BOSTON — Campus climate surveys, which supporters say can help schools identify the best practices for curbing sexual assault on campus, but which have been widely criticized by both conservative and feminist groups, could soon be coming to Massachusetts.
Last spring, state Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) authored a bill that calls for the creation of a task force assigned to develop campus surveys. The task force, consisting of rape crisis center representatives, government officials and college and university staffers, would then analyze survey results before “convening to determine future steps.”
Future steps “may include” revising the original survey, determining whether it should be “implemented repeatedly” and whether to issue recommendations to colleges.
State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), who petitioned for the bill along with Brownsberger, told Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly last August that the survey will provide another statistic that potential students will use to judge colleges and universities and which institutions of higher ed will use to create more hospitable environments.
The “benefit of this approach,” Ehrich said, ”is that the feedback from the survey would be uniform.”
But such surveys have created an uproar of criticism from the very people they intend to help — student survivors of seual assault. Specifically, feminists argue that the language used in surveys can be “triggering.”
According to the online journal Inside Higher Ed, some students at the University of Michigan said survey language “made them uncomfortable or even triggered dark memories of their assaults.”
Some policy analysts have other objections.
Carrie Lukas, managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum, doubts that the creation of a state-run task force will result in improvements.
“It may sound like a nice idea, but it seems unlikely that such a commission and yet another study will really help clarify the issue,” Lukas wrote in a Sept. 3 op-ed for the NewBostonPost. “One fears that the focus will be more on generating attention-grabbing statistics that hype the problem, rather than identifying anything that might actually discourage sexual misconduct in the first place.”