Conducting Campus Climate Surveys (and What to Expect)

By: CLC Staff

Conducting Campus Climate Surveys (and What to Expect)How safe do our students feel? And what can we do to make them feel safer? A campus survey is a great way to answer those questions and to see how your policies translate to real-life experiences.

We recently covered some great resources available to student affairs professionals that can inform campus policy and procedures. While some of these resources are legally mandated, it is just as important for institutions to engage in voluntary practices that reveal students’ experiences and attitudes on campus, specifically in regard to Title IX.

Issues to address in the Title IX survey

There are a number of topics that should be included in a good campus survey; we need to evaluate not only students’ opinions of the campus climate as it relates to Title IX but also their depth of knowledge about all the procedures that are in place to ensure their safety and freedom from discrimination.

At many schools, especially larger ones, it’s quite likely that sizeable numbers of the student body aren’t very familiar with the Title IX policies at their own institutions; these are policies that would become crucial should students find themselves in the middle of a sexual misconduct case. If many students seem to be confused about basic Title IX policies, or do not know them at all, staff should consider rewriting them in simpler language and making them more visible to the student body.

Peter Lake Discusses Assessing Campus Culture and Title IX Compliance

Some other important issues to consider addressing in a survey:

  • The prevalence of unwanted sexual contact on and off campus, and the circumstances under which it occurs
  • The experiences of students who have been involved in a campus sexual misconduct case
  • The “accessibility” of school staff, particularly those responsible for enforcing Title IX on campus

Student-school relationship

A campus climate survey presents the chance to poll students on their perceptions of the staff and faculty and of how easy (or hard) it is to work with them to resolve issues. Surveys might ask whether the students feel the institution is transparent enough with its data or any Title IX legal cases in which it may be involved. Students may offer their opinions on the effectiveness of the present staff and the staff’s responsiveness toward problems identified in these surveys or by other means.

The results of these questions should prompt review not only of your staff and its structure but also of the way in which your institution handles the information that is available to it. Students should feel well informed and that their opinions hold the weight they deserve; if many do not, it may be time to take a hard look at the actions at your school and determine what can be changed in order to make this fair representation a reality.

Dealing with campus survey results

It’s important to remember that when it comes to matters of Title IX and sexual misconduct on campus, an institution could take every precaution, follow every piece of legislation and guidance, and do everything foreseeable to prevent offensive incidents from occurring, and there will still be issues that arise or individuals who do not feel satisfied with the state of campus policies and procedures. Sexual violence is a huge issue, one that is bound by many factors; a school may be unable to alter certain policies because of state and federal laws or unable to share all the information in a negatively publicized case.

When examining the results of a campus survey, student affairs professionals must keep the big picture in mind. Staff should always be open to revisions, but sweeping policy changes should be undertaken only given sufficient evidence. In such cases, schools may choose to form Title IX committees, which can conduct further research through the use of focus groups in order to pinpoint the issues at hand and how to address them.

Campus administrators and Title IX professionals should always be as informed as possible in their pursuit of the best institutional environment, and a campus climate survey is just one of the important resources in your pocket to use in striving for a safe and happy school.

Have you set up a campus survey before? Do you have any suggestions or resources to add? Share in the comments below.

Sources: Dunnewold, Mary. “Campus Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures: When Should a School Revise?” NACUA, November 25, 2015. Web.

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