UCSB Students Happy, But Sexual Misconduct Concerns Exist

Mixed Results from UCSB Campus Climate Survey Released Last Week

Aerial view of UCSB
Paul Wellman

Twenty-three percent of UCSB students, faculty, and staff said they had experienced exclusionary or intimidating conduct on campus, according to a recent study administered by the University of California. Seven percent of respondents said such adverse conduct interfered with their ability to work or learn on campus. Those results and others were part of the system-wide Campus Climate survey made public last month a UC Regents meeting.

On the plus side, 84 percent of UCSB respondents said they were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with climate on campus, with the caveat that white heterosexual male respondents were more likely to feel “very comfortable” with the overall climate. In class, 77 percent of undergraduate students were “comfortable” or “very comfortable.” UCSB ranked second in terms of classroom climate, coming in behind UC Merced’s 81 percent and exceeding 68 percent at UC San Diego. Further, 84 percent of undergraduate students and 69 percent of graduate students indicated that many of their courses this year had been intellectually stimulating.

But especially noteworthy for UCSB was that eight percent of respondents reported “unwanted sexual contact” while at UCSB within the last five years, which was the highest rate among the 10 UC campuses. System-wide, three percent of respondents said they experienced such unwanted behavior. In the footnotes, “unwanted sexual contact” is defined as rape, use of drugs to incapacitate, forcible sodomy, gang rape, sexual assault, sexual assault with an object, or forcible fondling, but UCSB spokesperson George Foulsham said the breakdown by offense was not available.

The 300-page report states that 153 respondents offered additional comments about their unwanted sexual experiences and described the events in “some detail.” The report lacks numbers, but states “some” of those respondents experienced “sexual exclusionary conduct” in the workplace and a “number” of those respondents indicated they had experienced unwanted sexual contact in Isla Vista. “Several” noted the instances “occurred on Halloween (‘even in a modest costume’).” The report also notes commentary from males who experienced unwanted sexual contact. One stated that, as a man, it’s “somehow not something that I feel I should complain about.” Another male respondent wrote, as a male, “no one takes it seriously.” A higher percentages of “genderqueer,” transgender, and women respondents reported such conduct compared to male participants.

UC Office of the President (UCOP) spokesperson Dianne Klein explained the data was “not scientific enough” and “just a starting point,” but that campuses will start planning to enact measures around the results. “It merits more examination…This was the first time we have ever done anything like this is. This sort of really broad look as an institution,” said Klein. “Was it perfect? Far from it.”

On March 7, the UCOP released an expanded policy to target sexual violence that includes broader protection for victims, new education and reporting requirements, and better identifies where campus resources are. University officials stated the timing of the policy was in compliance with the federal Violence Against Women Act, but also “coincides with an increasing system-wide focus on the broader issue of respect and inclusion within the university community.” The issue has received considerable media attention at UC Berkeley, where dozens of current and former students filed a Title IX complaint, alleging university administrators failed to handle sexual assault investigations by campus administrators.

Prompting the survey was a wave of ill-suited incidents back in 2010, including one at UC San Diego where a fraternity hosted an off-campus party to mock Black History Month, the report stated. The same month, the LGBT Resource Center at UC Davis was “defaced with derogatory and hateful words.” In response, former UC President Mark Yudof formed an advisory council and commissioned a study of campus culture.

Among the 23 percent of respondents who felt exclusionary or hostile conduct on campus, 56 percent felt isolated or left out, 40 percent felt bullied, and 4.7 were victims of cyber-bullying. The hostile behavior occurred on campus in a public space, off-campus, in a group meeting, or while working at a campus job for about a quarter of those who said they experienced such conduct.

Of the 380,000 students, faculty, and staff asked to take the survey, only about 27 percent participated, which was administered between late 2012 and early 2013. At UCSB, 30 percent of individuals (women were over-represented) completed the 118 question, part-open ended, survey. Response rates among groups were a mixed bag. Only 23 percent of undergraduate students participated; 69 percent of post-docs; 39 percent of graduate students; 46 percent of faculty; 62 percent of non-union staff; and 41 percent of union staff. At the meeting, some regents expressed concern of the seemingly low response rates, but others noted that the results paralleled ones that the consultant, Rankin & Associates, has found on college campuses nationwide.

Certain groups at UCSB indicated that they were less comfortable overall, workplace, and classroom climate. People of color respondents were less comfortable than white respondents; staff respondents were less comfortable compared to faculty and post-docs; and disabled respondents reported they were less comfortable than those without disabilities.

For spiritual and religious affiliation, 50 percent of respondents reported no affiliation, 31 percent identified as Christian, seven percent reported multiple affiliations, five percent chose “other,” three percent identified as Jewish, and one percent reported a Muslim affiliation. Though only slight differences existed among individuals from the various religious affiliations regarding their comfort level with the overall climate, a higher percentage of Jewish respondents than other religious affiants reporting “very comfortable.”

Forty-nine percent of respondents considered themselves “liberal” or “far left” and eight percent were “conservative” or “far right”; 25 percent of participants reported they were “middle of the road.”

“Over the coming months, we look forward to an in-depth study of our campus’s data so that we can continue conversations and develop actions to foster an even more welcoming, inclusive, and supportive climate for each and every member of our diverse campus community,” said UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang in a statement. “Your feedback and ideas help us to work together to continuously improve our campus, and we appreciate your participation in this important collaborative endeavor.”


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