Private Colleges Keep Sexual Assault Data Secret

Since January, 57 private colleges and universities have administered a survey to more than 24,000 students nationwide to gauge their experience with sexual violence on campus. But the results of the survey, and even the schools participating, are all being kept hidden.

The decision to shield all of the data and the colleges involved is meant to allow schools to take action based on the results and to ensure the survey is ethical, according to the group coordinating it. However, that secrecy is raising concern among activists and researchers.

The survey, created by the Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium and the Center of Inquiry at Wabash College, asks students anonymously whether they’ve experienced sexual assault or harassment on campus, and how they feel about the school’s handling of such incidents.

Last week, the Association of American Universities released the aggregate results from its own campus safety survey. The AAU survey included responses from 150,000 students at 27 elite universities, and its release garnered widespread media coverage. Each participating university also released its own individual results — despite scholars worrying that some schools may withhold that information. Dozens of other schools have also conducted their own surveys and released the results publicly.

The HEDS survey was based on the example released by the White House task force on campus sexual assault, and crafted with representatives from four member institutions. HEDS also solicited feedback from close to three dozen other member schools. It administered the survey starting in January through the HEDS survey engine, Qualtrics.

Around 130 private colleges and universities are members of HEDS, which regularly conducts surveys and shares data between member institutions. The cost for the survey is $500 if an institution is a member of HEDS, or $1,600 for any other interested college. Institutions —> Read More