Sexual Assault Climate Surveys Bill Reported Out Favorably

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I'd like to thank House Chairman John Scibak and Senate Chairman Michael Moore along with members of the Joint Committee on Higher Education for releasing H.2998, An Act creating a sexual assault climate survey for Massachusetts colleges and universities with a favorable report. A 2016 survey conducted by the Office on Violence Against Women and the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that an average of about 21% undergraduate women experience sexual assault since entering college. Younger students as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students experience the highest rates of sexual violence on campuses nationwide. 

The bill calls for a task force comprised of experts in higher education, advocacy, and government, that would utilize best practices to craft a model climate survey to be used on all Massachusetts college campuses. The task force serves to carefully craft unbiased questions and alleviate the time and cost burden for schools. Additionally, the bill mandates that all higher education institutions use either the model survey or a survey that is approved by the MA Commissioner of Higher Education and turn in their findings to the task force, which would then create a report. In a realm that features vast underreporting, well-crafted climate surveys allow for the anonymous collection of important data that can be useful to policymakers, prospective students, current students, parents, and administrators. 

Twenty-six colleges (both public and private) in Massachusetts have already or are currently implementing campus climate surveys. Louisiana, Maryland, and New York have all enacted similar bills providing valuable data for colleges and universities as well as policy-makers in those states. 

Climate surveys have been identified as a best practice for combating the epidemic of sexual assault on campuses by President Obama‚Äôs White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The former White House even created a PSA on the topic 1 is 2 Many. Students, professors, and staff on college campuses can all participate in surveys. 

The bill is now on its way to the House Committee of Ways and Means.

Preyel Patel