University of Hawaii students are more likely to be victims of stalking and domestic abuse compared to the average reported by 27 Association of American Universities schools, but are less likely to face nonconsensual contact or sexual harassment, according to campus officials.

UH students who responded to a first-of-its kind survey of campus attitudes, reported feeling safe on campus, but one in five students said they were victims of dating or domestic violence while enrolled.

Survey results were released Monday in a 261-page report.

University of Hawaii at Manoa mall near UH art building1.
Students at the University of Hawaii Manoa walk to class. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Nearly 10 percent of all student respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment. Eighty percent of those students said the offender was a fellow student, while more than 30 percent said a UH employee harassed them.

More than 6,000 of the 45,000 students across all UH campuses participated in the survey, which was administered via email by OmniTrak during the spring 2017 semester.

Almost 70 percent of participants were female. Systemwide, about 60 percent of students are female.

The majority of respondents attended the system’s flagship Manoa campus, though more than half of all UH students attend community colleges.

While the sample population was skewed by gender and campus, overall it was proportional of the student body’s age, ethnicity and education, according to the report.

Native Hawaiian, transgender, gender non-conforming lesbian, gay and bisexual students were among those who reported gender-based violence at higher rates than other students.

Undergraduate women, students living on campus and students on four-year campuses also experienced higher rates of gender-based violence.

Here are some other survey highlights:

  • Ten percent of responding students reported experiencing stalking while enrolled at the university. Seven in 10 of those students said the offender was a UH student.
  • Almost 58 percent of respondents felt there was “little/no problem” with sexual assault or harassment at the university, while 15 percent believed “it was very or extremely problematic.”
  • One in 16 participants said they experienced nonconsensual sexual contact while enrolled at the university and about one in 10 students experienced stalking or sexual harassment while enrolled.
  • Just one in six victims said they utilized UH resources after such an incident.
  • Almost 60 percent of all participants had “little or no knowledge of what happens when a student reports an incident” and 55 percent were unaware of “the rights of students making a report.”
  • Only 40 percent of participants felt it was “extremely or very likely” that the university would take action against offenders or conduct a fair investigation.
  • About 2 percent of students reported being raped while enrolled at UH. Forty-three percent of these respondents didn’t report the incident to campus officials said they didn’t believe the incident was “serious enough.” And almost 45 percent of them felt “too embarrassed, ashamed or that it (would) be too difficult emotionally” to report.
  • More than 60 percent of rape victims reported struggling in school and 74 percent experienced health impacts such as feelings of hopelessness, or increased drug and alcohol use.
  • Almost seven in eight students felt it was unlikely they would experience sexual assault or harassment on campus.
  • “Very positive reactions” were reported among most participants who claimed they contacted campus officials after experiencing sexual harassment or gender-based violence.

Points Of Comparison

“It’s really important that we understand a problem if we’re going to be able to address it, said UH President David Lassner at a press conference on the Manoa campus Monday.

“And that’s what this survey is all about — establishing a baseline so that we understand what our students have to say about the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

Like many other universities, UH has implemented more programs to address sexual violence. Future surveys will help the university understand whether its programs are making an impact, Lassner said.

UH officials speculated about whether students who have experienced sexual harassment or violence firsthand may have been more likely to complete the survey, he said, which could have skewed the  results.

A group of UH students were consulted to help decide how the survey would be administered, Lassner said.

The results showed that many students lack knowledge about campus resources for victims.

UH President David Lassner discusses the survey results Monday with Domestic Violence Action Center CEO Nanci Kreidman, left, and Women’s Caucus member Rep. Linda Ichiyama. Courtney Teague/Civil Beat

UH sent an email to students Monday with contact information for such offices, and already explains the resources to new students at orientation, but Lassner said UH will try to find new ways to reach them.

He speculated part of the reason students didn’t know about campus resources offhand could be because members of the “Google generation” may assume they will know where to find that information if it’s needed.

“We need to do a better job of getting the word out so that everybody knows,” Lassner said, later adding he feels all campuses need an “ongoing” outreach program.

For undergraduate survey respondents, more student-on-student complaints were filed. Incidents reported between students and faculty members were more common among graduate students, Lassner said.

The university will also need to better understand what students consider “sexual harassment,” he said, as opposed to someone merely expressing interest in another person. The survey questions emphasized whether students were offended, said Jennifer Rose, director of the systemwide Office of Institutional Equity.

According to the survey, sexual assault and harassment were defined as “a range of behaviors that are nonconsensual or unwanted,” ranging from remarks about physical appearance to “threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior.”

Questions were based on those recommended by the AAU to allow some national comparison, she said, but UH’s survey had more questions on intimate partner violence. Rose cautioned that the comparison results aren’t completely “apples to apples” because questions in UH’s survey used different wording than the AAU survey.

The report was mandated by the Legislature’s Act 208 of 2016 to combat sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking at the university. The survey will be duplicated every two years and the results submitted to the Legislature.

It cost $174,000 in state funds.

Nanci Kreidman, CEO of the nonprofit Domestic Violence Action Center, noted the center works with UH community colleges to provide confidential support. Most of the center’s clients are Native Hawaiian or Filipino, she said.

Rep. Linda Ichiyama of the Women’s Legislative Caucus said the group is currently considering its bill package for the upcoming session. The Legislature has appropriated funding to the university for Title IX programs for the past few years, she said.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits schools receiving federal funding from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. The university has established its own Title IX office to address complaints of “sex discrimination and gender-based violence,” according to the office webpage.

Legislative Background

Act 208, which mandated the biannual “campus climate survey,” also requires the university to provide sexual harassment training to all students and faculty members, and designate a confidential advocate at each campus to discuss incidents.

All UH faculty members, according to the law, are “responsible employees” under Title IX, therefore making them legally obligated to report sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking.

The increased scrutiny of the university’s sexual violence strategies came after its flagship campus was identified in 2014 as one of 55 colleges “under investigation for possible violations of federal law (Title IX) over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints,” according to a statement from the federal Department of Education.

The list included investigations opened because of complaints and others taken up as compliance reviews. At the time, UH claimed it was under investigation because of the latter.

A DOE spokesman confirmed the investigation is still open.

The release of the list was part of a larger effort to ensure sex abuse was being battled on college campuses, where one in five women have, on average, been sexually assaulted while enrolled.

UH students experiencing sexual harassment or assault can report the incident to a campus Title IX office coordinator, speak with a confidential campus advocate or contact the police.

Read the full report here:

And here’s a graphic breakdown of the results:

About the Author