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MU Releases Results of AAU's Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct

Association of American Universities

Nearly 31 percent of University of Missouri female undergraduate students reported being victims of nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or incapacitation. This ranges from unwanted kissing to assault.

This was one of the many findings that were released Monday by the Association of American Universities and the University of Missouri. The results were from the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct the AAU conducted last April.

The survey asked students questions about sexual assault and misconduct, the perceived risk of assault on campus, how students thought campus officials would support them and bystander intervention rates,  as well as reports of sexual harassment, intimate partner violence and stalking.  

The University of Missouri was one of 27 universities across the country that participated in the survey. While more than 150,000 students participated in the national survey, only about 5,000 students – both undergraduate and graduate – participated at MU.

Ellen Eardley, the MU Title IX administrator, said the survey validates what college campuses across the United States already know – that sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence and interpersonal violence happen on their campuses, including MU.

“The survey is an opportunity for us to take a closer look at what the climate actually is here and helps us as we think about moving forward to improve our prevention education measures on campus,” Eardley said.

Credit Rebecca Smith / KBIA
Ellen Eardley, MU Title IX administrator

Eardley also said Provost Garnett Stokes has created a new task force to address the concerns raised by the MU report and the AAU national report.

“We're going to take a harder look at our survey results, as well as the AAU survey results,” Eardley said.  “And think about ways we can improve our education, prevention efforts. We think we should have focus groups and talk to our community and really bring these numbers to life and think about the meaningful ways in which we can better engage our community.”

She said the task force will include both undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty, as well as the coordinator of the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center. Eardley added they are working on finalizing members of the task force at the moment.

This task force will work to monitor the climate on campus and develop metrics that can be used to monitor progress made at MU.


The report began by addressing how students felt they would be supported by their fellow students and campus officials. On most issues, nearly or more than 50 percent of students responded favorably, but when it came to campus officials taking “action to address factors that may have led to sexual assault or sexual misconduct on campus” only nearly 42 percent of students thought this was likely.

Eardley said she believes this is because the Title IX office has only been on campus for a little more than a year. She said she believes the longer the office is there, the more students will begin to understand what it does and how it is trying to help them.

Bystander intervention rates were another issue addressed in the report, and Eardley says the results reflect that MU still has work to do in the way of education and prevention. She advocated for focus groups and peer educators to be utilized.

"We think we should have focus groups and talk to our community and really bring these numbers to life and think about the meaningful ways in which we can better engage our community."

“Peer education is where it’s at,” Eardley said. “Students want to learn from each other.”  

Another of the issues that Eardley brought up was the number of sexual harassment reports in the survey results – 52 percent of students reported being victims of sexual harassment and more than 82 percent said it had happened to them within the last year.

Eardley said the University needs to take a hard look at these numbers because sexual harassment and sexual violence are all “intertwined.”

“If we have a climate where sexual harassment occurs and is accepted, then that is going to create a climate where sexual violence is acceptable as well,” Eardley said.

The most common description of the harasser was a student, but graduate students more often identified their harasser as a faculty member who was their teacher or advisor and their co-worker, boss or supervisor.

Eardley said she is already doing outreach with new faculty members, Department chairs and new graduate students to let them know what behaviors are not appropriate on MU’s campus and making sure they know their rights.

The sample size of transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming, questioning or not listed (TGQN) students in the survey was too small to allow estimates that are statistically reliable, but the MU report did address the experiences of this demographic.

The MU report revealed that TGQN students generally feel less safe on campus, less supported by campus officials, less likely to report an assault and more likely to experience sex-based discrimination and violence.

Eardley said it is not just the TGQN students experiencing these things at higher rates, but also students who are non-heterosexual and disabled students.

She said she is working with the LGBTQ Center on campus to ensure the Title IX office is meeting the needs of every student community.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.