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.
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
- Shay Davis Little, Ph.D.
Interim Vice President,
Division of Student Affairs
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