Campus Climate Survey Questions Answered by S. Daniel Carter

Posted on 26 April 2016 |

campus climate survey questions answersIn March, higher education safety expert, S. Daniel Carter lent us his expertise for a webinar: What You Need to Know About Campus Climate Surveys.

He, along with Campus’ Answers Vice President of Content Sondra Solovay, explained the basics of conducting a campus climate survey and told us how the data collected can be used to inform institution-specific sexual violence prevention policies.

We received a lot of great questions from the webinar attendees, so we thought we would share Mr. Carter’s answers with you to help answer your questions about climate surveys.

Campus Climate Survey Q&A

Q: How important is it to do a survey if we are already doing training to prevent sexual assault?

A: The training is actually something that should be driven by the survey data. If you’re doing training, but you don’t have a way to measure the outcome across your campus community, you don’t necessarily know how to target the training or whether it’s effective or if you’re truly driving positive changes. The campus climate survey will give you those answers.

Q: What’s the benefit of using an online survey vs. other methods?

A: In-person survey programs have major challenges for confidentiality. I cannot imagine doing it any other way other than online. With the technology we have today, there is no reason to do it any other way, and students are most comfortable with online.

Q: How far in advance and what kind of outreach should you do for the students? And what about incentives to get people to participate?

A: One of the things you want to do is make sure everyone in the community knows the survey is coming, so I would recommend some type of marketing or PR campaign so you generate community buy-in, which can occur within the weeks or months before the surveying begins. You should send an email to inform participants on what the survey is, why it’s important and then ask them to participate.

As far as incentives, that’s going to be up to the institutions to decide. Will they be able to provide every participant with an incentive such as a $10 gift card? Or, do they want to have a lottery for a higher value where everyone who participates is put into a pool to receive a new iPad. There’s really not a one-size fits all approach.

Q: Can you explain more about why it’s important to have victimization estimates?

A: We need to look at that more broadly as the victimization and prevalence of incidents rates. Standard reporting under the Clery Act significantly understates the true scope of the challenge. You’re looking at over 2,000 incidents that resulted in 40 Clery reports. That’s because you have sexual violence, which has an adverse effect on the community in a much higher volume that the official data is showing.

Without that victimization data you don’t understand the full scope of the challenge that’s causing students to miss class, to drop out, causing tension in class. If you don’t know what’s out there your ship is going to run aground. OCR is going to come to your school, you’ll face lawsuits, there will be activist rallies and students are going to be suffering.

Q: How do you avoid offending people in the survey?

A: If you get very, very detailed about the types of penetration for example, that may offend some people. There are different schools of thought that, that level of detail is not absolutely needed.

We don’t know exactly what the best practices are yet. It’s still a relatively new process, and I think we are learning as we go how far you can take it. If you have less specific questions you may have greater participation, if you have more specific questions you’ll get a higher level of detail about certain types of offenses that are of particular concern, and it’s a trade off. 

Q: What’s the ideal length of a survey?

A: Survey fatigue is a significant challenge, and also one of the reasons you want to have the option for someone come back to the survey at a later time.

The Department of Justice report, “Campus Climate Survey Validation Study

Final Technical Report,” goes into detail about how long a survey should be, who drops off at what point, so I advise you to take a look at that. Currently, there isn’t a consensus on a set length.

Find More Information on Campus Climate Surveys

We want to thank S. Daniel Carter again for taking the time to participate in the webinar and answer questions. Also, if you’d like to watch the webinar in its entirety, it’s available to download here.

And finally, you can request a demo today to learn more about Campus Answers’ climate survey tool: a compact and highly customizable online tool that allows our clients to comply with federal best practices and certain state laws by gathering anonymous feedback from the campus community while providing vital analytics to stakeholders. 

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