2016 Climate Study and Actions

In March of 2016, a universitywide survey was launched to identify strengths and barriers related to being a welcoming, engaging place that nurtures a culture of inclusiveness and respect. Thank you to all that participated.

You added your voice, now hear the results

The following reports are available to the university community and summarize the results of the Climate Study conducted by Rankin & Associates.  Three reports and corresponding executive summaries are available for viewing as linked below.  These reports cannot be printed.  One printed copy of the three reports will be maintained in the office of Dr. Alfreda Brown, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (located in the 2nd floor Executive Suite of the Library).  Arrangements to read the written reports can be made by calling 330-672-2442  or emailing diversity@kent.edu.

Kent State University Aggregate Report

Executive Summary Full Report Presentation

Kent Campus Report

Executive Summary Full Report Presentation

Regional Campuses Report

Executive Summary Full Report Presentation

About the 2016 Climate Study

KENT STATE UNIVERSITY CLIMATE STUDY: OUR VOICES COUNT

 

 

Kent State University seeks to create and maintain a welcoming and inclusive campus environment that respects individual abilities, differences, needs and potentials. In spring 2016, a universitywide assessment of learning, living and working at Kent State will be conducted to understand the current climate that exists at the university’s eight campuses, as well as the Twinsburg Academic Center and the College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence.

This climate study offers you the opportunity to describe your personal experiences and observations, and offer suggestions for change to help enhance the campus climate at Kent State. The goals of the climate study are to:

  • Identify successful initiatives
  • Uncover challenges facing members of our university community
  • Develop strategic initiatives to build on the successes and address the challenges

OUR VOICES COUNT!

All Kent State faculty, staff and students are encouraged to participate in this confidential study that will be conducted by an external consultant, Rankin & Associates Consulting, which has conducted more than 130 similar studies at other institutions across the nation. The findings from this survey will help Kent State to create and maintain a healthy, inclusive environment for all.

Former President’s Letter (2016)

March 8, 2016

Members of the Kent State University Family,

Thanks to the remarkable talents and dedicated efforts of our faculty, staff and students, we are moving through the 2015-16 academic year with powerful momentum and compelling evidence that Kent State's best is yet to come. I am excited by the opportunities we have to work together to make our university even better. Many of them are possible because of the time and thought that thousands of Kent State community members have invested in recent efforts to bring our brightest future into sharp focus — initiatives such as the Forums for the Future, which gave voice to constituents across the university and beyond; the One University Commission, which explored ways to maximize our role, resources and reach as an eight-campus system; and the strategic visioning and communication initiative, which is articulating a shared vision, values and priorities to guide us for the remainder of this decade.

I write to ask you to share your thoughts and experiences one more time as we launch an effort to produce a frank and genuine assessment of the university's climate. This climate study can only provide an accurate "big picture" with widespread participation. To ensure objectivity and thoroughness, experts at Rankin & Associates are helping lead the study together with a steering committee comprised of faculty, staff and students. Their goals will be to identify successful initiatives; uncover challenges facing members of our community; and develop strategic initiatives to build on our collective successes and address our challenges. More information about the project and the steering committee is available at www.kent.edu/voices. Watch our brief video about the Climate Survey.

The survey, which will take 20-30 minutes to complete, asks about both positive and challenging aspects of our campus climate and offers a chance to suggest improvements. Be assured: All of your answers will remain confidential and your participation in this project is voluntary.

If you prefer to fill out a paper copy of the survey, visit www.kent.edu/voices to find out where to pick one up on your campus.

The co-chairs for the Climate Study are Kathryn Wilson, Ph.D., professor of economics, and Shay Little, Ph.D., interim vice president for student affairs. They would be happy to answer any questions you have about the project.

Thank you in advance for your participation — it truly matters! I look forward to sharing the results — and a related action plan — with you.

Best regards,
Beverly Warren

2016 Steering Committee

Sue Rankin, Principal, Rankin & Associates (Consultant), 814-625-2780, sue@rankin-consulting.com
Emil Cunningham, Senior Research Associate, Rankin & Associates (Consultant), 814-625-2780, emil@rankin-consulting.com
Kathryn Wilson, Professor, Economics, College of Business Administration (CSSC Co-Chair), 330-672-1093, kwilson3@kent.edu
Shay Davis Little, Interim Vice President, Division of Student Affairs (CSSC Co-Chair), 330-672-4050, sdlittle@kent.edu   
 

Heather Adams, Executive Director, Women's and Gender Centers
Hadeel Akram, Student Representative 
Margarita Benitez, Assistant Professor, Fashion Design, College of the Arts
Alfreda Brown, Vice President, Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 
Gina Campana, Special Assistant, Planning, Assessment and Research Management, DEI
Matthew Chernesky, Student Representative, USG Senator at Large
Edward Collins, Director, Planning, Assessment and Research Management, DEI
Fashaad Crawford, Assistant Provost for Accreditation, Assessment and Learning
Nichole DeCaprio, Assistant Counsel, Office of General Counsel
Ken Ditlevson, Director, LGBTQ Student Center
Carol Gardner, Special Assistant, Dean's Office, Geauga Campus
Amoaba Gooden, Chair, Department of Pan-African Studies, College of Arts and Sciences
Susan Iverson, Associate Professor, Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel, School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration
Jeannette Jones, Administrative Assistant, University College
Dana Lawless-Andric, Associate Vice President, DEI
Liz Lewis, Market Research Manager, University Communications and Marketing
Octavian Maianu, Director, IS Communications
Tricia Niesz,  Associate Professor, Evaluation and Measurement, School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration
Foluke Omosun, Internal Communications Specialist, University Communications and Marketing
Amy Quillin, Director, Student Accessibility Services
Wayne Schneider, Director, Institutional Research
Richard Serpe, Chair, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences
Desnee Stevens, Assistant Director, International Student and Scholar Services, Office of Global Education
Melody Tankersley, Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs
Lindsey Westermann Ayers, Assistant Director, Accreditation, Assessment and Learning

2016 Survey FAQs

1. What is university climate?

Susan Rankin, Ph.D., of Rankin & Associates Consulting, which is serving as the outside consultant for Kent State University’s climate survey, defines university 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.

2. Why is a positive climate important?

Rankin’s research maintains that positive personal experiences with university climate and positive perceptions of university 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 Kent State University conducting a climate survey?

The idea to conduct a university 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 Kent State University climate.

4. How is the climate survey different from other assessments that have recently been done?

How is the climate survey different from other assessments that have recently been done at Kent State University such as the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey, Great Colleges to Work For survey, National Survey of Student Engagement, etc.?

There are three primary differences. First, this is the only assessment that focuses on university climate; while other assessments may ask occasional climate-related questions, they are not comprehensive climate assessments. Second, this assessment involves gathering input from all students, faculty and staff rather than focusing on just one or two groups.  This will allow us to understand climate from various perspectives on campus. Finally, the assessment is being conducted across all of the Kent State campuses, providing a comprehensive analysis of the university.

5. Who will be conducting the survey?

The Climate Study Steering Committee (CSSC), which includes a cross section of Kent State University students, faculty and staff, is charged with overseeing Kent State’s climate survey. After a review of potential vendors, the committee selected Rankin & Associates Consulting to conduct the survey. Rankin & Associates reports directly to the committee. Although the CSSC will regularly update the Kent State community about its progress, the committee — in consultation with Rankin & Associates — is solely responsible for the development, implementation and interpretation of the survey and its results. Susan Rankin (Rankin & Associates Consulting) is the consultant working directly with the CSSC on this project. 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. Rankin has conducted multilocation institutional climate studies at more than 130 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).

6. Why was a non-Kent State University researcher selected for the 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 survey administration. The administration of a survey relating to a very sensitive subject like campus climate is likely to yield higher response rates and provide more credible findings if led by an independent, outside agency. Members of a university community may feel particularly inhibited to respond honestly to a survey administered by their own institution for fear of retaliation.

7. How were the questions developed?

The consultant has administered climate assessments to more than 130 institutions across the nation and developed a repository of tested questions. To assist in contextualizing the survey for Kent State University, and to capitalize on the many assessment efforts already undertaken, the CSSC was formed and consists of faculty, staff and student representatives from various constituent groups at Kent State. The committee is responsible for developing the survey questions. The team will review selected survey questions from the consultant’s tested collection, and will also include Kent State-specific questions, which will be informed by the focus group results.

8. 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.”

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

The primary investigator from Kent State University for the IRB process is Wayne Schneider, director of Institutional Research at Kent State. An IRB application will be submitted for the project. Once the project is approved, the survey will be administered.

10. What will be done with data from the results?

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

11. What is the response rate goal?

Target participation in the survey is 100 percent. Every response matters and is valuable in providing the most beneficial feedback and results.

12. 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 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.

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 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 consultant and university 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, and the university 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 (student, staff or faculty) — and can skip any other questions they consider to be uncomfortable. Paper and pencil surveys are also available and will be sent directly to the consultant.

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.

13. 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 percent. The committee will review draft reports and provide feedback to the consultant prior to public release.

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

Kent State 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 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 Consulting project coordinator Susan Rankin will have access to the raw data along with several Rankin & Associates data analysts. 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 130 institutional surveys and maintains an aggregate merged database. The data from the Kent State 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.

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

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

The survey will be administered to all faculty, staff and students at Kent State University. Climate exists in microclimates, 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, Kent State collects population data on gender and race/ethnicity, but not on disability status or sexual orientation. So a sample approach could miss many groups.

16. What is the timeline?

This initiative will include five primary phases. The first will involve the conduct of focus groups (spring 2015); survey development (spring 2015), survey implementation that will seek input from all faculty, staff and students (spring 2016), reporting of results (fall 2016), development of strategic actions (fall 2016) and initial implementation of actions (2016-17).

Feedback

Your questions and comments are very important as we move through this process. Please share by contacting one of the Climate Study Steering Committee Co-Chairs.

  • Kathryn Wilson, Ph.D.
    Professor of Economics
    330-672-1093
    kwilson3@kent.edu    

  • Shay Davis Little, Ph.D.
    Special Assistant to the President
    330-672-4050
    sdlittle@kent.edu