PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - About 10 percent of female University of Oregon students surveyed have been raped while attending the school and the vast majority of those sexual assault cases were never reported to campus officials, school researchers found.
The findings come after the school faced criticism over its handling of an alleged rape involving three basketball players that preceded the resignation of former university president Michael Gottfredson.
University researchers said 35 percent of students - and 14 percent of men - had at least one forcible sexual encounter and about 90 percent of students assaulted never told of the violence.
“We think it’s terrible,” said interim president and provost of the school Scott Coltrane.
He said the findings “reflect the incidence rates that we’re hearing from across the country, so that is not a surprise, but there are pieces there that are alarming,” chiefly the low number of students who report the crimes.
The results come during mounting pressure nationwide by lawmakers, activists and students on universities and colleges to curb sexual assaults on campuses and to reform investigations after allegations are made.
The White House has declared sex crimes to be “epidemic” on U.S. college campuses, with one in five students falling victim to sex assault during their college years.
Coltrane said both outside experts and faculty were evaluating the school’s sexual assault policies and prevention programs. Earlier this month Coltrane said he extended the school’s code of conduct to encompass off-campus behavior in a bid to reduce assaults and punish offenders.
The U.S. Department of Education in May released a list of 55 colleges under investigation to determine whether their handling of sex assaults and harassment violated federal laws.
University of Oregon was not on that list but Jennifer Freyd, a psychology professor who led the study, and other school officials are part of a White House effort to develop a nationwide survey that can be conducted on campuses nationwide, she said.
“If you’ve got a survey that lets you make meaningful comparisons between colleges, then colleges will have a meaningful incentive to reduce the violence that’s being measured,” Freyd said.
The late-summer Web-based survey included 982 students. Freyd said she was hesitant to draw broader conclusions about the campus from her findings because, for example, her respondents were younger, whiter, and more female than the general school population.
Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Walsh