By Bob Katzen

Almost six months ago on March 5, 2020, the Higher Education Committee gave a favorable report to and recommended that the Legislature approve legislation requiring all colleges and universities in the Bay State to biennially conduct a sexual misconduct climate survey of all students.

The bill has been stuck in the Senate Ways and Means Committee since that date. The proposal was given initial approval by both the House and Senate in 2018 but never received final approval and never made it to the governor’s desk.

The survey would be anonymous and would include the number of reported incidents of sexual misconduct at the school; students’ awareness of institutional policies and procedures related to campus sexual assault; if a victim reported the sexual misconduct; and if a victim was informed or referred to local, state, on campus or other resources and victims’ access to support services including appropriate medical care, legal support and protection from retaliation.

Sexual misconduct is defined in the bill as incidents of sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, gender-based violence, violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, sexual harassment and stalking.

“It is my hope that from this, we will be able to drastically decrease the number of sexually violent acts and allow students to pursue their education without the fear of such incidents occurring to them,” said Sen. Mike Moore (D-Millbury) a sponsor of the measure. “While the bill has been tied up in Senate Ways and Means for some time, COVID-19 has us living under extraordinary circumstances and many pieces of legislation have seen their progress delayed.”

“Despite my best efforts, I am discouraged that it has taken so long for the legislature to pass this legislation,” continued More. “It is discouraging that given the #MeToo movement and the many high profile sexual assault tragedies that have occurred that we have not passed a bill that has the potential to provide desperately needed protections to our students. We have extended the session through 2020 and I am hopeful that this extra time will provide us with an opportunity to vote on and pass this bill.”

“It gives people who might otherwise have no safe way to speak out about their experience an important channel and it will also give important feedback to educational administrators,” said sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont). “I’m disappointed we haven’t made better progress, but I continue to be hopeful.”

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