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The association representing the nation’s leading research universities said Friday that it planned to develop and administer a sexual assault climate survey for its members, in part to fend off efforts in Congress to mandate such surveys. The Association of American Universities said that it had hired a research firm to design a survey that its 60 U.S. member institutions may choose to have conducted on their campuses next April. The group plans to then publicly report the “cumulative results” from those surveys.

AAU President Hunter Rawlings said in a statement that the surveys were aimed both at helping inform university decision-making on campus sexual assault issues and also at preempting efforts by the federal government to force colleges to conduct the surveys. “[W]e have been deeply concerned about the possibility of Congress or the administration mandating that campuses conduct a government-developed survey,” he said. “Such an initiative would likely be a one-size-fits-all survey that would provide potentially misleading data, given the extraordinary diversity of higher education in our country, and would not reliably assess the campus culture on this issue.”

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, led by Senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, have proposed requiring all colleges to conduct such surveys and post the results publicly for prospective students and families to see.

Victims advocacy groups have pushed for campus climate surveys, which they say more precisely gauge the prevalence of sexual violence, which often goes unreported.