IC Campus Climate Survey FAQs

General Climate Assessment Questions

The campus climate survey will open on October 17, 2023 and will remain open for responses until November 14, 2023. 

  • Climate is defined as current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as Ithaca College’s environment and policies, which influence the level of respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential. 

  • It is well researched that the campus climate influences the levels to which students, faculty, and staff members thrive. For example, when students feel they have a “sense of belonging,” they report higher levels of perceived academic success and are more likely to persist. Contrarily, if students experience microaggressions or biases, they are more likely to consider leaving. 

Confidentiality Questions

Participation in the survey is voluntary. Additionally, participants do not have to answer every question and can skip any questions they consider uncomfortable. 

  • 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 (PII) 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 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, and participants do not have to answer any question 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. 

  • Rankin Climate uses 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 SaaS hosting platforms are SOC2. The firewall is via Next-Gen FortiGate Firewall. Data is stored in a SQL database which can only be accessed by VPN via authorized personnel only. Our encryption for communication is via HTTPS TLS 1.2. Rankin Climate associates working on the project will have access to the raw data. All Rankin Climate analysts have CITI (Human Subjects) training and approval and have worked on similar projects for other institutions. The server performs an hourly and daily back up and stores the back up on a separate context offsite for safety. 

  • The consultant has conducted more than 250 institutional surveys and maintains an aggregate merged database. The data from the Ithaca College 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. 

Assessment Process Questions

  • This past spring, Campus Climate Survey committee leaders reviewed the results from our most recent survey, in 2016. This fall, the full committee constructed the new survey instrument and submitted it, along with an overall proposal, to the college’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). 

  • In October, we will administer the campus-wide survey. 

  • Behind the scenes, our consultant, Rankin Climate, will also be working with the Climate Study Working Group to contextualize findings. 

  • Next spring and summer, we will conduct data analysis and begin to develop the report. 

  • Results will be presented in the fall and that will be the start of our Action Planning so that the lessons we learn throughout the process can be acted upon. 

Rankin Climate, our consultant, developed a repository of tested questions from administering climate assessments at more than 250 institutions across the nation. To assist in contextualizing the survey for Ithaca College, and to capitalize on the many assessment efforts already undertaken, the Climate Survey Work Group (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 Ithaca College-specific questions which will be informed by the focus group results. 

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.” 

The survey will be administered to all students at Ithaca College. Climate exists in micro-climates, so creating opportunities to maximize participation is important as well as maximizing opportunities to reach minority populations. Along these lines, the consultant has recommended not using random sampling as we may “miss” particular populations where numbers are very small (e.g., Native American students). Since one goal of the project is inclusiveness and allowing invisible “voices” to be heard, this sampling technique is not used. In addition, randomized stratified sampling is not used because we do not have population data on most identities. For example, Ithaca College collects population data on gender identity and racial identity, but not on disability status or sexual identity. A sample approach could miss many groups. 

The target participation in the survey is all students, faculty, and staff at Ithaca College. Every response matters and is valuable in providing the most beneficial feedback and results. 

If adding your voice to this important project is not enough reason, a number of exciting incentives might help. While all participants will be de-identified to make responses anonymous, participants can win a variety of prizes.  You have four weeks to participate and enter. The survey ends Tuesday, November 14.  

Employee incentives are:

  • $25 Grub Hub/Uber/Wegmans gift cards (25 total)
  • A package of 8 meal passes for Ithaca College Dining Halls (3 packages available)
  • IC merchandise packages (3 total)

If adding your voice to this important project is not enough reason, a number of exciting incentives might help. While all participants will be de-identified to make responses anonymous, participants can win a variety of prizes.  You have four weeks to participate and enter. The survey ends Tuesday, November 14.  

Student incentives are:

  • Nintendo Switch
  • Meta Quest
  • $500 K-House gift certificate
  • Air Pods
  • Dinner for five at the President's residence
  • Access to the President's parking spot for a week
  • Dinner with the Deans
  • $25 Grub Hub/Uber/Wegmans gift cards (75 total)
  • Round trip bus tickets to New York City
  • Unlimited printing (up to $500)
  • Blue parking pass (4 total)
  • Free transportation to class
  • 5 pairs of tickets to the Ithaca Center for Theatre and Dance
  • IC merchandise package (7 total)

The consultant, Rankin Climate, 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 percent. The committee will review draft reports and provide feedback to the consultant prior to public release. 

  • The purpose of conducting the survey is to assess student, staff, and faculty sense of belonging and culture at Ithaca College and to identify successes and opportunities for improvement. 

  • The findings will serve as a guide when creating the action plan that accounts for the identified opportunities for improvement. 

  • 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 Ithaca College. 

Submitting the survey to the college’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) is an important step of the Campus Climate Survey project. There are several benefits to going through this process, even if the survey is considered to be "exempt" or "not human subjects research." First, it provides some assurance to potential participants that their responses to the survey will remain confidential. People who have participated in social science research may recognize and expect that the process has been reviewed by IRB. They may feel more comfortable sharing their confidential information and personal stories. Second, going through an IRB review provides some protections to the Principal Investigators (PIs) who will be entrusted with analyzing and managing the data, including both Rankin Climate and the institutional PIs. The expectation is that the data will not be shared with others, as designated in the data security plan. Finally, an IRB review provides some cache to the Survey in the eyes of those who conduct research professionally, such as faculty members and scientists. These individuals understand what an IRB review requires and the protections for the data to which research professionals commit. 

The primary investigator from IC for the IRB process is Claire Borch, Senior Associate Director for Institutional Research (Office of Analytics and Institutional Research). The IRB application was approved on September 25 (IRB #448). Please feel free to contact the IRB at irb@ithaca.edu with questions or concerns. 

Rankin-Related Questions

In reviewing efforts by other universities to conduct comprehensive culture 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 culture climate is likely to yield higher response rates and provide more credible findings if led by an independent, outside agency. Members of a campus community may feel particularly inhibited to respond honestly to a survey administered by their own institution for fear of retaliation. 

  • After a review of potential vendors, the Climate Survey Working Group selected Rankin Climate, LLC. 

  • Rankin Climate has been working with college campuses for 20 years and has conducted similar assessments on 230 college campuses nationwide.  

  • Rankin Climate 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. 

  • Their process is highly confidential and transparent. No protected data is used in the project.