What do students have to say about sexual misconduct at Stanford? Looking beyond the headlines, what really goes on? 

To find out “the extent and nature of Prohibited Sexual Conduct,” the university sent a confidential questionnaire to 15,368 undergraduates and graduate students last spring asking about their experiences since arrival. On October 1, Stanford issued the “Report on the 2015 Campus Climate Survey” based on an overall response rate of 59 percent, or 9,067 students. In an accompanying letter, President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy called the results “deeply concerning.” 

Among all respondents, 1.9 percent reported having experienced sexual assault (defined by California criminal rape and sexual offense statutes) and 14.9 percent other forms of sexual misconduct; 85 percent of the reported perpetrators were Stanford students. The incidence was higher for undergraduate women (assaults, 4.7 percent; other offenses, 32.9 percent) and undergraduates defined as gender-diverse (assaults, 6.6 percent; other offenses, 30.8 percent). 

“To us,” wrote Hennessy and Etchemendy about the results, “any number above zero is unacceptable.”

There were also significantly different responses based on gender to other survey questions. While 98 percent of men and 95 percent of women judged the campus to be somewhat, very or extremely safe, only 79 percent of gender-
diverse students did, with 15 percent of that group rating it somewhat, very or extremely unsafe.

Another question asked about Stanford’s support system for students going through personal crises. Among undergraduates who expressed an opinion, 85 percent of gender-diverse respondents said it was ineffective, compared with 56 percent of women and 48 percent of men.

On a more positive note, upwards of two-thirds of undergraduates judged their education on assault prevention adequate or better, and 87 percent of all respondents thought Stanford would take reports of assault seriously.  Seventy-one percent said Stanford would treat someone accused of sexual assault fairly, and three-quarters thought Stanford would hold responsible parties accountable. 

Another picture emerges from some of the survey’s “campus climate” questions. More than three-quarters of undergraduate and 51 percent of graduate respondents have witnessed sexist remarks or jokes about women; 56 percent (undergraduate) and 23 percent (graduate) have witnessed offensive jokes about lesbians, gay men or bisexual people. Sixty-three percent of respondents reported hearing inappropriate comments about their own or someone else’s body or attractiveness. Other topics include the perceived attitudes of faculty and administrators toward students.