An Update on Sexual Misconduct

Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017
To: THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY
From: Andrew Hamilton, President, and Linda G. Mills, Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice Provost for Global Programs and University Life

Few occurrences are more painful or disruptive to a person’s college experience and studies than an incident of sexual misconduct or violence. It harms individuals in ways that are frequently more enduring and agonizing than the physical injuries alone, with impacts on classmates, friends, and even family and loved ones.  

More broadly, sexual misconduct harms our community. It erodes the atmosphere of safety and trust so necessary to education and that we work so hard to build and sustain.

For all these reasons and many more, reducing the incidence of sexual misconduct is and must remain a high priority for NYU.

Solving a problem means continuing to understand a problem. So, we want to share with the entire NYU community the findings of the sexual misconduct campus climate survey, which were recently presented to the University Senate by Gabrielle Starr, the dean of the College of Arts and Science and co-chair of the Senate Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

In keeping with the important goal of increasing awareness and understanding of this national problem, the objective of this first study was to assess the climate at NYU in relation to sexual misconduct in order to build upon our existing programs and to create a focused action plan. We also wanted to establish a baseline to measure change at NYU over time and to have data to assess risks by type of student in order to better target our programs and services.

Of those students who were surveyed, we learned the following: 11.4% indicated a non-consensual sexual experience in the past 12 months; the largest group affected by these incidents were undergraduate women at 20.6%; and 9.7% of undergraduate men reported experiencing these events. In addition, 8.8% of female graduate students and 3.5% of male graduate students reported these experiences. Most of these unwanted incidents took place near or off campus (73.1%) for undergraduates, although 20.5% occurred on campus.  Consistent with national data, and worrisome, is the large percentage of students (52.7%) who did not tell anyone about a sexual misconduct incident.  


In order to obtain appropriate input from across NYU, a consistent sample was gathered from all three degree-granting locations -- New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. This provided an overall and comprehensive perspective of views across NYU; however, standalone analyses weren't conducted since this would put at risk the confidentiality of survey respondents.

As is the case nationally, the findings showed that higher risk populations on our campus include LGBTQ students, and sorority and fraternity members. Also at risk are our resident students, although the vast majority of incidents involving our resident students occur near or off campus, as noted above. We also learned that 19.4% of students experienced intimate partner abuse, ranging from emotional abuse such as jealousy to physical violence. Each of these findings provides important guidance to the university in creating a response that is based on our students’ needs.     

While these findings clearly need to be addressed, we are also heartened by some of the results. For example, 86.9% of the students who responded believed that NYU was doing a good job of providing services to those who have experienced sexual assault and 83.8% of students believed that the university has done a good job in preventing assault.  It is noteworthy that a significant majority of those surveyed – 69% – said that they had intervened as a bystander to help others who were at risk of sexual assault. This obviously reflects positively on the strength of the NYU community to intervene when students are at risk of sexual assault.  The survey also found that 80.9% of students believed that the university had provided programming that was relevant to this important problem and 84.6% of students believed the university was doing a good job in educating students about sexual assault more generally.

There are a number of actions we are planning in response to the survey data. For example, we are forging new and additional partnerships with internal and external experts as well as appropriate offices (Health Promotion, Residential Life, Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, Public Safety, LGBTQ Student Services, Student Affairs - Greek Life) to create new and enhance existing consent workshops and other prevention programming that targets our higher risk populations. Also, we plan to expand bystander intervention programs so that more students gain the skills they need to intervene in a confident manner.  

Additional action steps will be posted on the NYU Sexual Respect website as we develop them in consultation with an array of campus stakeholders. And of course, we will continue to conduct this survey every other year so that we may continue this conversation, evaluate the effectiveness of our programs, and ensure improvement is occurring.

The publication of these data is an opportune moment to remind ourselves of:

  • The University’s policies regarding consent and sexual misconduct
  • NYU’s prevention and education programs
  • The resources we have for those who have experienced sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct. Your well-being is foremost in our thoughts, and the University has people to help you and support you
  • The Wellness Exchange, which has caring, trained, mental health professionals available 24/7 to assist you      

    There is much work to be done. Let us assure you that NYU is committed to ensuring that our community remains respectful, safe, and open, and that we will continue to tackle the problem of sexual misconduct both on and off campus.

    We thank all those who worked on developing and administering the survey, as well as those students who responded to it.  

    Community members wishing to contribute to our prevention efforts and provide feedback should feel free to be in touch at sexualrespect@nyu.edu.

    Please take care of yourselves and one another.

    Andy Hamilton and Linda Mills