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What is a Campus Climate Study?
A Campus Climate Study has nothing to do with weather and everything to do with current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential. The study will measure how welcoming the campus is with regard to race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, religious affiliation, veteran status, or physical abilities.

Who will be surveyed?
The entire campus community, faculty, staff, and students, will be invited and encouraged to complete the survey.

How will the survey be administered?
The survey will be available both online and in pencil and paper format, and will be translated into multiple languages.

Who will be conducting the survey?
Professor Susan Rankin with Rankin & Associates, Consulting has been selected as consultant for this project.  Professor Rankin 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.  Professor Rankin has conducted multi-location institutional climate studies at over 100 institutions across the country.  She developed and utilizes the Transformational Tapestry model as a research design for campus climate studies. The model is a “comprehensive, five-phase, and 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).

What will be done with the data collected?
The data will be used to determine the strengths and weakness of the campus climate and inform future changes. A prioritized action plan will be established based on the results.

How are the questions developed?
The consultant has administered climate assessments to over 100 institutions across the nation, and has developed a repository of tested questions.  To assist in contextualizing the survey for Brockport and to capitalize on the many assessment efforts already undertaken, the Climate Study Task Force (CSTF) was formed which consists of faculty, staff, and student representatives from various constituent groups at Brockport.

The CSTF is responsible for developing the survey questions.  The task force will review selected survey questions from the consultant’s tested collection, and will also include Brockport specific questions which will be informed by the focus group results.

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 individual’s characteristics.  Some researchers maintain that resigning 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 choice “other.”

What is the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process for this study?
The primary investigator from Brockport for the IRB process is Jeffrey Lashbrook, Director of the Office of Research, Analysis, and Planning (RAP). An IRB application will be submitted for the project by Dr. Lashbrook and Dr. Rankin. Once the project is approved, the survey will be administered.

What is the response rate goal, and what limitations exist if that goal is not met?
A 30% or higher response rate is adequate and results can then be used with confidence.  However, if a total response rate of 30% is not reached, individual populations with response rates at 30% or higher are able to be reported.  For example, if all faculty respond at 20%, generalizations among all faculty will not be reliable.  However, male faculty of color may respond at 40%, which will allow for some generalized themes to emerge for male faculty of color.  Weight may be applied to the analysis based on the variables for which population data are available.  However, the College only collects population data on position (faculty, staff, student), gender, race/ethnicity, and international status so weighting is limited.  In addition, the consultant will also conduct missing data analyses.

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. While the survey cannot guarantee complete confidentiality because of the nature of multiple demographic questions, the consultant will take multiple measures to enhance individual confidentiality and the de-identification of data.  No data already protected through regulation or policy (e.g., social security number, campus identification number, medical information) is obtained through the survey.

In the event of any publication or presentation resulting from the assessment, no personally identifiable information will be shared.  Confidentiality in participating will be maintained to the highest degree permitted by the technology used (e.g., IP addresses will be stripped 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 College will not report any group data for groups of fewer than 5 individuals, because those “small cell sizes” may be small enough to compromise confidentiality.  Instead, the consultant and College 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 that they are not attributed to any individual demographic characteristics.  Identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments will be redacted and the College will only receive these redacted comments.

Participation in the survey is completely voluntary, and participants do not have to answer any question except the first positioning question (staff, faculty, student), and can skip questions about which they are uncomfortable.  Paper and pencil surveys are also available, and will be sent directly to the consultant.

Information contained in the introductory section of the survey will be revised to accurately reflect guarantees of confidentiality, and 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.

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; frequencies, percentages, means and standard deviations of quantitative data; and content analysis of the textual data.  The reports provide high-level summaries of the findings and will identify themes found in the data.  Generalizations for populations are limited to those groups or subgroups with response rates of at least 30%.  The CSTF will review draft reports and provide feedback to the consultant prior to public release.

What protections are in place for storage of sensitive data, including for future secondary use?
Brockport 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 which can only be accessed locally. The server itself may only be accessed using encrypted SSH connections originating from the local network.  Rankin & Associates, Consulting project coordinator, Dr. Susan Rankin will have access to the raw data along with several R&A data analysts. All R&A 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 over 100 institutional surveys and maintains an aggregate merged database.  The data from the Brockport 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 6 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 CSTF co-chairs of any breach or suspected breach of data security of the consultant’s server.

The consultant will provide Brockport with a data file at the completion of the project.

How will respondents be notified about privacy and data uses?
The consultant will include a notification statement in the introductory section of the survey which includes the following notifications to survey respondents

Why is this a population survey and not a sample survey?
The survey will be administered to all students, faculty and staff at Brockport.  Climate exists in micro-climates, so creating opportunities to maximize participation is important as well as maximizing opportunities to reach minority populations.  Along these lines, the consultant has recommended not using random sampling as we may “miss” particular populations where numbers are very small (e.g., veteran students of color).  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, Brockport collects population data on gender and race/ethnicity, but not on gender identity or sexual orientation.  So a sample approach could miss many groups.

Last Updated 11/8/17

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