Reps. Maloney and Khanna Call on Department of Education to Update Campus Climate Surveys Guidance

Nov 8, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) today led 77 members of Congress on a letter to Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona asking him to update guidance regarding Campus Climate surveys, which are used to assess campus culture on a variety of issues including sexual violence. This letter serves as a follow-up to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s 2020 report on Campus Climate surveys and sexual violence, which Representatives Maloney and Khanna and former Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) requested in 2018. According to this report, Campus Climate surveys are a useful tool to inform faculty, parents, and students about sexual violence on campus, and can help college and government officials better address this important issue.

 

Unfortunately, sexual violence on college campuses occurs too often. It’s estimated that 20-25% of undergraduate women are victims of sexual violence. Yet despite this prevalence, Campus Climate surveys and other existing tools fail to capture the full scope of the issue. For example, nonconsensual condom removal – colloquially referred to as “stealthing” – is a common form of sexual violence that remains unaddressed in existing survey guidance from the Department of Education. Additionally, colleges and universities are not formally encouraged to include accessible and trauma-informed resources for victims and survivors of sexual violence, and guidance for terminology regarding gender and sexuality isn’t inclusive of all LGBTQ+ students. These shortcomings make it difficult to fully understand the scope of the issue and to assess the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses.

 

“Congress has an obligation to address ‘stealthing’ at the federal level, which includes fact finding and data gathering through Campus Climate surveys,” said Rep. Maloney. “We must also make sure that these surveys respect and acknowledge all LGBTQ+ identities and include resources for survivors of sexual violence. College campuses are home to a particularly vulnerable population that we must work to protect. Consent, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and the needs of survivors MUST be at the forefront of these conversations."

 

"In order to change the culture on college campuses, we need to have accurate, standardized data that encompasses the full scope of sexual violence, including nonconsensual condom removal known as ‘stealthing,’” said Rep. Khanna. “I’m glad to join Representative Maloney in calling for the Department of Education to update Campus Climate survey guidance to acknowledge nonconsensual condom removal and implement other reforms that will increase inclusivity and protect survivors.”

 

This letter was signed by 77 members of Congress and was endorsed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW); Culture of Respect; End Rape on Campus; Human Rights Campaign; Know Your IX; Lambda Legal; National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; NARAL Pro-Choice America; National Partnership for Women and Families; National Women's Law Center; Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN); and Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE).

 

Full text of the letter can be found below and a PDF can be found here.

 

Dear Secretary Cardona:

 

Congratulations on your confirmation earlier this year as Secretary of Education. We’re eager to work with you to address long-standing inequities in our schools, and to ensure every student has access to a safe and enriching learning environment. To this end, we write to express our ongoing concerns about the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, and the limited data available about such violence. 

 

As you work to reverse the damage done by the previous administration to Title IX regulations and to survivors of sexual violence across the country, we want to call your attention to a recently-issued Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled, “Approaches and Strategies Used in College Campus Surveys on Sexual Violence.” Through interviews with college administrators and federal officials, the report found that nearly all stakeholders agree that Campus Climate surveys are a useful tool, in large part because these surveys collect data directly from students. This helps to mitigate the limited scope of Clery Act Reports and other data, which rely heavily on underreported information from campus law enforcement and other campus security authorities.

 

It is our view that lawmakers and college administrators should be able to reference the more accurate data gathered by Campus Climate surveys to better inform policy. We also ask that the Department establish a standardized climate survey on campus safety and suggest looking at language in the recent House reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act as a starting point. Students, parents, and alumni should be able to see how their schools respond to incidents of sexual violence.

The most recent guidance on this subject, initially issued in October 2016 by the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration, needs to be updated. The draft survey instrument excludes a common type of sexual violence—nonconsensual removal of a condom during sexual intercourse (known colloquially as “stealthing”)—and lacks clarity on the affirmative consent standard. Additionally, the terminology regarding gender identity and sexuality is non-inclusive and inaccurate. Our last concern is that, despite the potentially triggering nature of the survey questions, there are no resources provided on the draft instrument for survivors.

 

We believe that the Department of Education has the jurisdiction to issue updated guidelines for universities, and that any such guidelines should:
 

  1. Require campuses to conduct standardized biennial sexual misconduct climate surveys where at least 40% of the student population has participated, to report Clery Act crimes to the designated crime collection entity at their institution, and to make all their findings easily and freely accessible for current and prospective students and their families by publishing the results of the climate survey and Clery Act data on their website no later than 4 months after the data is completed.

 

  1. Allocate funding for college administrators to use to incentivize student participation in Campus Climate surveys and provide resources for participating students.

 

  1. Require campuses to implement anonymous and standardized sexual misconduct climate surveys and to prohibit the disclosure of personal identifiable information.

 

  1. Require the Department of Education to include definitions for each type of sexual misconduct discussed in the climate survey.

 

  1. Adjust language in the draft survey instrument to acknowledge the phenomena of nonconsensual condom removal (known colloquially as “stealthing”), a form of sexual violence occurring when an individual removes a condom during sexual intercourse without the consent of their partner and include nonconsensual condom removal in all definitions of unwanted sexual contact.

 

  1. Work with experts and stakeholders as necessary to adjust language in the draft survey instrument to be gender-inclusive and gender-expansive, ensuring that it is accurate, trauma-informed, and inclusive of all LGBTQ+ students, including transgender, nonbinary, two-spirit, genderqueer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and/or intersex individuals.

 

  1. Adjust the language in the draft survey instrument to include information about accessible and trauma-informed resources for victims and survivors of sexual violence, due to the potentially upsetting nature of the survey questions.

 

We respectfully ask that you give this request your full and fair consideration, consistent with applicable statutes and regulations. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Background

 

This letter calls on the Department of Education to update Campus Climate survey guidance to:

  • Require campuses to conduct standardized biennial sexual misconduct climate surveys where at least 40% of the student population has participated, to report Clery Act crimes to the designated crime collection entity at their institution, and to make all their findings easily and freely accessible for current and prospective students and their families by publishing the results of the climate survey and Clery Act data on their website no later than 4 months after the data is completed.
  • Allocate funding for college administrators to use to incentivize student participation in Campus Climate surveys and provide resources for participating students.
  • Require campuses to implement anonymous and standardized sexual misconduct climate surveys and to prohibit the disclosure of personal identifiable information.
  • Require the Department of Education to include definitions for each type of sexual misconduct discussed in the climate survey.
  • Adjust language in the draft survey instrument to acknowledge the phenomena of nonconsensual condom removal (known colloquially as “stealthing”) and include nonconsensual condom removal in all definitions of unwanted sexual contact.
  • Work with experts and stakeholders as necessary to adjust language in the draft survey instrument to be gender-inclusive and gender-expansive, ensuring that it is accurate, trauma-informed, and inclusive of all LGBTQ+ students, including transgender, nonbinary, two-spirit, genderqueer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and/or intersex individuals.
  • Adjust the language in the draft survey instrument to include information about accessible and trauma-informed resources for victims and survivors of sexual violence, due to the potentially upsetting nature of the survey questions.

 

Representatives Maloney and Khanna have a history of working to address “stealthing” on the federal level, including:

  • In 2017, Reps. Maloney and Khanna sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, asking that it convene a hearing to address “stealthing.”
  • In 2019, Reps. Maloney and Khanna wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ), asking the DOJ to clarify its stance on "stealthing,” to outline its process in collecting data on the issue, and to share whether it sends any guidance to states about this type of sexual violence.

 

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