AAU survey only the first step to reducing on-campus assault

Lauren Ferguson

The University of Texas is planning on conducting a survey through the Association of American Universities in order to learn more about the nature of sexual assault on campus. UT is one of 28 other schools distributing the survey after the other 32 American universities in the AAU decided not to participate. In addition to the AAU survey, which will cost the University approximately $87,500, UT will be conducting its own survey later in the year, the price of which has yet to be determined. While some are critiquing the surveys for their hefty cost, the move should also be praised for making UT a safer campus, especially for the female students. 

College campuses are frequently cited as dangerous places for women, and with the recent indictment of two ex-UT football players on charges of sexual assault, Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, this issue of safety on campus is becoming all the more important. According to a 2001 report from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, women on college campuses are more likely to be assaulted than women in the general population. And Katherine Hirsch’s study titled “Fraternities of Fear: Gang Rape, Male Bonding, and the Silencing of Women” estimated that one in four college women will be assaulted during their academic career. While this reality is sobering, UT is taking the first steps toward addressing the issue through the surveys.  

By conducting the survey, the University is aiming to create a more secure campus by determining the nature of sexual assault on campus as well as possible preventive measures. While immediate change cannot be expected, the move is a step in the right direction for UT, especially with many other school deciding to forgo the survey.  

So far, the move has been met with general positivity from women on campus.  

“I like that they’re doing it!” neuroscience and psychology senior Dax Fisher-Garibay said. “I appreciate that they are trying to make the campus safer…and looking for answers.”  

Neuroscience junior Tasmin Akhtar also seemed optimistic, saying “[the surveys] should make the campus safer and more comfortable for not only victims and sexual assault survivors but also people vulnerable to assault.”  

However, the survey has also been received with some apprehension. “I don’t know if a survey would make me feel safer,” advertising senior Kate Dickerson said. “It would depend on what they did with the results.” 

Some students are critical because they think the survey will not produce tangible results. Fisher-Garibay couldn’t help worrying the survey “won’t change anything.” She worries that the University of Texas may not be willing to go through everything necessary in order to properly prevent sexual assault.  

“[The answers to ending assault] are too broad. I’m nervous UT won’t know what to do with the answers,” Fisher-Garibay said.  

Akhtar expressed concerns as well. “I do feel better that the campus is focusing on prevention,” she said, “as long as they’re educating about rape culture and avoiding victim-blaming.”  

According to Paul E. Pezza and Ann Bellotti in their study entitled “College Campus Violence: Origins, Impacts, and Responses,” the best way to prevent violence is through developed and strong communities and thorough educational programs. Other suggestions to prevent assault have included a more present police force. Each of these things will no doubt be expensive, and, if the survey concludes UT needs them, some students aren’t sure that the University will follow through if the cost is deemed excessive.  

While the survey is a good step in the right direction, it will only make a difference if UT is willing to follow up on the results. If UT is willing to spend so much to discover solutions to the issue of on campus violence, it should also be willing to spend in order to follow through with these solutions. While a step in the right direction, the surveys are not the be-all and end-all to solving the issue of safety on campus.  

“UT needs to own up to the level of safety on campus,” Dickerson said. Depending on how UT handles the results of the surveys, perhaps it will. Hopefully, once it receives the results of the survey, UT will keep in mind that it can’t put a price on the safety of its female students.  

Ferguson is an English and art history junior from Austin. Follow Ferguson on Twitter @LaurenFerg2