Campus Climate Frequently Asked Questions

Campus Climate Assessment Frequently Asked Questions

What is campus climate?

Dr. Susan Rankin of Rankin & Associates, Consulting, which is serving as the outside consultant for Millersville University’s 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 by personal experiences, perceptions and institutional efforts.

Why is a positive climate important?

Dr. 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.

Why is Millersville University conducting a climate survey?

The idea to conduct a campus climate survey originated from interested students, faculty, and staff who believed data from such a survey might be useful in planning for the future and improving the community climate at Millersville University.

This Campus Climate Assessment is being supported by the Office of Diversity and Social Justice, the President’s Commission on Cultural Diversity & Inclusion, the President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Identity, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women , the President’s office, as well as the Planning, Assessment, and Analysis unit.

Who will be conducting the survey?

The Climate Study Working Group (CSWG) which includes a cross-section of faculty and staff, is charged with conducting Millersville University’s climate survey. Several committee members serve on Millersville’s commissions. Rankin & Associates facilitated discussions with the working group to design the survey based upon Commissions’ interests, institutional needs, past climate assessments at Millersville, and Dr. Susan Rankin’s (Rankin & Associates Consulting) expertise.

Dr. 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. Dr. Rankin has conducted multi-location institutional climate studies at more than 170 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 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).

How were the questions developed?

The consultant has administered climate assessments to more than 170 institutions across the nation and developed a repository of tested questions. To assist in contextualizing the survey for Millersville University, and to capitalize on the many assessment efforts already undertaken, the CSWG was formed and consists of faculty and staff representatives from various constituent groups at Millersville University. The committee is responsible for developing the survey questions. The team reviewed selected survey questions from the consultant’s tested collection.

Why is a non-Millersville University researcher involved in 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

Ranking and Associates

campus climate. In addition, Rankin & Associates was consulted on Millersville’s last two campus climate assessments (2001 and 2009).

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 to 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.”

What is the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process for this study?

The primary investigator from Millersville University for the IRB process is Dr. Lisa R. Shibley, Assistant Vice President, Institutional Assessment and Planning. An IRB application was submitted for the project. Once the project is approved, the survey will be administered.  The project was considered exempt.

What will be done with data from the results?

Although the committee believes the survey process itself is informative, we have sought and received a commitment from senior leaders that data will be used to plan for an improved climate at Millersville University. All stakeholders—faculty, staff, and students—will be invited to participate in the development of post-survey action initiatives.

What is the response rate goal?

Target participation in the survey is all students, faculty, and staff at Millersville University. Every response matters and is valuable in providing the most beneficial feedback and results.

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 Planning, Assessment & Analysis unit staff will take multiple precautionary 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.

Anonymity 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 server utilizing Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption (which is also known as HTTPS) for transmitted data). In addition, the consultant and university 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 college will combine the groups or take other measures to eliminate any potential for demographic information to be identifiable. Identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments will be redacted.

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 any other questions they consider to be uncomfortable.

Information in the introductory section of the survey will describe the manner in which confidentiality will be guaranteed, 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.

What is included in the final summary reports?

A final report will include an executive summary; a report narrative of the findings based on cross-tabulations; 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 will be reviewed by the working group. The working group will review draft reports and provide feedback prior to public release.

What protections are in place for storage of sensitive data, including for future secondary use?

Millersville University 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 Qualtrics, the survey research tool. The survey is run on a firewalled server utilizing Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption (which is also known as HTTPS) for transmitted data). The server itself may only be accessed using encrypted SSH connections originating from the local network. Trained Planning, Assessment and Analysis staff will have access to the data, and have worked on confidential survey projects at Millersville; each will have had required background checks.

Why is this a population survey and not a sample survey?

The survey will be administered to all faculty, staff, and students at Millersville University. 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., Native American faculty). 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, Millersville University collects population data on gender and race/ethnicity, but not on disability status or sexual orientation.  So a sample approach could miss many groups.

What is the timeline?

This initiative will include three primary phases. The first will involve survey development (spring/summer 2016), survey implementation that will seek input from all faculty, staff, and students (fall 2016), reporting of results (fall 2017).

How do I share feedback about the Campus Climate Assessment?

Your questions and comments are very important as we move through this process. Please share by contacting one of the following:

Mr. Tchet Dorman
Director, Office of Diversity & Social Justice
Washington House
Millersville University


Ms. Melanie DeSantis, Co-Chair, Campus Climate Assessment Committee
Executive Director, Human Resources
Millersville University
Human Resources

Dr. Erin Moss, Co-Chair, Campus Climate Assessment Committee
Associate Professor, Mathematics Education
Millersville University
Wickersham Hall 214-C

Dr. Lawrence Adams
Assistant Director, Research and Assessment
Millersville University
Lyle Hall, Room 368,

Dr. Lisa R. Shibley
Assistant Vice President, Institutional Assessment and Planning
Millersville University
Lyle Hall, Room 363,

Dr. Karena Rush, IRB Chair
Associate Professor, Psychology
Byerly Hall
Millersville University

Dr. Rene Munoz
Director of Sponsored Programs & Research Administration
Millersville University
McNairy Library and Learning Forum