Three out of four presidents say sexual assault is not a problem for their campus

More likely to agree it is a general problem

Three out of four college presidents say sexual assault is not a major problem on their campuses, according to a survey from Inside Higher Ed and Gallup Education, writes Doug Lederman for Inside Higher Ed.

Researchers surveyed 647 presidents representing a range of institutions, including private, public, non-profit, and for-profit. Presidents answered anonymously, but their answers were grouped by institution type. The questions covered a range of topics, including finances, the upcoming federal ratings system, President Obama's free community college proposal, sexual assault, and race relations.

The same survey also found that presidents are less confident in their institutions' finances than they were last year. (See Monday's issue of the EAB Daily Briefing for additional coverage.)

Overall, presidents were divided on the prevalence of sexual assault, both in general and on their own campuses. However, presidents were slightly more likely to think of sexual assault as a general problem than as an issue on their own campuses, the survey found.

Around one third (32%) agreed with the statement "sexual assault is prevalent at U.S. colleges and universities."  About a quarter (26%) disagreed—and the rest (42%) say they are in the middle.

More than three out of four (78%) say they are confident sexual assault is not a major issue on their own campuses. Only 1 in 17 agrees that sexual assault is a major problem on his or her own campus.

Around the same number (77%) strongly agree (24%) or agree (53%) that their own institutions are "doing a good job protecting women from sexual assault."

Nearly all (90%) also say their institutions provide due process for individuals accused of committing sexual assault.

Presidents were divided about current approaches to solving the issue. About half (57%) say they are in favor of the "preponderance of evidence" standard in hearings, which is mandated by the federal government. But the others (43%) say they disagree with the standard.

Similarly, presidents reported mixed views on the affirmative consent trend. While 27% say they do not think it will be effective at all, 44% say it would be not very effective, and 27% think it would be somewhat effective. Only 1% say they think it would be highly effective (Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, 3/13).

The takeaway: Most college presidents say sexual assault is not a problem on their campus, but they are more likely to agree that there is a general problem nationwide.

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