- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana advocates against sexual assault say they want to survey college students about their experiences on campuses.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1w8XIxZ ) a task force formed by state Sen. J.P. Morrell to address campus sexual assault met for the first time Wednesday to provide a general overview of plans for addressing the topic.

One agreement the task force members came to early on in the meeting: They need more data before moving forward.

“The problem you have right now - as long as the data isn’t complete - people say, ‘Things aren’t as bad as you say they are,’ ” said Morrell, who formed the task force after he received a statewide report from the state Board of Regents.

Morrell said he thinks an anonymous online-based survey could provide more accurate state-based data about sexual assault on Louisiana campuses. He pointed to a similar national survey performed by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to show the kinds of information that could be gleaned from such a report.

No official timeline was given for when the survey could start, but the task force is being split into subcommittees to identify various issues and questions that should be addressed.

Alyson Neel, public policy student and human rights journalist who serves on the task force, said that the effort will be good for colleges to learn more about their students.

“There are so many models for this that exist,” Neel said. “We don’t even have to reinvent the wheel.”

Morrell said his goal is to form state legislation with the group’s findings, after the Regents report found a lack of uniformity in addressing campus assault.

“Whatever we do this coming year will be the beginning of a long conversation,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight.”

The report from the Board of Regents showed colleges and universities across the state have been handling allegations of sexual assault in varying ways. Louisiana has no statewide policy for handling them.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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