Five lessons learned from administering a campus climate survey

Topics: Student Affairs, Student Health and Wellness, Sexual Health and Conduct

This is a preview of restricted content.

  • If you are an EAB member, please log in.
  • If you are logged in and still see this message, the content is outside your membership portfolio, and we invite you to learn more by contacting us.
  • If you are not an EAB member and wish to learn more, please contact us.
Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander, Consultant

EAB's Student Affairs Forum just wrapped up a successful pilot of its sexual violence campus climate survey. Twenty-nine institutions in the U.S. and Canada administered the survey during the spring 2015 semester and over 30,000 students responded. Reflecting on the pilot experience, we learned five valuable lessons that may help your institution navigate the campus climate survey process.

Lesson 1. Engage Survey Stakeholders Early

Implementing a campus climate survey can be a lengthy process. A key factor that may delay the process is getting campus leadership to agree to a particular climate survey instrument. To overcome this barrier, proactively identify campus stakeholders who should have a voice in the survey effort. Ask:

  • Who makes the final decision about implementing the survey?
  • Who will access the survey results to inform prevention and response on campus?
  • Who will be impacted if more students make reports or seek support as a result of the survey?
  • Who has influence with campus leadership to successfully promote the survey?

In a meeting or over email, share the background, purpose, and timeline of the climate survey. Ask for feedback about the timeline to ensure it doesn't conflict with exam periods and the administration of other surveys. Strategize with stakeholders about building campus awareness of the survey and request their help in promoting the survey to students. After an initial meeting or email conversation, periodically update the group about the survey timeline.

Lesson 2. Build in Plenty of Time for Survey Review and Approval

Almost every institution will require that the climate survey is reviewed and approved by the school’s research ethics committee (IRB or REB). Your IRB or REB may only meet once every month or two. If you miss this window, you may need to wait until the next review period. Once the survey is under review, it can take several weeks or even months to receive approval. Your IRB or REB may also request changes before giving approval.

Consider these tips for navigating the approval process:

  • Start the process early
  • Know your IRB or REB timeline
  • Follow up regularly with the IRB or REB chair
  • Keep survey stakeholders informed of any delay in the survey launch timeline

Lesson 3. Prepare the Campus Community for the Survey

Communicating the importance of the climate survey and how the survey results will be used is critical to getting students’ buy-in and driving a strong response rate. Promote the climate survey on campus at least two weeks before inviting students to take the survey. Different strategies to raise campus awareness include:

  • On-campus press release
  • Link on the campus intranet
  • Article in the student newspaper
  • Poster campaign on campus
  • Meeting with key student leaders
  • Social media campaign that includes student leaders and cross-campus offices

Lesson 4. The Better the Incentives, the Better the Response Rate

Today's higher education institutions are surveying students more than ever before. Establishing a plan and offering attractive incentives are essential to overcoming survey fatigue.

Lesson 5. Broadly Share Campus Climate Survey Findings

Once you have the results in hand, the challenge is how to best use this wealth of information. Because there are many decisions to be made about how to communicate and use the climate survey data, we recommend you develop a data use strategy prior to receiving the survey results.

We recommend sharing high-level survey findings with the campus community and the public. This can be easily done by posting the findings on your institution’s sexual misconduct website. Not only will this drive website traffic, but the findings can be contextualized within the policies, supports, and resources that the institution provides. Direct the campus community to the findings through a student newspaper article, social media posts, announcements from student leaders, and the other channels you used to promote the climate survey.