BY COLLEEN COYLE – OPINIONS EDITOR
Last year, Centre students had the opportunity to complete a campus climate survey which measured how students were experiencing and perceiving the Centre College environment. The survey included questions ranging from trust in the administration, perceptions of fellow students, and interpersonal and sexual violence.
It was the second time that the survey had been issued to campus but this time was the first time that an independent data analysis firm was brought in by the administration to assist in the interpretation of the data and in the method of response to the data collected. Centre has collaborated with Everfi and with other sexual assault prevention professionals to guide the administration as they move forward with the data. Third party analysis of the Campus Climate survey was a demand made and agreed to during the sit-in that occurred last spring.
Cara Tuttle Bell, the Director of the Project Safe Center for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response at Vanderbilt University, and Holly Rider-Milkovich, the Senior Director of Prevention Education at EVERFI, presented at last Tuesday’s convocation about the results of the survey.
The results of the survey offered an insightful, surprising, and a concerning perspective about the nature of Centre’s every day environment. While the full contents of the presentation are available online in the form of a video, there are a few particularly notable statistics. Much of the most unsettling information centered on the high levels of sexual assault experienced on campus and specifically how students of color and LGBQQA students are effected at a higher rate than the rest of the campus population.
Furthermore, the data suggests that as students progress in their Centre career, they develop less trust in the administration’s handling of particular affairs.
However, on a more positive note, while students have negative perceptions of their peers willingness to speak out in these situations, the vast majority of Centre students said that they would intervene if they saw something inappropriate happening in front of them.
Speaking about the results of the survey, Bell and Rider-Milkovich, while concerned about the data the survey offered, were also optimistic. In an interview following Tuesday’s convocation Bell and Rider-Milkovich discussed some of the intricacies of preventing sexual assault on campus and how solving some issues are intimately linked with solving other issues.
Rider-Milkovich, on this topic stated, “We should not set up artificial divides between issues of sexual and gender-based violence, the issues of harassment and discrimination, or hate and bias based on someone’s identity or the ways in which students experience homophobia; those are all profound social justice issues that are about a culture of respect…these things are all connected…we were talking specifically about sexual and gender based violence but we can’t talk about those things isolated from the other conditions of students’ lives…students live their lives and identify complexly.”
Rider-Milkovich also shared some of the team’s goals, saying “It would never work to show up with cookie cutter solutions…we are about supporting all members of campus in assessing what they know about the issues, identifying what they don’t yet know, learning what the strengths are, and learning what you need to make progress, and then helping to set in place an action plan that is going to take data…and how very specifically will we reach important goals.”
Olivia Renfro ’19, a founding member of SPEAC and a key organizer in bringing Take Back the Night events to campus, also attended the interview. Renfro stated, “If you had told me that we would have this convo and the [Andy] Beshear convo next week my freshman year, I wouldn’t have believed you…it wasn’t a visible issue…I think there has been an enormous shift since our freshman year and it is something that has gained a lot of traction, but there is still a lot of work to be done”
Centre’s Title IX team held open office hours in Nichols dining room last week and will be helping to facilitate focus groups in November to help plan the next steps in to make Centre a safer and more inclusive place for all students.