College releases data on Circle of 6 app usage

September 16, 2015 by Michael Green, News Editor

The College recently released information about the usage of the sexual assault prevention application Circle of 6 U after a year of campus-wide use.

To evaluate Circle of 6 U, the College analyzed data collected by the application’s developers, conducted focus groups over the summer to gain additional information about usage and examined data from the Attitudes on Sexual Assault survey.

The College was the first in the country to use Circle of 6 U, a customized version of the Circle of 6 application, which includes links to resources based at the campus, in addition to the services provided by the general application. Hobart and William Smith College and the University of California at Los Angeles have also started to use Circle of 6 U.

Circle of 6 U allows students to easily communicate with a group of six chosen friends in an uncomfortable situation. Students can call their friends or send a request for help traveling home. Students can also contact certain hotline numbers.

The hotline selection at the College is Sexual Assault Survivor Services, Campus Safety and Security (CSS), Williamstown Police Department, RASAN or a custom number of a student’s choice. The most frequently used hotline was CSS.

According to the data collected by the developers, between last September and July, students at the College opened the application 134 times a day on average. Over the course of the year, however, the number of times a day the app was opened deviated significantly. It was greater when students were reminded about the application, such as early in the year, when the administraiton encouraged students to download it.

“We get out what we put into it,” Meg Bossong ’05, director of sexual assault prevention and response, said.

The focus groups also provided useful information. Following recommendations from users, the hotline icon will be changed to a picture of a phone to better indicate that the hotline is not just for contacting the police.

Additionally, focus groups indicated that it would be beneficial for the College to send reminders to students to update their circles on a regular basis, as sometimes it makes sense for contacts to be changed, such as when juniors go abroad or seniors graduate. The focus groups also expressed satisfaction with the application’s privacy policies and its library of personalized school resources.

The College also examined the data gathered in last year’s Attitudes on Sexual Assault survey to analyze how students perceived their friends’ and peers’ approval of the behaviors encouraged by Circle of 6 U. Each of the behaviors received significant approval. Of those surveyed, 94 percent indicated approval or strong approval of checking in with an intoxicated friend leaving a party with someone, 97 percent indicated approval or strong approval of helping to take an intoxicated friend home and 83 percent indicated approval or strong approval of interrupting an uncomfortable conversation. These results suggest that students are not afraid to use the features of Circle of 6 U because students’ friends and peers approve of the apps’ features.

“It is encouraging to see that people are having conversations that bring them into more conversation with friends and peers about those friends’ and peers’ behavior,” Bossong said. “Because that kind of direct conversation carries some social risks to it, it’s very encouraging to see that there are both large numbers of students who are doing it anyway and who are socially supportive of these kinds of interventions.”

Overall, Bossong expressed satisfaction with the application.

“It is an easy-to-use app that puts lots of resources together,” she said. “It’s a great app.”

She noted, however, “The end goal is not for people to use the app. The end goal is to increase the safety of campus.”

First-year students have been encouraged to download the application this year, which will add to the over 2700 times the application has already been downloaded between September 2014 and July. In addition, for the first time, graduate students and students at the Williams Mystic program will also be encouraged to download the application.

Bossong had an optimistic outlook for the application this year.

“If Circle of 6 is helping people, I hope it will be used more this year,” Bossong said.

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