2017 Cornell Survey of Sexual Assault and Related Misconduct

Dear Cornell Community,

The university today posted the findings of the 2017 Cornell Survey of Sexual Assault and Related Misconduct. New York state law (129-B) requires that all in-state universities conduct a survey of campus sexual violence every two years.

This is the second such survey to measure students’ knowledge of Cornell’s policies, procedures and resources and their experiences of sexual harassment, assault and related misconduct while at Cornell. Questions about campus policies and resources, and the context of sexual violence and bystander intervention, were revised from the 2015 survey to improve clarity and to offer a greater range of Cornell-specific response options. Therefore, it is not possible to directly compare results for many items on the surveys.

The 2017 survey was conducted during the spring semester. A stratified, random sample of 6,000 students enrolled at our Ithaca and New York City-based Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech campuses received email invitations to participate. A total of 2,238 students completed the survey for an overall response rate of 37 percent. This is almost double the 19 percent response rate from the 2015 survey.

Sexual assault and related misconduct—including sexual and gender-based harassment, dating and domestic violence, and stalking—is a serious problem, occurring with unacceptable frequency on campuses across the country, including our own. The following top-line results from this year’s survey are disturbing and serve as a reminder that Cornell must continue to provide the leadership, tools and resources to promote safe campuses and to foster collective efforts to eliminate these behaviors.

  • Among the key findings, the survey found that 55 percent of Cornell respondents said they had experienced one or more specific forms of harassment, and 11 percent of students experienced nonconsensual sexual contact as a result of physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation since attending Cornell. While a direct comparison is not possible, given differences in survey design, these prevalence rates are generally consistent with those reported on the 2015 survey.
  • The majority of these students talked to a friend about their experience. This underscores the important role we all can play in fostering a culture of caring on our campuses. If you are unsure how to help a friend who has been assaulted, Cornell Health has resources.
  • One-fifth of students contacted a Cornell- or community-based resource to talk about their nonconsensual sexual contact experience. While the survey indicated an increase in awareness of available campus resources – Title IX coordinator (38 percent in 2017 versus 9 percent in 2015), Victim Advocate (25 percent in 2017 versus 15 percent in 2015), LGBT Resource Center (57 percent in 2017 versus 36 percent in 2015), and Women’s Resource Center (53 percent in 2017 versus 42 percent in 2015) – we will continue to emphasize that regardless of whether the assault was recent or in the past, there are people on campus and in the local community who can provide medical care and support.
  • The survey also found that most students who said they had witnessed another student being sexually harassed or became aware of someone trying to take advantage of another student sexually, intervened in some way to stop or disrupt the situation. Most students who did not intervene said they were uncertain about what to do. There are resources and workshops to learn more about how you can identify and intervene during high-risk situations.

We encourage you to review an overview of summary results and data tables that have been posted to the Sexual Harassment and Assault – Response and Education (SHARE) website. On the SHARE and Title IX websites you will also find information about programs and prevention initiatives, as well as information about Cornell’s polices, reporting options and resources.

As a community, we can and will do more to create a climate where everyone is safe, respected and has access to appropriate support resources.


Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student & Campus Life

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

Dana Zappetti, M.D.
Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Weill Cornell Medicine

Cornell is committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and respectful learning, living, and working environment. To this end, Cornell will not tolerate sexual and related misconduct. Through Cornell University Policy 6.4 the university provides means to address sexual and related misconduct, including sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation.