MIT launched its first survey of undergraduate and graduate students on sexual assault and unwanted sexual behavior in April 2014, two days before a White House task force called on all colleges and universities to do the same. The information MIT obtained from the survey provided the opportunity to respond swiftly.
Pledging a number of steps designed to prevent assault and unwanted sexual behavior and to enhance services, support, and education, President L. Rafael Reif and Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart began by hiring people to put their plans in action.
Since releasing the results of the survey in October 2014, MIT has more than doubled the size of its Violence Prevention and Response center, adding two victim advocates, one peer education coordinator, and an administrative support position. In addition, over the same period MIT increased its Title IX Office from just one position to five; the office now includes a Title IX coordinator, two investigators, an education coordinator, and an administrative support position. In addition, the Human Resources department appointed a staff member to investigate cases of gender discrimination brought against employees.
“These additional resources have allowed us to educate more students about what sexual assault is, how to prevent it, and where to go when you need help,” Barnhart said in an October 2015 interview.
“One clear sign that our focus on education is having an impact is that we are seeing more students than in previous years coming forward to report unwanted sexual behavior,” she said. “We think the increase likely indicates increased awareness about what constitutes misconduct, and better knowledge about where to go for help. We also think more students now understand they have access to resources where they can share personal, sensitive information and get the support they need.”