On October 4th - the Executive summary will be made available to the campus Community, October 9th there will be 3 Open forums where Rankin & Associates will share the Study Results.
Dr. Susan Rankin of Rankin & Associates Consulting, which is serving as the outside consultant for Saint Joseph’s University 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.
The open forums will take place on:
- Tuesday, 10/9, 11am – 12:30pm
- Tuesday, 10/9, 2 – 3:30pm
- Tuesday, 10/9, 4 – 5:30pm
In 2017, Saint Joseph's University contracted with Rankin & Associates Consulting (R&A) to conduct a campus-wide study entitled “Saint Joseph’s University Assessment of Climate for Learning, Living and Working.”
The experiences and perceptions of various constituent groups will be presented by Rankin & Associates during three open community forums. All are welcome to attend these 90 minute presentations.
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.
The Office of Inclusion and Diversity and the President’s Council on Inclusion and Diversity have been charged with assessing the current state of equity and inclusion on campus. The climate study will provide insight into the learning, working and living environment on campus for students, faculty and staff, and findings will inform strategies to make tangible improvements to the climate.
The Climate Survey Working Group (CSWG) is charged with conducting Saint Joseph’s University’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, and the CSWG will regularly update Saint Joseph’s University 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.
Dr. Susan Rankin (Rankin & Associates Consulting) is the consultant working directly with us on this project. 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).
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 college community may feel particularly inhibited to respond honestly to a survey administered by their own institution for fear of retaliation.
The consultant has administered climate assessments to more than 190 institutions across the nation and developed a repository of tested questions. To assist in contextualizing the survey for Saint Joseph’s University and to capitalize on the many assessment efforts already undertaken, the CSWG was formed. 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 Saint Joseph’s University-specific questions which will be informed by results from focus groups.
The primary investigator from Saint Joseph’s University for the IRB process is Jim Grasell, Director of Institutional Research, at Saint Joseph’s University. The climate study project was submitted and reviewed by the Saint Joseph’s Research Compliance Coordinator, found to meet exemption criteria set forth in federal regulations and not subject to Institutional Review Board approval.
Although the committee believes the survey process itself is informative, we have sought and received commitment from the senior leaders that data will be used to plan for an improved climate at Saint Joseph’s University. All stakeholders – faculty, staff, and students – will be invited to participate in the development of post-survey action items.
The target participation in the survey is 100% of the students, faculty, and staff at Saint Joseph’s University. Every response matters and is valuable in providing the most beneficial feedback and results.
It is important in campus climate research for survey participants to see themselves in response choices to prevent marginalizing 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. 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.”
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 college 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 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; 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. 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.
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 committee will review draft reports and provide feedback to the consultant prior to public release.
Saint Joseph’s 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 Dr. 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 190 institutional surveys and maintains an aggregate merged database. The data from the Saint Joseph’s University 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 the primary investigator with a data file at the completion of the project. The data will be held in accordance with the confidentiality offered in #11 and #13 in this document.
The survey will be administered to all students, faculty and staff at Saint Joseph’s University. Climate exists in micro-climates, so creating opportunities to maximize participation and opportunities to reach moniroty populations are important. Along these lines, consultants have recommended not using random sampling as to avoid missing smaller populations. Since one goal of the project is inclusiveness and allowing invisible perspectives to be shared, this sampling technique is not used. In addition, randomized stratified sampling is not used because population data does not exist for most identities. For example, Saint Joseph’s University collects population data on gender and race/ethnicity, but not on sexual orientation, so a sample approach could miss many groups.
This initiative will include several primary phases. The first will involve focus groups (fall 2017), survey development (fall 2017), survey implementation that will seek input from all students, faculty, and staff at Saint Joseph’s University (spring 2018), and reporting of results (fall 2018).
Your questions and comments are very important as we move through this process. Please share by contacting the chair of the Climate Study Working Group, Dr. Kim Allen-Stuck at Kallen@sju.edu or 610.660.1339.