2022 Survey: Sexual Assault at Ithaca College

A survey of Ithaca College students in 2022 showed that 29 percent of respondents have experienced “unwanted sexual behavior” while attending the school.

The prevalence of such conduct is nearly double what respondents reported in a campus community survey six years earlier that included all Ithaca College faculty and staff as well as students.

Ithaca College campus

Since former President Shirley M. Collado took office in 2017, Ithaca College has demonstrated indifference to mandated campus climate surveys, and appears to have violated New York State’s “Enough is Enough” law during her four-year tenure.

According to the “Sexual Misconduct Climate Assessment Summary,” a report on the 2022 survey results by Ithaca College’s Title IX Office, almost half of the students reporting unwanted sexual behavior were victims of rape, sexual assault, or sexual touching.

Another in an occasional series of articles about campus sexual violence. For more information, go to The Sophie Fund’s Sexual Assault Page.

Twenty-six percent of the students who experienced unwanted sexual behavior said it included stalking, and 7 percent said it included relationship violence.

Almost half of the offenders were Ithaca College students, and about a quarter were described as friends or acquaintances. Between 25 percent and 30 percent indicated that the unwanted sexual behavior had occurred during their first year at Ithaca College, whereas less than 5 percent reported the behavior happening in their senior year.

More than 20 percent reported that alcohol was involved in the unwanted sexual behavior. More than 40 percent said the incidents occurred on campus, while 20 percent pointed to off campus locations.

A total of 83 percent of the victims of sexual misconduct did not report the incidents to college officials.

Altogether, 46 survey respondents reported unwanted sexual behavior and cited 71 instances. Twelve incidents were formally reported to college officials. The students reported being dissatisfied with the way their cases were handled in 11 instances, and only one student reported satisfaction with the outcome of their complaint.

LEARN MORE: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The Title IX Office said that all Ithaca College students were invited to participate in the survey during the summer of 2022. It said that 160 students completed the survey. Given the school’s total enrollment of 5,000 students, the survey response rate was poor at just 3 percent.

“The results serve to help our community identify opportunities for growth and improvement,” the Title IX Office report said.

The nine-page summary of the survey, conducted during the tenure of current President La Jerne Terry Cornish, glosses over many pertinent details, exact numbers and percentages, and breakdowns of results that are normally part of college surveys on sexual misconduct.

For example, in the section on unwanted sexual behavior, the summary does not provide a break down of victims by sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or class level; nor does it provide a break down by types of unwanted sexual contact (penetration, assault, or sexual touching).

Although more than four out of five students said that they did not report sexual misconduct to Ithaca College officials, the survey summary did not indicate their reasons for not doing so. Nor did the summary provide feedback on the physical, psychological, or academic impacts that the sexual misconduct had on the student victims.

The full report of Ithaca College’s 2022 climate assessment does not appear on the institution’s website; the college did not respond to The Sophie Fund’s requests to provide a copy.

On April 26, 2017, the college posted the full report of its 2016 campus climate survey on its website, but the link went dead by 2021. The survey was conducted during the tenure of former President Thomas R. Rochon.

Those results showed that 15 percent of all respondents—students, faculty, and staff—had experienced unwanted sexual conduct, and 3 percent reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact (rape, sexual assault, or sexual touching), according to an IC News announcement.

The announcement said that 3,823 people, or 46 percent of the campus community, took part in the 2016 survey; 74 percent were students, 12 percent faculty, and 14 percent staff. College officials also arranged for two public forums in May 2017 for the campus community to discuss “possible action items as a result of the survey.”

“Taking the results of this study and translating the findings into positive action is critical,” said then-Associate Provost Roger Richardson. “The college must take this opportunity to make important changes, offer different resources, and continue the conversation to make this a place where everyone feels like they can belong and thrive.”

Under the “Enough is Enough” law, further Ithaca College campus climate assessments were required in 2018 and 2020. In a March 22, 2023 editorial, The Ithacan student newspaper reported that no surveys were conducted during Collado’s time as Ithaca College’s president. “Not continuously conducting the survey does not allow for progress to be noticed, thus disallowing for change to be made,” said the Ithacan.

In 2021, The Sophie Fund made seven requests to Ithaca College’s Title IX Office, Office of  General Counsel, and to Collado directly requesting  copies of all Ithaca College campus climate survey reports; The Sophie Fund received no response from those Ithaca College offices. Another more recent request to the General Counsel, on March 6, 2023, went unanswered as well.

DOWNLOAD: “Be Safe at College” Resources

Ithaca College must conduct the climate assessment surveys to be in compliance with New York State Education Law Article 129-B to combat collegiate sexual violence. Adopted in 2015, the “Enough is Enough” law requires colleges to submit and publish data reports no less than every other year on incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.

Separately, in compliance with the “Enough is Enough” law, Ithaca College’s Title IX office reported 49 incidents of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking in 2020.

Also, Ithaca College’s Annual Security & Fire Report 2022 said that eight instances of rape, including seven in student housing, occurred in its jurisdiction in 2021. The figure represented a decline from 10 in 2020 and 14 in 2019.

According to a 2019 survey by the Association of American Universities (AAU), 25.9 percent of undergraduate women reported being the victim of rape, attempted rape, or sexual battery through force or incapacitation since entering college; 12.8 percent reported the same experiences for that current academic year.

Among undergraduates nationwide, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 26.4 percent of females, 6.8 percent of males, and 23.1 percent of transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming (TGQN) students have been sexually assaulted.

Ways for Ithaca College students to report sexual assault:

Ithaca College Public Safety: 1-607-274-3333

Title IX Office: 1-607-274-7761

Ithaca Police: 1-607-272-9973

Advocacy Center of Tompkins County: 1-607-277-5000

National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: l-800-656-4673

Mental Health and People of Color

The BOLD Women’s Leadership Network was founded by Ithaca College’s president, Shirley M. Collado. It is an initiative developed for young women underrepresented in higher education and passionate about social justice issues. The nine women chosen as Ithaca College BOLD Scholars for the 2018–19 academic year designed a program called Engaging Mental Health for People of Color (EMPOC).

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BOLD Scholars with Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado (second from right)

Ithaca College’s first-ever BOLD cohort collectively chose to create EMPOC with the mission of creating a physical space for people of color on campus to de-stress and that provides comfort in discussing stigmas of mental health.

Mental health for people of color has become a popular topic throughout the media and within various communities of marginalized groups. This topic has a different affect on people of color because they experience racialized economic and social barriers that result in lack of resources and support of mental health.

For minority groups, mental health correlates with systems of oppression and that is why it is such a difficult conversation to have with family, friends, or even institutions. BOLD Scholars recently organized introductory discussions on mental health facilitated by an Ithaca College alumna, Rita Bunata—a social media event on self-care, pop-up de-stress events, and an R&B yoga night. They also co-facilitated a discussion on sexual assault and healing with Stephanie Nevels, a counselor at Ithaca College, and organized a showcase for art by people of color,

At the weekly meetings, BOLD Scholars discuss and organize every event as ways to shift the conversation to be inclusive of underrepresented individuals and focus on creating a space to serve the mental health needs of people of color. As the cohort includes women of all backgrounds, they collectively discuss the importance of education on this topic by creating things like fliers with information on mental health and others specifically for allies who are not people of color.

“We need to be able to talk about specifically through a racialized lens, what mental health looks like for people of color,” said Belisa Gonzalez, director of the Center of Culture, Race, & Ethnicity at Ithaca College and the BOLD Scholars faculty mentor.

For programs like EMPOC, it is difficult to know exactly how effective the conversation is or be able to know about positive outcomes from these events. Gonzalez describes this as a lingering question: “How do you measure changing the hearts and minds of people?” The very first event organized by EMPOC was facilitated by Tynesha Wright-Lindo, a clinical social worker at Cornell University, which received a large audience and effective feedback, as students felt, “This is what I needed.”

EMPOC will carry on as an Ithaca Collge student organization in its own right once the current cohort of BOLD Scholars graduate. Chasia Bambo, a BOLD scholar majoring in Biology and Accounting, hopes that the future of the program will “become less known as a project for women of color and more for people of color,” encourage more men of color to participate in events, and “to delve into the different issues that can impact the wide range of people of color.”

—By Chanelle Ferguson

Chanelle Ferguson, an intern at The Sophie Fund, is a sophomore Bridge Up Scholar at Ithaca College majoring in Writing and minoring in Journalism and African Diaspora. She is a writer at IC View, Ithaca College’s alumni magazine, and a student assistant at Career Services.