Survey finds 8.7% of all U. of C. students report being sexually assaulted

The University of Chicago Main Quadrangle (Herald staff photo)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Staff writer

A survey conducted by member organizations of the Association of American Universities (AAU) found that 8.7% of students enrolled in the University of Chicago reported they had experienced “nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent.” This compares with 13% across all the schools participating in the AAU survey.

Nearly 5,000 U. of C. students – 32% of the entire student body – took part in the survey, which found that 21.8% of U. of C.’s undergraduate women reported having been sexually assaulted — defined as penetration or sexual touching involving physical force and/or inability to consent or stop what was happening — while at the school.

In addition, 17.2% of transgender, genderqueer and nonbinary (TGQN) students (undergraduate as well as graduate or professional) said they had been assaulted. The survey also found that 7.8% of undergraduate men, 7% of graduate women and 2% of graduate men reported being sexually assaulted since matriculating.

The report by the AAU — an organization of 60 top U.S. and Canadian public and private research universities, of which the U. of C. was a founding member — follows another in 2015, which resulted in the establishment of the Office for Sexual Misconduct and Support, which conducts annual required training for all U. of C. students, faculty and other personnel.

The more recent survey did not, however, list the percentage of the U. of C.’s entire student body who have reported being sexually assaulted.

Among undergraduates, 11.7% of first-year students reported having been sexually assaulted over the past year, compared with 9.6% of second-year students, 6% of third-year students and 3.4% of fourth-year students. Among undergraduate women, 11.9% of first-year students reported having been sexually assaulted since matriculating, compared with 22.8% of second-year students, 24.8% of third-year students and 29.7% of fourth-year students.

In a statement, U. of C. Provost Daniel Diermeier said the results are “deeply troubling.”

“Every member of our campus community has a role to play in helping to prevent misconduct,” he said. “We must be resolute in our commitment to fostering a safe climate where people can participate in the life of the University free of unlawful harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct.”

Student Government President Jahné Brown and her vice presidents for student affairs and administration — Kosi Achife and Brittney Dorton, respectively — released a joint statement responding to the report on Oct. 22.

“Transgender and gender-non-conforming students, especially those of mixed race, had the highest rates of sexual assault with Latinx women at a similar rate. Also, queer students, especially women, had the highest rates of incidences,” they wrote. “No matter how hard UChicago tries to portray itself as a bubble separate from the world, it is not immune to the forces of racism, misogyny and queerphobia that plague our society and contribute to the violence that marginalized students face.”

They urged the administration to do “targeted and specific outreach to more vulnerable groups” by working with student groups and to “recognize fraternities and start to hold them accountable for their heinous actions.”

“The second-highest percentage of incidents happened in fraternity houses,” they wrote. (The report found that 29.1% of assaults happened in a residence hall, and 23.4% happened at a fraternity house; 16.4% happened in other residential housing, and 16.6% happened in “some other place.”) “The time is now to hold fraternities accountable and recognize their influence on campus.”

Fraternities and sororities are not officially recognized by the U. of C.

While the administration held a town hall on the report on Oct. 21, Brown, Achife and Dorton said the Student Government would hold its own next week.

The survey also found that nearly 2 in 5 students said they had been sexually harassed since coming to the U. of C. matriculating — 34.9% of heterosexual students reported being sexually harassed, and 57.4% of LGBTQ students said they had been harassed.

Among students who reported any type of harassment, 89.7% said it came from a student. 38.3% said the harasser was a friend, 39% said the harasser was a classmate, 38.2% said the harasser was someone they recognized who was not a friend and 11.5% said the harasser was a stranger. While 5.5% of undergraduate women said a faculty member or instructor had harassed them, 24.5% of graduate women said the same.