BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana conducted its first statewide survey of public college campuses on issues of violence and sexual assault, but so few students participated that the findings released Thursday don’t provide much insight into campus safety.
A recent state law mandated the campus climate survey. Colleges administered it last spring. Participation is voluntary for students.
The findings were presented to the Louisiana Board of Regents, which oversees the law’s efforts to improve the way public colleges handle sexual assaults. The results also will be forwarded to state lawmakers.
The board was warned against generalizing the findings. Only 5 percent of college students across the state’s campuses took the survey — a response rate that the Regents staff said isn’t a representative sample of students.
“While these findings are important for us to discuss, they just can’t be generalized to the populations,” said Claire Norris, a Regents senior policy analyst.
Nearly three-quarters of those who responded to the survey were female, and 71 percent identified themselves as white. The report says that overall, survey participants said they perceive their campuses to be “moderately safe,” though male respondents were more likely than female students to deem them safe.
Only 47 percent of the 10,186 students who participated in the survey said they knew where to get help on campus in the event of a sexual assault, and even fewer students said they know how to report an assault. Of the respondents, 724 said they “experienced sexual contact without consent” since becoming a student at their school, but only 41 said they reported the crime to police while some others said they told campus faculty or staff.
Regents board member Robert Levy questioned why so few students responded to the survey. “What’s the disconnect?” he asked.
Efforts will be made, Norris said, to try to boost participation next year by shrinking the number of questions and seeking incentives for students to take the survey. She said the survey was long, with more than 100 questions, and that might have deterred students.
Levy said the board needs to “keep pushing institutions” to coordinate with local law enforcement and to provide information about sexual assault reporting at student events.
A 2015 state law by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, called for the survey as part of a package of bills aimed at improving the way public colleges and police handle sexual assaults. As part of the effort, the Board of Regents has enacted uniform guidelines for handling assault allegations and bolstering prevention efforts.
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