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Needs-Assessment Survey Complete for Violence against Women on Campus Grant

One down, six to go: Collaborators working on the Violence against Women on Campus (VAWOC) initiative recently completed the first of seven key objectives—a comprehensive needs assessment.

Buffalo State received the highly competitive grant of nearly $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice in November. Designed to create a program to prevent violence against women at Buffalo State and other area colleges, the grant’s objectives include creating a coordinated response team, developing and implementing mandatory Web-based training for students, expanding coordination between campus and community police, enhancing the role of University Police, training campus judicial/disciplinary boards, and establishing a 24-hour student helpline.

The initiative—a joint effort between Joan McCool, director of the Counseling Center; Robert Delprino, associate professor of psychology; William Wieczorek, director of the Center for Health and Social Research; Roger Wisniewski, chief of University Police; and Crisis Services Inc.—included the needs assessment in order to gauge the amount of victimization and uncover issues for collaborators to address.

“The needs assessment gives us a blueprint to follow for those who are here on campus and shows that our information is not from a vacuum,” said Wieczorek. “The results will help us develop our strategy, and make our approach broad and comprehensive.”

Three hundred fifty students, as well as 151 faculty and staff members, responded to a needs-assessment survey administered in April. The survey captured data such as demographic information, how respondents spent their time on campus, perceptions of safety, feedback on types of victimization (whether they or someone they knew were victims, and if the incidents were reported), and knowledge of campus resources. Delprino and psychology student Kristin Surdam, who conducted the needs assessment and reported on the findings, also worked with collaborators to conduct a series of focus groups for supplemental research.

“These efforts are designed to change the culture here on campus and better address things before they happen,” said Delprino. “Being proactive is a positive thing for parents of incoming students to see. More importantly, we’re trying to be supportive of protecting our students, and trying to maximizing safety.”

Overall, the results of the needs assessment showed that while students and faculty recognize and appreciate measures to enhance safety, better on-campus education is needed for the community to know what resources are available. Survey results include:

  • Respondents’ knowledge of resources available on campus varied, indicating a need for greater education of what is available and how members of the college can access these resources if victimized.
  • Perhaps disheartening, about 80 percent of students and 46 percent of faculty and staff did not know the University Police phone number (6333). Such findings lend support for the need for a victims’ hotline, one of the goals of the project.
  • The creation of a victims’ hotline and a crisis intervention team were collectively ranked by respondents as the two most favorable of possible additions to the campus. Most respondents also agreed that having more officers on patrol as well as the presence of additional armed officers would be favorable changes for improved campus safety.
  • Many crimes on campus go unreported—which appears to be a trend in higher education. In the study, respondents reported the greatest exposure to verbal threats and theft.
  • While crimes do occur at Buffalo State, 88 percent of students had limited or no concern for their safety where they live on campus. Many, however, indicated concern while walking on campus—even though many also said they choose to walk alone.
  • In terms of feeling safe on campus, students were most concerned about parking lot locations, while faculty and staff were most concerned about outdoor lighting.

As for next steps, the coordinated response team is being created, and a pilot safety training program was tested at orientation this summer. A prototype for the Web will be ready by the end of the semester, and Web-based training should be ready during the next academic year. According to Wieczorek, Buffalo State is the only VAWOC grantee that is incorporating Web-based training.

Looking at the big picture, Wieczorek said the needs-assessment survey was designed to be inclusive and was relevant to the larger campus. “Violence against women is a societal problem; Buffalo State is taking a leadership role for prevention,” he said. “Everyone plays a role when it comes to improving safety for women. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect one another.”