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Assistant Professor Brett Coleman has helped guide students in creating surveys addressing sexual assault. // Photo by Kevin Lake

Drew Stuart

Western students from a human services course sent out a survey through MyWestern on Saturday, May 19, gathering opinions from all university employees on how they define and categorize sexual assault.

Recent incidents of voyeurism and stalking in Wilson Library, and Western readmitting a student who violated the conduct code for sexual misconduct, have spurred many to vocalize their frustration with the administration.

Assistant Professor Brett Coleman instructs the class and said he saw these incidents as at least partially responsible for galvanizing these surveys.

“There was a palpable sense of frustration because of those [incidents],” Coleman said.

The survey was sent out as a part of the human services class HSP 455. Coleman said HSP 455 is a student-led, data-driven class focusing on issues relevant to students.

Coleman described the course as a “participatory action” class.

“The research is to inform some kind of action,” Coleman said. “We do a cycle of gathering data, analyzing it, drawing certain conclusions and then raising new questions.”

The survey asked participants to label different scenarios as sexual assault, sexual misconduct, lewd conduct or voyeurism, he said.

Coleman said after their surveys are completed, his fall quarter class will use the data as a foundation for taking action against sexual assault.

Instead of their teacher deciding the topic, students in HSP 455 from winter quarter selected sexual assault as their topic of research.

Coleman said this course is iterative and each quarter students build on the research done before them.

Coleman said the survey is one of four different questionnaires that the class is conducting as part of their course curriculum. Each survey shares the focus on sexual assault, but they are executed differently, he said.

Junior Sabrina Vlad is a student in HSP 455, and has created a survey focused on definitions of sexual violence.

“Ours is figuring out how Western defines those four categories, and how they go about responding to those,” Vlad said.

Vlad’s survey has received 56 responses so far.

At the end of the week, the students will collect data from their surveys and compile what they’ve learned. But even now, trends are beginning to emerge in the data.

Both Coleman and Vlad said women were better at recognizing sexual assault on the survey than men.

“I definitely already see that,” Vlad said in response to a question about possible lack of knowledge among male participants.

Vlad said men were more likely to ask specific questions about drug and alcohol use, when the scenario presented did not mention any use of drugs or alcohol.

Vlad and Coleman hope they can pinpoint Western’s understanding of sexual assault once the surveys are completed.


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