University Apologizes After Survey Calls BLM 'Wild Beast Preying' on Community

Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts has apologized after a survey included a vignette calling the Black Lives Matter movement "a wild beast preying on your local community."

Over the weekend, Jenna Higgins, a student at the university, shared a photo of the survey in a tweet that has so far amassed more than 700 retweets and more than 1,000 likes.

"The Black Lives Matter is a wild beast preying on your local community. Just one year ago, the city was in good shape, with no obvious vulnerabilities. Now, protest-related incidents fluctuate unpredictably and for many, it seems not enough is being done," the survey said.

@BridgeStateU So you guys just let your psychology students make surveys like this?

— jennerrr (@jhiggles) March 1, 2021

"The city's defense systems have weakened, and normal life has succumbed to BLM disputes. The protests have strained your community and have threatened the town's health and human services. It seems danger lurks around every corner and there is a worry that if the city does not regain its strength soon, even more serious problems may start to develop."

Participants were then asked: "In your opinion, what does your local community need to do to reduce the escalation of the Black Lives Matter movement?"

In a statement, the university's President Frederick W. Clark and Provost Dr. Karim Ismaili said the university is reviewing the use of the survey after receiving "a number of student complaints."

They said the university "firmly stands" with the Black Lives Matter movement and is "deeply sorry for the pain and harm this has caused our students and other members of our community."

Their statement also said the vignette in the survey, which was developed as part of a class research project about racial discrimination and bias, was "hypothetical" and designed to "elicit predictable responses to better understand how differences in the framing of an issue shape opinions, beliefs, and reactions."

It added: "Both the researchers and the university strongly condemn the viewpoint articulated through the hypothetical vignette. This survey was accessed by students in introduction to psychology and was prefaced with considerable information about its purpose.

Black Lives Matter protest
A person holds up a placard that reads, 'Black Lives Matter' during a protest in the city of Detroit, Michigan, on May 29, 2020. Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

"The survey, which was part of a larger investigation into pro and con reactions to issues such as COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, was approved by the university's Institutional Review Board."

According to The Enterprise, students taking the survey could receive two different versions of the question that were meant to elicit either positive or negative responses.

Sandra Neargarder, a professor and chairperson of psychology at the university, believes students who saw the negative version concluded it was someone's political opinion rather than part of a research study.

"The intent of the study wasn't to say anything negative about the Black Lives Matter movement," Neargarder told the newspaper. "The university is in full support of Black Lives Matter."

In their statement, Clark and Ismaili added the university's Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice will soon present a series of recommended actions that the university should take to ensure diversity, inclusion and equity and included in all aspects of the university's work.

"We thank our students and other concerned members of the BSU community for their vigilance," they added. "This matter raises numerous questions that the university continues to explore on a daily basis, including how we advance the academic and research enterprise in a manner that is sensitive to the profound pain caused by racial injustice."

Higgins, Bridgewater State University and Black Lives Matter have been contacted for additional comment.