LOGAN – Despite recent attention to sexual assault allegations on campus, Utah State University President Noelle Cockett said that statistically, when compared to most universities, USU is a safe campus.
While discussing university business during Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Cockett explained that the percentage of students who have experienced non-consensual sexual contact at USU is about half the national average, and emphasized that university officials are working toward making campus even safer.
“I want students to be careful and to listen to our best practices and our recommendations to them,” she said, “but again, overall our campus is safe.”
Cockett said 10,000 students participated in a survey last spring that showed 10 percent of females and 2.1 percent of males had experienced some form of non-consensual sexual contact since they had been at USU. She said that even though those numbers are about half the national average, the statistics were later presented in a way that sends the message that USU’s campus is unsafe.
“A particular newspaper in the state had a headline that said ‘1 in 10 female students at USU have experienced sexual assault’,” Cockett said. “Immediately we had many, many people, parents and students, feel like they were unsafe here at Utah State.”
Cockett emphasized that the students were never surveyed on whether or not they had been sexually assaulted, as the newspaper headline suggested, but were asked about non-consensual sexual contact.
The survey did produce some results that Cockett found concerning. She said that only 45 percent of those who responded knew where they could get resources if they experienced non-consensual sexual contact. Another troubling statistic was that out of everyone who had experienced it, only five percent had reported it to the Title IX office.
“That is a very low number,” she said, “and we hope to do some education information for our students in what it means to formally report, and whether or not they would like to follow up with an investigation.”
A bystander intervention initiative and a mandatory freshman sexual assault education program have been implemented on campus since the survey.
Cockett pointed out that USU differs from many other campuses in how often alcohol is involved in non-consensual sexual contact.
“Of those individuals that had experienced the non-consensual sexual contact 35 percent of those incidences involved alcohol, 65 percent did not,” she said. “That is quite unusual for campuses. It is usually 80 percent and above of those kinds of incidences involves alcohol.”
Another similar survey is being planned for the spring. Cockett is hoping to see lower rates of non-consensual sexual contact