U. of Oregon Rejects Professor's Plan for Sex Assault Survey

June 12, 2014

The University of Oregon has rejected a professor’s proposal to conduct a campus climate survey to obtain data about sexual assault on campus, The Register-Guard reported. Jennifer Freyd, a longtime Oregon professor of psychology, said she asked the university for $30,000 to pay 1,000 participants for their time and for student email addresses to distribute the survey. She and several graduate students would have completed the project over the summer for free, to meet an internal reporting deadline for a faculty body and in response to recent calls from the White House for colleges and universities to collect such data.

Freyd, who studies sexual violence and has worked with members of Congress on military sexual trauma policy, says the Oregon administration expressed early enthusiasm about her project. So she was surprised last week to discover the university had rejected the proposal, she said, noting that she was shocked by the university’s “tone” in the Register-Guard report. Robin Holmes, vice president for student affairs, was quoted as saying she worried that the survey could produce “confirmation bias in the results." Freyd said she has been publicly critical of Oregon’s response to a high-profile sexual assault case on that campus, and filed a federal complaint. But she said she is a scientist and her survey tool is similar to one the White House recommends.

Via email, a university spokeswoman said the university would carry out the research, but that it could be "best be accomplished"  by outside experts working in conjunction with university staff. Freyd says she’s not opposed to the university conducting its own study, since more data makes for a better understanding of what’s going on at Oregon – but she also wants to carry out her own project.

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