Annual C.A.T.S. Campus Climate Survey

By Jenny Wells
Special to KyForward

As part of its commitment to transparency and continuous improvement in campus safety, University of Kentucky officials have released an executive summary of the 2016 Campus Attitudes Toward Safety (CATS) survey.

This summary provides results from the second year of a five year commitment by UK President Eli Capilouto and the endowed faculty of the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women (CRVAW) to assess student perceptions and experiences regarding violence and/or harassment while attending UK.

“This is important work for the University of Kentucky, and our campus has been a leader on this issue for more than 10 years. We’re home to the Green Dot Program, we initiated our first climate survey several years ago, and now we’ve conducted the second year of the campuswide CATS climate survey,” said UK President Eli Capilouto.

“We entered into this task of data collection and analysis with the goal of listening to our students and acting on their feedback about the things we do well and where we have work to do. This is an intentional, constant improvement process, and we’ve made progress since the first survey, but our second year of data collection indicate that there is more work we must do in creating a safe and supportive environment for reporting, raising awareness about sexual assault, and providing support for victim survivors.”

Funded by the UK President’s Office, Capilouto and the endowed faculty at CRVAW initiated the first CATS survey in the spring of 2015, which revealed that more than 90 percent of UK students believe the UK campus is safe, but that too many remain reluctant to report sexual assaults.

The 2016 survey produced similar results, with nearly 98 percent of students reporting feeling safe on campus during the day, and over 88 percent reporting they feel campus authorities are fair in their responses to reports of sexual assault. However, it’s clear that use of alcohol and other substances remain a factor in cases of sexual assault as 19 percent reported witnessing events where they suspected a person under the influence was being led away for sex.

View the 2016 CATS Executive Summary.

UK continues to use data from both surveys — among the most in-depth regarding safety in American higher education — to address student safety issues.

Following on the release of this data, the Office of the President and CRVAW hosted the second annual CATS conference — “Assessing Campus Climate: Higher Education’s Challenges, Strategies, and Adjudication Issues” — on Friday, Sept. 30 2016.

While last year’s conference focused primarily on institutions in Kentucky, this year’s will extend to regional colleges and universities that are interested in these topics. To address this timely issue and to promote strategies for institutions to understand issues surrounding campus safety, climate, and violence, this conference will offer panels to promote information exchange and discussion of relevant topics.

Representatives from both public and independent institutions will be participating in these panels that will cover topics including: senior administration perspectives, barriers and challenges for initiating a campus climate survey, strategies for utilizing survey results, and adjudication issues.

“Most universities and colleges are currently somewhere in the process of either considering a campus climate survey, developing one, or implementing one,” said Diane Follingstad, director of CRVAW. “We are excited to bring together interested parties from more than 19 institutions to promote the implementation of this type of assessment on campuses as well as to suggest policy and program changes that may be warranted based on survey results.”

About CATS – The development of CATS occurred through partnerships with the UK President’s Office, UK Police Department, University Health Service (UHS), Student Affairs, Legal Counsel, and the Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Center. All UK students (undergraduate, graduate and professional) are required to complete CATS as part of their class registration process. The confidential survey consists of several sections that ask questions about students’ beliefs, opinions and knowledge of various topics concerning personal safety and the social environments of the university followed by their report of adverse interpersonal experiences over the past year.

Jenny Wells writes for UK Now. Reach her at