survey, which begins this week and will further refine the university's understanding of the climate, and allow it to compare results to those of peer institutions.

"Collectively," they said, "these efforts result from a clear understanding that as a university we must maintain and elevate our response to all forms of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination, and your ongoing participation is appreciated and valued."