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2015 Stanford Campus Climate Survey – Questions and Answers

Q. Can the results of the Stanford campus climate survey be compared to the results of other university campus climate surveys across the country, including the recent AAU (Association of American Universities) survey?

A. No. The different campus surveys vary widely in the questions asked, the definitions used, the time periods involved and the response rates among students.

For instance, Stanford’s survey asked students about their experiences with prohibited sexual conduct since beginning their current degree program at Stanford, whereas some other surveys have asked about such experiences within the last year.

Universities also have different definitions of sexual assault and ask questions in their surveys based on those different definitions. As an example, Stanford policy defines sexual assault based on California rape and sexual offense statutes. Therefore, sexual battery (nonconsensual sexual touching under California law) is categorized in the Stanford survey report as sexual misconduct, while some other university survey reports may categorize it as sexual assault. Anyone reviewing different surveys should be aware of these differences.

More information on survey definitions is provided below and in the appendix of the campus climate survey report.

Q. What is the difference between the numbers in the campus climate survey and the Clery Act numbers in Stanford’s annual public safety report?

A. They are completely different numbers. The campus climate survey provides numbers of student respondents who say they have experienced prohibited sexual conduct, in any location, since beginning their degree program at Stanford. The report categorizes these experiences as sexual assault or sexual misconduct based on Stanford policy definitions, which are based on California law.

By contrast, the federal Clery Act numbers provided in Stanford’s annual Safety, Security and Fire Report reflect the numbers of criminal incidents that are reported to police or designated campus personnel (campus security authorities); by any individual, Stanford-affiliated or not; within a given year; either on campus (including faculty residential areas and two hospitals) or in off-campus buildings owned or operated by the university; and meeting criminal definitions as set out in federal law.

Q. In the campus climate survey, some students reported incidents of nonconsensual sexual penetration or nonconsensual oral sex that are not categorized as sexual assault. Why is this?

A. Stanford policy, which is based on California criminal rape and sexual offense statutes, defines sexual assault as a nonconsensual sexual act (a) involving intercourse, digital penetration, oral sex or penetration with a foreign object, that (b) is accomplished by use of force, violence, duress, menace, inducement of incapacitation or knowingly taking advantage of an incapacitated person.

A nonconsensual sexual act of the kind in category (a) but not occurring with one of the conditions in category (b) is not considered a sexual assault under Stanford policy but is considered an act of sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct, as used in the report, also includes acts of sexual touching without consent and some acts of clothing removal without consent. Details are discussed in the appendix of the report.

Q. In the survey, how many people indicated they had experienced both sexual assault and sexual misconduct, or that they had experienced multiple incidents?

A. This survey was not constructed to provide this level of quantification. The survey asked students whether they had had particular experiences since beginning their current degree program at Stanford. If they had, they were asked about the circumstances of the most recent such experience. The survey thus quantifies the proportion of respondents who have experienced prohibited sexual conduct at Stanford – not how many such individual incidents they experienced. Respondents who experienced multiple kinds of acts are included in the report in the most serious applicable policy category; those who experienced both sexual assault and sexual misconduct are included in the numbers for sexual assault. The proportion of students indicating that nonconsensual acts occurred more than once will be an area for further examination in the future.

Q. Why does the climate survey report findings for gender-diverse students as a single group rather than transgender, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming or other individual identities?

A. The numbers of students choosing these identifiers are relatively small and, in some cases, reporting subgroup numbers could compromise student privacy. Stanford chose to combine these respondents into a larger group whose results could, in many cases, be provided in the report, rather than not providing any results for these respondents at all.