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VSU garners mixed feelings about campus climate

VSU students have received emails week after week, since Jan. 30, enticing them to give their take on campus climate via survey.

The topics address sexual violence, gather information on whether a student has experienced sexual violence and gauge students’ overall reactions to sexual assault.

But why has VSU given students the survey? Daryl Lowe, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said it’s because of a grant given to VSU.

“It allows us to do programming related to violence against women and promoting healthy relations on campus,” he said. “But as part of that grant, we have to do a climate survey every year.”

Taking the survey, it’s easy to see that the survey is after the likeliness of sexual violence occurring on campus and how students may respond, in addition to the other topics.

The intentions of the school using this information seems questionable, but Lowe said its purpose is less than sinister.

“The purpose of the story is to see how students feel about sexual violence and [to] determine their knowledge on sexual violence,” he said. “The result of the survey will be used to further inform us on how we could better our programming.”

Lowe said the results will aid them in potentially improving the current programs that have been implemented.

One specific program is Haven Rape Crisis Center, a nonprofit providing aid to victims of family violence and sexual assault. It was founded in 1985 and has since continued to be of aid to victims throughout Valdosta, as well as in correspondence with VSU.

While there are many occurrences of sexual assault around Valdosta, nothing recent led to posing the survey to students. Thus, the questions themselves weren’t formulated by VSU officials but by a Georgia State University researcher.

“The questions were submitted in an IRB [a process to approve whether or not the survey questions are beneficial and whether or not they re-victimize],” he said. “And it went through several IRB processes before it was distributed to campuses.”

With this being VSU’s third year using the campus climate survey, the question of how students feel arises.

The survey imposes questions like “Would you recommend for others to attend VSU?” and “Would you still attend VSU?” Students’ responses to them have garnered mixed feelings.

Freshman Logan Taylor finished the survey and said she thinks the campus climate is safe.

“I haven’t felt attacked in any way on campus,” she said.

But she does have some thoughts on some safety improvements.

“I think we could have more of the [police] boxes because they’re kind of spaced out when you actually go to walk and look for them,” she said. “Other than that, I feel relatively safe.”

Sophomore Katrina Lahr also found herself feeling safe on campus, at least until nighttime arrives.

“During the night, I don’t necessarily feel the safest […] in places that aren’t lit up,” Lahr said.

Centennial’s trail, for instance, wasn’t completely lit for months after Hurricane Michael swept through Valdosta, according to Lahr.

In terms of shady feelings towards unlit areas around VSU, she isn’t the only one. Freshman Ashley Sutton has dealt with being followed when walking at night.

“There [are] a lot of dark spots I walk through, and it’s not that safe walking by yourself,” she said. “I’ve had a guy follow me and another just start talking to me and walked with me to where I was going.”

As to whether Lowe feels the survey helps, he said the survey will. In fact, he said it aids in determining what VSU needs to do in order to make students feel more at ease.

As for those who currently feel unsafe, Lowe said he feels those more involved in school would likely feel more comfortable. Those who aren’t may not feel as comfortable, though, as they may not have informants on happenings within the school.

VSU is not without its resources to help those in need, however. A sexual assault support group located in the VSU Counseling Center is available for those in need.

To take the campus climate survey, click here.

Written by Renee Seibert, Staff Writer, and Bryce Ethridge, Content Editor. Photo courtesy of Valdosta State University.

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