2021 Cornell Survey of Sexual Assault and Related Misconduct

Dear Cornell Community,

Cornell conducts a survey every two years, in accordance with New York state law, to measure students’ knowledge of the university’s policies, procedures and resources, as well as their experiences related to sexual assault, sexual and gender-based harassment, stalking, and dating and domestic violence while attending Cornell. Today we release the findings of the 2021 survey.

The 2021 Cornell Survey of Sexual Assault and Related Misconduct was administered during the spring semester to a stratified, random sample of 6,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students enrolled at our Ithaca, Geneva, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech campuses. A total of 2,303 students completed the survey for a response rate of 38%, matching the response rates from the 2019 and 2017 surveys. We thank our participants for sharing their experiences.

The results of the 2021 survey are largely similar to those prior years’ survey results and are consistent with national data and data from our peer institutions. A summary of results and data tables can be found on the Sexual Harassment and Assault – Response and Education (SHARE) website. Below is an overview of this year’s survey results.

  • Fewer survey respondents (44% from 50% in 2019, which is statistically significant) said they have experienced one or more specific forms of harassing behaviors.
  • The percentage of survey respondents who experienced nonconsensual sexual contact (penetration, oral contact or touching) involving physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation since entering Cornell dropped somewhat from 13% in 2019 to 11% in 2021, a statistically significant decline.
  • Consistent with national data and previous Cornell survey results, undergraduate women; gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, queer, or questioning (LGBAQ) students; transgender, questioning, and gender non-conforming or non-binary students (TGQN); and students with disabilities continue to report experiencing harassment, stalking, domestic/dating violence and nonconsensual sexual contact at significantly higher rates than their peers.
  • The majority of survey respondents who experience nonconsensual sexual contact talk to someone about their experience—most often, a friend, followed by a spouse, or a romantic or sexual partner. This demonstrates the important role we all can play in fostering a culture of caring on our campuses.
  • Only 16% of survey participants said they had contacted a Cornell- or community-based resource to talk about this nonconsensual sexual contact experience – about the same percentage reported on the 2019 survey. The most common reason for not contacting a program were that the student: “did not think it was serious enough to contact a program.”
  • The vast majority of student participants are aware of Cornell Health, Cornell Police, and other institutional security services and more than 60% are aware of their Title IX Coordinator. However, far fewer students reported awareness of other related on-campus offices and resources.

It is difficult to determine to what extent measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic on campus shaped the decline in survey participants who experienced harassing behaviors and nonconsensual sexual contact, as opposed to other environmental or contextual factors. Most courses were held remotely during the 2020-2021 academic year, students were cautioned about socializing in person and being in close contact with others to reduce transmission of the virus, and many activities were halted or shifted to remote-only, factors that may have contributed to the decrease in incidents of unwanted sexual harassment or contact.

The prevalence rates reported through Cornell’s Surveys of Sexual Assault and Related Misconduct have remained largely static since 2015, highlighting the need for strategic public health prevention efforts. Cornell utilizes a comprehensive, public health framework to address these issues, including upstream approaches to reducing incidents of unwanted sexual harassment and contact, such as an emphasis on proactive bystander interventions and the creation of healthier social environments. Cornell offers a broad range of programs and resources both to prevent and respond to sexual assault and related misconduct, including education, coordinated victim support, and enforcement of university policies. Confidential university resources are available for nonjudgmental support and to discuss next steps or reporting options. In addition, the SHARE website provides an overview of and quick links to education and victim advocacy resources, emergency services, confidential support, healthcare and reporting options.

Sexual assault, harassment and other forms of related misconduct are never acceptable. Working together, we believe that we can – and will – make Cornell a safer, more respectful environment for all community members.


Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

Jamal D. Lopez
Senior Director of Institutional Equity, 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.

Additional resources include:

Faculty and staff at the Ithaca, Geneva and Cornell Tech campuses may contact the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 607-255-2673. Faculty and staff at Weill Cornell Medicine may contact the Employee Assistance Program Consortium.