Despite an unprecedented wave of federal complaints accusing universities of mishandling sexual assault on campus, a vast majority of college presidents think their school does just fine, a new survey finds.
Ninety-five percent agreed with the statement "my institution handles sexual assault allegations appropriately," with another 5 percent remaining neutral, in an Inside Higher Ed survey of 846 college presidents released Friday. Absolutely no president said their school was not up to par when it comes to dealing with sex crimes, the survey, conducted by Gallup, found.
However, only 10 percent of the college presidents surveyed said that they did not believe universities overall must improve their response to sexual assault complaints on campus. Another 71 percent indicated higher education institutions do need to make improvements in this area.
Colleges and universities that receive any federal money -- that is, nearly all of them -- must respond to and work to prevent sexual assault and harassment on campus under the federal gender equity law Title IX. A separate statute, the Clery Act, requires schools to accurately track and disclose reported crime on campus property.
The survey results put college presidents in sharp contrast with students' opinions, according to polls. A nationwide poll by Students Active For Ending Rape found that half of students rated their school's sexual assault policy with a C or lower. A later project by SAFER declined to rate any school's sexual assault policy higher than a B+.
A February poll by HuffPost/YouGov showed only 12 percent of Americans think colleges and universities do a "good job" handling sexual assault cases.
There are currently 41 Title IX investigations of colleges and universities underway, the Education Department told The Huffington Post. From October 2012 through Feb. 21, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights received 50 Title IX complaints specifically related to sexual violence at the postsecondary level.
The Obama administration has ramped up efforts to enforce federal mandates about how schools must respond to sexual violence, issuing eight Clery Act fines totaling $1.45 million in 2013. The sum was was nearly as much as the $1.65 million issued in fines in the 22 years prior.
The Inside Higher Ed survey also found more than half of college presidents -- 61 percent -- disagreed that athletes are less likely to be held responsible for their actions than other students.
The survey had a sampling error of 3.4 percent, and surveyed presidents from public, private nonprofit and for-profit schools.