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This past Monday, the Association of American Universities released the results of a survey that included students from 27 universities. Overall, more than 150,000 students detailed their experiences with sexual assault on college campuses.

The full report (which can be found here) includes responses from both Cornell’s undergraduate and graduate population. Our campus had a 19% response rate, which is consistent with the percentage of other student bodies reporting at other universities. More women completed the survey than men, and 1.5 times more undergraduates responded than graduate students.

Data from the survey revealed the following information:

  • 50% of survey respondents had witnessed a drunken person heading for a sexual encounter, but 78% said they did not intervene in the situation
  • 22.6% of female undergraduates in the sample size reported experiences of non-consensual sexual contact since they began attending Cornell
  • 6% of male undergraduates in the sample size reported experiences of non-consensual sexual contact since they began attending Cornell

The information presented in the AAU study presents our student body with a harsh reality: this campus is not immune to the nationwide issues surrounding sexual assault. In fact, the data representing Cornell aligns with that of the 26 other universities surveyed from around the country.

To combat this serious problem plaguing college campuses, we must focus on developing an atmosphere of social responsibility among peers. Because alcohol use increases the risk of sexual assault, this social responsibility can be fostered through an emphasis on safe and responsible alcohol consumption.

Cayuga’s Watchers believe that through student-led, non-confrontational training, we can encourage a community that supports Cornellians looking after Cornellians. Since our founding three years ago, we have trained over 1300 students in recognizing when to step in before a situation can escalate to something more serious. We understand that problems detailed in the AAU report will not be solved by ignoring or abolishing Cornell’s drinking culture. Because sexual assault is an issue that ultimately affects everyone on our campus, we must focus on peers looking out for one another. With an increased understanding of what to look out for, a safe atmosphere will be created for each member of our community.

As President Elizabeth Garrett’s stated in response to the published report, “even one instance of sexual assault on our campus is one too many.” The trainings that Cayuga’s Watchers provides, operating in tandem with administration initiatives such as the Council for Sexual Violence Prevention, propels this campus towards its goal of making sure every Cornellian is protected. Through a cohesive, coordinated effort between students, different organizations, and the administration, we can reach the goal of making our community safe.

— Julie Gokhman, PR Manager