Earlier this month, students from 26 post-secondary institutions were invited to participate in Alberta’s first sexual and gender-based violence survey. Their responses will guide ongoing efforts at campuses across the province.

“The result of this survey will inform all of our work – prevention, education, programming, support services, policies and institutional strategies – to foster a safe and supportive environment for all students, faculty and staff,” says Tim Tang, associate vice-president, Students. 

The Government of Alberta invited MacEwan to lead the initiative, explains Tang, based on the university’s ongoing work in the sector. MacEwan is one of only two institutions in the province that have previously administered surveys. Understanding students’ experiences with sexual and gender-based violence, their attitudes and beliefs, and perceptions about the campus climate has been part of MacEwan’s approach for almost a decade. 

"Leading the development of a provincial climate survey in partnership with Alberta Advanced Education and all other post-secondary institutions aligns with MacEwan’s strategic vision, Teaching Greatness, and is an example of our role as a trendsetter and trendbreaker,” says Tang.

While MacEwan took the lead in this process, Tang emphasized the need to respect the expertise – and unique local/institutional contexts and needs – that exists at institutions across Alberta. 

Using MacEwan’s most recent survey from 2019 as a starting point, a climate survey working group came together last spring to develop the survey and coordinate efforts to implement it at all Alberta post-secondary institutions. The working group also consulted with stakeholders, including front-line sexual and gender-based violence workers and students’ associations. 

The new province-wide survey includes customizable elements to gather information specific to each institution’s context and resources. It also focuses on collecting actionable data, says Meagan Simon, the initiative’s project manager who has worked in the field of sexual violence prevention and support since 2010.

Questions focus on students’ attitudes and beliefs, myths and misconceptions, experiences, and campus resources and policies connected to sexual and gender-based violence. Their answers will inform which educational programs to offer, identify key priorities for support services for students, highlight training or awareness-raising efforts that might be required and provide data to help assess current institutional responses. 

The survey also has an educational angle. 

“One of our priorities was to incorporate educational information into the survey as much as possible. For instance, when students are reading through potential responses to questions,  they are receiving information about what is sexual and gender-based violence, as well as information about consent and how it is practiced in relationships,” says Simon. 

The province-wide survey, which was made possible with funding from the Government of Alberta, will run throughout February.

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