Taylor, Z. W. 2018. “Unreadable and Underreported: Can College Students Comprehend How to Report Sexual Assault?” Journal of College Student Development 59 (2), 248–253.
In this investigation of the reporting instructions for sexual assault and sexual violence at 100 four-year public and private institutions, he applied four empirically validated coding techniques to determine the readability of the reporting instructions. The 100 institutions were randomly selected from 2,386 institutions in the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The author then used two search phrases, “report sexual assault” or “report sexual violence,” to access reporting instructions for each of the 100 institutions. Once the instructions were located, he used a series of coding schemes to assess their readability. Readability indicators included the grade level of words used in the reporting instructions, number of words, number of sentences, use of complex words (namely, words containing three or more syllables), and use of compound words.
DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
Based on this methodology, the author concluded that “college students of average reading comprehension ability likely cannot read instructions for reporting a sexual assault provided by 4-year, public and nonprofit private institutions” (p. 251). Specifically, the author reports that the average sexual assault reporting instructions were written at a third-year college reading level, with only 11 percent of all instructions written at levels readable for first-year college students. Readability challenges included both issues with semantics (word choice) and syntactic elements (sentence structure). The author points out that these results are especially problematic for students with reading disabilities and students for whom English is a second language.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ACTION BY CAMPUS LEADERS
About the Author
Zachary W. Taylor is a PhD student in higher education at the University of Texas at Austin.
Literature Readers May Wish to Consult
American Association of University Professors. 2012. “Campus Sexual Assault: Suggested Policies and Procedures.”
National Council on Disability. 2018. “Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities.”
National Sexual Violence Resource Center. 2015. “Statistics about Sexual Violence.”