1. What is campus climate?
Susan Rankin, PhD, of Rankin & Associates Consulting, which is serving as the outside consultant for the Crown Family School climate survey, defines campus climate as, "the current attitudes, behaviors, standards and practices of employees and students of an institution." The climate is often shaped through personal experiences, perceptions, and institutional efforts. This survey focuses on the climate at the Crown Family School.
2. Why is a positive climate important?
Rankin's research maintains that positive personal experiences with campus climate and positive perceptions of campus climate generally equate to successful outcomes. Examples of successful outcomes include positive educational experiences and healthy identity development for students, productivity and sense of value for faculty and staff, and overall well-being for all.
3. Why is the Crown Family School conducting a climate survey?
The idea to conduct a climate survey originated through discussions among Crown Family School leadership, faculty, staff, and students who believe data from such a survey will be useful in informing future initiatives and plans. This process will allow for the strategic use of these data to build on strengths and address challenges to enhance the climate at the Crown Family School.
4. Who will be conducting the survey?
The Climate Survey Working Group (CSWG), a committee of faculty, staff, and students, is charged with conducting the Crown Family School's climate survey. After a review of potential consultants, the Crown Family School selected Rankin & Associates Consulting (R&A) to conduct the survey. Working in consultation with Rankin & Associates, the CSWG is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the survey.
Susan Rankin, the founder and President of Rankin & Associates Consulting, is an emeritus faculty member of Education Policy Studies and College Student Affairs at the Pennsylvania State University and a senior research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. She has extensive experience in institutional climate assessment and institutional climate transformation based on data-driven action and strategic planning. R&A has conducted multi-location institutional climate studies at more than 200 institutions across the country. Dr. Rankin developed and utilizes the Transformational Tapestry Model as a research design for campus climate studies. The model is a "comprehensive, five-phase strategic model of assessment, planning and intervention. The model is designed to assist campus communities in conducting inclusive assessments of their institutional climate to better understand the challenges facing their respective communities" (Rankin & Reason, 2008).
Dan Merson is the project manager from R&A who is working directly with us on this project. He is the Director of Analytics and an Executive Associate at R&A and has been with the company since 2008. Dr. Merson studies college student success, college environments, and STEM education. He most recently served in a fixed term capacity as an assistant professor of Higher Education at The Pennsylvania State University and a research associate with the Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education. In addition to working with R&A, he provides professional methodological consulting and support to researchers and graduate students via his own consulting company.
5. Why did we select a consultant to lead this project?
In reviewing efforts by other universities to conduct comprehensive climate studies, several best practices were identified. One was the need for external expertise in the administration of a survey relating to a very sensitive subject.
6. How were the questions developed?
The consultant has administered climate assessments to more than 200 institutions across the nation and developed a repository of tested questions. To assist in contextualizing the survey for the Crown Family School, and to capitalize on the many assessment efforts already undertaken, the CSWG was formed. The working group provided input into the survey questions. The group reviewed selected survey questions from the consultant's tested collection and also added some Crown-specific questions.
7. Why do some demographic questions contain a very large number of response options?
It is important in campus climate research for survey participants to "see" themselves in response choices to prevent "othering" an individual or an individual's characteristics. Some researchers maintain that assigning someone to the status of "other" is a form of marginalization and should be minimized, particularly in campus climate research which has an intended purpose of inclusiveness. Along these lines, survey respondents will see a long list of possible choices for many demographic questions. However, it is reasonably impossible to include every possible choice to every question, but the goal is to reduce the number of respondents who must choose "other."
8. Is the University of Chicago's Institutional Review Board (IRB) involved?
The primary investigator for the IRB process is Professor Susan Lambert, co-chair of the CSWG. The Crown Family School/Chapin Hall IRB has reviewed the study goals and procedures and designated it as "non regulated human subjects research" because the information gathered will be used for internal decision-making. The Crown Family School/Chapin Hall IRB may be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org
9. What will be done with data from the survey?
This process was initiated by the Dean of the Crown Family School to gather data to strategically inform how the School can build on strengths and address challenges to improve the climate at the Crown Family School. The data will be used to identify specific actions the school can take to contribute to a more inclusive and equitable environment.
10. What is the response rate goal?
100%! The target participation in the survey is all students, faculty, and staff at the Crown Family School. Every response matters and is valuable in providing the most accurate feedback and results.
11. How is a respondent's confidentiality protected?
Confidentiality is vital to the success of campus climate research, particularly as sensitive and personal topics are discussed. Although complete confidentiality cannot be guaranteed because of the nature of multiple demographic questions, the consultant will take multiple precautionary measures to enhance individual confidentiality and the de-identification of data. You will not be asked to insert your name, university identification number or any information already protected through regulation or policy (e.g., Social Security Number, medical information). In the event of any presentation resulting from the assessment, only aggregated results will be reported.
Confidentiality in participating will be maintained to the highest degree permitted by the technology used (e.g., IP addresses are not logged when the survey is submitted). No guarantees can be made regarding the interception of data sent via the Internet by any third parties; however, to avoid interception of data, the survey is run on a firewalled web server with forced 256-bit SSL security. In addition, the consultant and School will not report any group data for groups of fewer than five individuals, because those "small cell sizes" may be small enough to compromise confidentiality. Instead, the consultant and the School will combine the groups or take other measures to eliminate any potential for demographic information to be identifiable. Additionally, any comments submitted in response to the survey will be separated at the time of submission to the consultant so they are not attributed to any individual demographic characteristics. Identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments will be redacted.
Participation in the survey is completely voluntary, and other than a couple of required basic questions at the beginning, participants can skip any questions they consider to be uncomfortable or would prefer not to answer. Paper and pencil surveys are also available, which you can mail directly to the consultant.
Information in the introductory section of the survey will describe the manner in which confidentiality will be maintained, and additional communication to participants will provide expanded information on the nature of confidentiality, possible threats to confidentiality and procedures developed to ensure de-identification of data.
12. What will be included in the final summary reports?
The consultant will provide a final report that will include: an executive summary; a report narrative of the findings based on cross tabulations selected by the consultant in consultation with the CSWG; frequencies, percentages, and means of quantitative data; and content analysis of the textual data. The reports will provide high-level summaries of the findings and will identify themes found in the data. The CSWG will review draft reports and provide feedback for clarity and confidentiality to the consultant prior to the report's release.
13. What protections are in place for storage of sensitive data, including for future secondary use?
The Crown Family School has worked with the consultant to develop a research data security description and protocol, which includes specific information on data encryption, the handling of personally identifiable information, physical security, and a protocol for handling unlikely breaches of data security. The data from online participants will be submitted to a secure server hosted by the consultant. The survey is run on a firewalled web server with forced 256-bit SSL security and is stored on a SQL database that can only be accessed locally. The server itself may only be accessed using encrypted SSH connections originating from the local network. Rankin & Associates will have access to the raw data. All Rankin & Associates analysts have CITI (Human Subjects) training and approval and have worked on similar projects for other institutions. The web server runs with the SE-Linux security extensions (that were developed by the NSA). The server is also in RAID to highly reduce the chance of any data loss due to hardware failure. The server performs a nightly security audit from data acquired via the system logs and notifies the administrators. The number of system administrators will be limited and each will have had required background checks.
The consultant has conducted more than 200 institutional surveys and maintains an aggregate merged database. The data from the Crown Family School project will be merged with all other existing climate data stored indefinitely on the consultant's secure server. No institutional identifiers are included in the full merged data set held by the consultant. The raw unit-level data with institutional identifiers is kept on the server for six months and then destroyed. The paper and pencil surveys are returned to the consultant directly and kept in a locked file drawer in a locked office. The consultant destroys the paper and pencil responses after they are merged with the online data. The consultant will notify the committee chairs of any breach or suspected breach of data security of the consultant's server.
14. Why is this a population survey and not a sample survey?
The survey will be administered to all faculty, staff, and students at the Crown Family School. Climate exists in micro-climates, so creating opportunities to maximize participation is important. The consultant has recommended not using random sampling as we may "miss" particular populations where numbers are very small (e.g., Native American students). Since one goal of the project is inclusiveness and allowing invisible "voices" to be heard, this sampling technique is not used. In addition, randomized stratified sampling is not used because we do not have population data on most identities. For example, the Crown Family School collects population data on gender and race/ethnicity, but not on disability status or sexual orientation. A sample approach could miss many groups.