UO professors Jennifer Freyd, Carol Stabile against AAU campus climate survey

University of Oregon Professor Jennifer Freyd has joined 15 other sexual violence experts from across the nation in expressing their disapproval of the Association of American Universities’s announcement of a campus climate survey.

The survey will “employ a valid and reliable survey instrument to document the frequency and characteristics of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment and to assess campus climate in a way that ensures comparability of data across institutions and that protects the confidentiality of respondents,” according to the announcement. Conducted through the research corporation Westat, the survey will be administered to undergraduates, as well as graduate and professional students, and is planned for April 2015.

In an interview with The Register-Guard, Freyd said she disagreed with the survey because universities might use it as a substitute for the White House’s federally mandated survey.

UO professor Carol Stabile has posted the letter on her blog, along with a brief description of the flaws of campus climate surveys.

“Instead of proceeding transparently, openly, and scientifically, many universities are signing onto the AAU’s survey (which they have proposed as an alternative to the survey being developed by the White House for reasons they don’t care to specify),” Stabile wrote.

The letter urges the presidents and chancellors of the AAU to not sign the contract by the deadline of Dec. 1, 2014. The group of scholars also outlines its objections to the survey, which include the fact that the results will not be shared between universities for comparative analysis and “without comparative data among institutions, the practical value of a nationwide survey will be severely limited.”

The survey will be the same for every university involved, which would not allow universities to individualize surveys. Because of this, the survey may not meet the needs of campus student affairs officials, according to the letter.

Interim president Scott Coltrane released the following statement regarding the survey.

“The fact that the AAU is proposing member institutions participate brings a great deal of credibility to the survey,” Coltrane said. “However, Jennifer Freyd also has a great deal of credibility with the university, and her expertise is important to consider. We will need to spend some time weighing the pros and cons before determining what is in the best interest of the university as we work to address this critical issue.”

Read the full letter here.

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Francesca Fontana

Francesca Fontana

Francesca is the associate news editor for community news.
She worked as The Register-Guard's 2015 Snowden Intern, and studies journalism and economics.