Blank remarks on AAU sexual assault survey

Chancellor Blank shared the following remarks at a Monday news conference about the release of UW-Madison information from the American Association of Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. View complete details about the university’s participation in the study.

“Thank you all for being here this morning. We’re here to share new information that will help us further strengthen our response to one of the most important issues facing the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and campuses across the country.

Sexual assault concerns me deeply, not just as the leader of this university, but as the mother of a college sophomore. The question on the mind of every parent dropping their son or daughter off at college is always “Will they be safe here?”

I want to state unambiguously that every student has the right to be safe. Sexual violence and misconduct is unacceptable. Far too many sexual assaults are still happening, at UW and at campuses across the country.

As you know, we have participated in the American Association of Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, along with 27 other AAU schools. We received a set of specific results for UW-Madison, which we’re here to share today.

The survey confirmed much of what we know – sexual assault remains a serious problem at UW-Madison and on campuses nationwide. We’ve come here today in an effort to be both transparent in our approach and draw attention to the issue.

This is a health and safety problem, but it is also an educational one that threatens our academic mission. More than half of women who reported experiencing a sexual assault said they suffered academically as well as personally.

This is unacceptable and the university is committed to doing everything in its power to changing this narrative.

While some universities might have chosen not to participate in this survey, I felt that it was a critical step to gaining actionable information on where we stand as a community and where we need to improve. We can and should be taking every opportunity to expand our efforts to address this challenge.

We have been working to educate our students, reduce sexual assault, and make more people aware of the resources available on campus. As your materials indicate, we have implemented a number of important outreach efforts in recent years.

There is evidence in this survey that some of our efforts in education and prevention are having a positive effect. We have done a lot, but clearly there is more work to do.

Sharing what we’ve learned from this survey helps us bring our entire campus community into this conversation. I and other university leaders can talk about the problems of sexual assault, but at the end of the day, we need to engage everyone in this discussion in a way that leads to behavior change.

Safety is a shared responsibility that we must all address together.

We are committed to a culture change that brings more transparency to how we talk about rape and other forms of sexual assault.

We want to encourage more people in our community to feel comfortable intervening when they observe someone in a potentially difficult situation.

We also want this campus community to understand the problems related to alcohol abuse, which is closely intertwined with this problem.

The recommendations you’ll hear today are a starting point. We will continue to analyze this data and you will hear ongoing discussion about our plans to engage students, governance groups, and specific segments of our community on this issue.

I want to tell all of our students, and their parents back home, that we are doing everything in our power to provide a safe and positive learning environment—an environment that provides our students with the foundation they need to succeed after graduation.

When sexual assault occurs, we pledge to continue to respond promptly and compassionately to all reports, while providing resources and support where needed.

But above all, we are committed to working to end sexual violence on this campus, making this a safe place for everyone to live and learn.”