Editor’s Note: This Letter refers to a survey discussed in detail in the letter “Why You Should Take the Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey.” To submit your own letter on any topic, click here.
I write to you as a member of your campus community. Over my 13 years here, I have spoken with hundreds of students about the sexual climate on this campus.
I’m not a title IX coordinator, I’m not in charge of student conduct, and I’m not a professional counselor, although I send all of the students who talk to me about serious issues to those people.
I think of my office as a place where, for one reason or another, conversations about difficult issues often begin rather than a place they end.
Over my years here I have heard about the hook-up culture—students who enjoy it and those who avoid it, I have heard about drunken nights gone terribly wrong, I have heard of great student organizations that support students healthy expressions of their sexuality, I have sat at the YWCA with a student while the police interviewed her and while the staff photographed her bruises, I have heard the perspective of a student accused of sexual assault and students whose partners have been raped, I have heard beautiful and painful stories about study abroad and on and on and on.
So, when I heard about last year’s survey on the sexual climate on this campus, I was relieved and thrilled and grateful that these stories would be heard more widely, and that this would lead to conversations we need to have as a community.
Unfortunately, for what I’m sure are complicated reasons that I don’t wholly understand, very few students participated in the survey.
Eleven percent, to be exact.
This means that when I ask questions about what this survey revealed, I’m consistently told that the sample was too small to make any generalizations. What I feel like I hear is that the survey is too small to talk about. What I know in my heart is that it the issue is too big not to.
As one of many professors who care about you, I’m asking you to take the survey that was emailed to you. If we want an even healthier sex-positive campus, we have to start with a clear picture of who we are now, and that picture has to be vivid and complex and woven from many threads. Please take 20 minutes to fill out the survey regarding sexual assault and campus climate which runs through finals week.
Please don’t let your stories end with me or anyone else on campus. Let them begin.