Two reports released today offer new insight for understanding the prevalence of sexual misconduct among the Johns Hopkins University community and how the institution has been working to prevent and address it along with other kinds of discrimination and harassment.
The results of the 2019 campus climate survey detail experiences and perceptions reported by Hopkins students this spring, and the annual report of the Office of Institutional Equity provides information about all the reports received and cases closed in 2018.
Campus Climate Survey
To build a more complete picture of the prevalence and risk factors for sexual misconduct, the university conducted its third campus climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct in the spring. For this year's survey, Johns Hopkins joined 32 other schools in a survey administered by the Association of American Universities whose aggregate results were released today.
Just over 4,000 students completed the survey in the spring, representing 28% of the student population. Using the broadest definitions, 12.5% of respondents reported they had experienced sexual assault. The AAU survey as a whole reported a prevalence of 17%. In the JHU survey, female undergraduates were most likely to answer that they had experienced sexual assault, with 30% responding affirmatively. Among transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary students, 26% reported they had experiences such assaults.
The prevalence of sexual assault reported in the new AAU survey is lower than the 19% overall rate reported in the last JHU climate survey, conducted in February 2018. However, differences in the questions asked and methodology make it difficult to establish firm trends.
JHU Provost Sunil Kumar says he is concerned not only about the prevalence reported in the survey, but that just 55% of respondents to the most recent survey said it would be very or extremely likely that campus officials would take a report of sexual assault or misconduct seriously. Similarly worrisome, he says, is that 43% of respondents said they believed it was very or extremely likely that campus officials would conduct fair investigations, a decline from 63% in the 2018 survey.
"Like our last two surveys, the data continue to affirm that sexual misconduct remains a serious and complex problem at our university, as it is on college campuses across the country," Kumar says. "Sharing the data in these reports is an important step in providing the transparency and accountability that enable us all to understand the challenges we face. While we've made progress, our most recent survey results confirm that we can and must do more to prevent sexual misconduct; increase awareness of policies, procedures, reporting and support options; and continue to increase confidence in the university's handling of sexual misconduct matters."
OIE Annual Report
The Johns Hopkins Office of Institutional Equity handles reports of sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination based on protected-class statuses (such as race, gender, disability, and others), and related retaliation. The office's second annual report allows year over year comparisons while providing a transparent look at its processes to the university community.
This year, the office expanded its data tracking to provide additional information about reports involving multiple parties, such as when one person reports concerns about two or more individuals. In 2018, all multi-party reports were separated into their individual components, so that a complaint by Person A about an incident involving Persons B and C is considered two reports (Person A v. Person B and Person A v. Person C). The 2017 data—which did not provide this higher level of detail regarding multi-party reports—was adjusted similarly in order to make accurate year-over-year comparisons in the 2018 Annual Report.
Using this more granular approach, OIE said it received 465 reports of sexual misconduct in 2018, compared to 339 in 2017. Reports of protected-category discrimination or harassment rose from 144 to 238.
The total number of reports increased about 52% in 2018. OIE leaders attribute some of that growth to a greater familiarity among students, faculty, and staff about OIE's role; ongoing education and outreach efforts; and a greater recognition by society in general of sexual misconduct and discrimination.
Amid this increase, "The timeliness with which we investigate complaints and conclude cases is a key component of a strong climate," says Joy Gaslevic, interim vice provost for institutional equity. "In 2018, we continued to increase OIE staffing and resources, including by creating two additional investigator positions and another position to assist with disability services support. We cleared a backlog of pending cases and introduced new protocols that improve the speed and efficiency of our processes, all while maintaining the high quality of our work."
Sexual misconduct cases that began in the second half of 2018 took an average of 155 days to close based on data as of June 30, 2019. In comparison, cases took 266 days on average in 2017. While noting this significant improvement, Gaslevic says her team will continue to focus on shortening OIE's timelines and streamlining its procedures.
"We will also continue to seek more way to make the OIE process as clear and transparent as possible," she says. "It is important that we enhance our community's understanding, expectations, and confidence regarding the OIE process."
University leaders say the information in the climate survey results and the OIE report will help guide the institution's efforts to improve awareness of policies, procedures, reporting, and support options.
The 2018 survey results provided helpful information for the Provost's Sexual Violence Advisory Committee as it prepared recommendations for university action. Elements of that plan that are now in progress include new online training modules with enhanced bystander intervention content, an exploration of options to expand bystander intervention training to upperclass and graduate students across the university, and development of a healthy consent mobilization campaign.
Coordinating, expanding, and promoting sexual violence/misconduct support resources and educational outreach is also a goal for Kevin Shollenberger, the university's inaugural vice provost for health and wellness, in collaboration with the SVAC. His office has directed the creation of the new wellness.jhu.edu website, where students can find existing sexual misconduct resources, plus other health and wellness information and programs all in one location.
Immediate help and support for individuals who experience sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, continues to be available on the university's Sexual Assault Response and Prevention website or the 24/7 helpline at 410-516-7333. For additional information on OIE, including its new East Baltimore campus office hours, please visit oie.jhu.edu.