Results of AAU Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct

September 21, 2015

To the Yale Community,

Earlier today, the Association of American Universities (AAU) released the results of its survey of campus sexual assault, harassment, and other forms of misconduct. Yale was one of twenty-seven universities that participated in this survey. I am grateful to those who responded—more than half of all students at Yale. The survey findings and a summary of them are available here.

I am deeply distressed—as I know you are—by many of the survey findings. University-wide, more than 16 percent of our students reported that they had experienced an attempted or completed sexual assault as defined by Yale; for some groups, including undergraduate women, this figure was much higher. Over half of all students reported that they had experienced sexual harassment. These numbers, and others revealed by the survey, are extremely disturbing. The prevalence of such behavior runs counter to our most fundamental values. It threatens individual students, our learning environment, and our sense of community. I also am concerned that a majority of students said they chose not to report incidents of sexual assault and harassment despite stating that they believe campus officials take such information seriously. 

Yale was one of the first universities to undertake a comprehensive, qualitative study of the sexual climate for students on our campus. Guided by the findings from that study, the recommendations of faculty and student committees, and a subsequent 2013 campus climate assessment, we have introduced multiple sexual misconduct prevention and education programs and services, including bystander intervention training, the establishment of a corps of peer student communication and consent educators, expanded service at the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center (SHARE), and enhanced leadership for our Title IX office. We have overhauled our reporting and disciplinary processes, and we have led our peers in communicating publicly about the outcomes of those processes. Many students, faculty, and staff members have voiced their commitment and lent their efforts to our goal of a Yale that is free of sexual misconduct. 

The survey results make clear, however, that we must redouble our efforts. As a first step, we will identify a national expert who can lead a review of all aspects of our prevention and education programs. Guided by this expertise, we will seek out and implement the most effective, evidence-based programs to change behavior, whether this means improving and fortifying existing programs, adopting new ones, or both. 

I would like to hear your ideas as well; please share your observations and suggestions using the form at There will also be in-person opportunities for members of the community to discuss with university leaders, myself included, their thoughts about how best to improve our programs and the climate on campus.

As a social scientist, I believe in the value of data—in their ability to shed light on important issues and inform our strategies for addressing them. The results of this survey, while profoundly troubling, will contribute toward our goal of eliminating all sexual misconduct from our campus. To achieve this end, we must commit to working together: faculty, staff, students, and parents. You have my own pledge that I will do so.


Peter Salovey
President and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology