Education

UK hopes to create statewide consortium to measure sexual assaults at Kentucky schools

On Monday, the University of Kentucky released a ground-breaking student survey about campus safety, which found that more than 1,000 students said they'd been sexually assaulted in one year.

Now, UK is offering the software for its Campus Attitudes Toward Safety survey to other colleges and universities in Kentucky. That could result in the first-ever statewide survey about campus sexual assault.

"By collaborating in this consortium, colleges and universities can take advantage of the research infrastructure developed at UK, identify strengths and areas of opportunity on their campuses, and utilize benchmark information based on the combined data from all consortium members," said Diane Follingstad, director of the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women. "Because of the methodology UK uses to administer our instrument, the reports for all participating institutions will yield consistent and comparable data that can be used for introducing policy changes, developing programming, and initiating culture change on campuses."

Follingstad announced the offer Thursday in Lexington, at a conference on campus safety. Conference attendees included people from eight of Kentucky's public colleges and six private institutions. A representative from the Southeastern Conference also attended.

The CATS survey asked students their perceptions of campus safety, their opinions of administrative actions and remedies, and about sexual harassment and assault.

Sexual assault on college campuses has gotten increasing attention at the national level in the past two years. Schools are required to report data to the federal government, but those numbers illuminate only a tiny sliver of the problem, experts say.

The consortium is just getting started, and it's not clear how much it would cost partner schools to join. The maximum cost would probably be about $20,000, depending on how many schools join.

Cost could be a problem, but "I think the consortium is potentially very promising," said Ann James, senior associate dean of students at Northern Kentucky University. "I would love to see how we compare statewide."

The five-year CATS survey initiative is a confidential tool that measures social and cultural environments at UK, consisting of several sections that ask questions about students' beliefs, opinions and knowledge of campus safety, and it assesses their adverse experiences over the past year.

More information about the first year's results is available at UKnow.uky.edu/content/campus-safety-survey-reveals-student-perceptions-and-experiences.

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