UT System, UTRGV announce results of student survey on sexual assault and misconduct

By Patrick Gonzales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MARCH 24, 2017 – In an ongoing effort to provide the safest learning environment possible for students, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), in conjunction with The University of Texas System (UTS), announced Friday the results of an unprecedented, in-depth student survey that looks at the prevalence, perceptions and experiences around a range of acts of sexual assault and misconduct that affect students.

UTRGV’s full report, including a summary of existing programs as well as further commitments for action, can be found at the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments findings.

The Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) report is the most in-depth survey of sexual assault and misconduct ever undertaken by an institution or system of higher education in the U.S. Thirteen of the UT System’s 14 institutions participated in the survey in fall 2015 and early spring 2016. UT Health Northeast was exempted because it does not enroll enough students to protect their anonymity.

The survey is part of a $1.7 million multi-year study spearheaded by UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven and conducted by UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, led by Director Noël Busch-Armendariz, Ph.D.

The study is groundbreaking because it 1) uses both qualitative and quantitative research data to better understand, address and reduce acts of sexual harassment, stalking, dating/domestic abuse and violence and unwanted sexual contact on UT campuses; and 2) includes a longitudinal component in which researchers will repeatedly survey a select cohort of students to help understand their knowledge, attitudes and experiences over the course of their college careers.

“If we want to understand and continuously improve our campus culture in order to facilitate student success, then we have to be open and honest about our students’ experiences beyond the classroom, no matter how uncomfortable it is,” McRaven said. “I’m pleased that UT institutions have numerous, effective programs to serve victims of sexual assault and misconduct, and with new knowledge, we can and must do better. The findings of this study shine a brighter light on sexual assault and misconduct that affects UT students and give us a deeper understanding of how to address these problems.”

More than 3,800 UTRGV students of all classifications voluntarily and confidentially filled out extensive online questionnaire. Since the survey was conducted during UTRGV’s inaugural year, the results likely reflect student experiences at UTRGV and/or legacy institutions, The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas-Pan American.

“The results are disappointing, but acknowledging them is an essential step toward improving the safety of our campuses,” said UTRGV Founding President Guy Bailey. “I applaud Chancellor McRaven and the UT System for commissioning this crucial study, and I applaud the students who courageously participated.  Our next step is to use this invaluable data to review our existing programs and implement new ones that will help ensure a safer campus climate now and for years to come.”

Key findings at UTRGV include:

  • Many victims (70%) and non-victims (78%) alike reported feeling safe on campus at UTRGV.
  • Many victims (67%) and non-victims (80%) alike reported feeling safe from sexual harassment at UTRGV.
  • Many victims (72%) and non-victims (81%) reported believing UTRGV would take a report of sexual harassment, stalking, dating/domestic abuse and violence, or unwanted sexual contact seriously.
  • Nine percent of students reported unwanted sexual touching and 5 percent of students reported having experienced rape since enrollment.
  • 16 percent of students reported having experienced student-perpetrated sexual harassment
  • 11 percent of students reported experiencing stalking since enrollment.

“The safety and success of our students is a top priority, and this survey will allow us to build upon that,” said Kristin Croyle, UTRGV’s Vice President for Student Success. “We have already implemented programs, such as the Superhero Project, and will continue to work diligently to improve campus safety for all of our constituents.”

UTRGV is strongly committed to building and promoting a diverse, inclusive learning and working environment that is free of all forms of discrimination, including sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.

The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) and the Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Coordinators are charged with leading UTRGV’s efforts in promoting diversity and ensuring non-discrimination.  The goal of the OIE is to promote a campus climate that understands that sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in any form (including sexual violence) will not be tolerated. It is the role of the OIE to promote awareness of antidiscrimination laws, including Title IX, Title VII, The Campus Save Act, the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

Should any faculty, staff, administrator or student have concerns related to discrimination, including sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, these concerns can be taken directly to the Office of Institutional Equity at http://www.utrgv.edu/equity.


UTRGV Associate Vice President/University Spokesman, University Marketing and Communications / 956-665-3110