Campus Climate Survey Q&A

Tim Caplan –News Editor

From March 19 to April 19 students at RIC have the opportunity to take part in the Campus Climate Survey. Vice President of Community, Equity and Diversity Anna Cano Morales sat down with the Anchor on Friday, March 22 to explain the survey in detail in hopes of familiarizing the student body, faculty and staff with the specifics of it.

The Anchor: What is the Campus Climate Survey?

Anna Cano Morales: The Campus Climate Survey is a comprehensive, first-ever survey of its kind that is being administered by Dr. Susan Rankin and Dr. Emil Cunningham with Rankin and Associates. They have been working with the Campus Climate Working Group, which is made up of a diverse membership from across the [RIC] campus. It’s a survey that really measures how people experience and feel while they are either students, staff or faculty here. It’s really for everything that happens at 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Rhode Island College: How are we doing? How do we feel? Do we feel engaged, embraced, affirmed? Do we feel threatened, harmed, excluded? It’s really taking the temperature of the campus community.

Whose decision was it to bring this to RIC?

Ultimately it was my decision, but it was made in consultation and with unanimous support from the president and the rest of the administration. The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) lists conducting campus climate surveys under their tenants of “Best Practices” to really hear from everyone on your campus about how things are happening.

How do you feel this survey will affect the campus climate of RIC?

Well first we need to ask questions, right? We’re information gathering, we’re doing as much listening as we possibly can. I can say as a former student here that this is new, culturally to RIC. The fact that we are asking questions about how people feel in particular programs, how they feel about working or living here if they’re a dorm resident, how they feel interacting with their campus police or the faculty and administration. It’s important because we start to gather this information and make some actual plans that we can jump into as soon as the survey is over. One of the things that Dr. Susan Rankin and Associates promised us is that this will be a transparent process, that the results will be actionable, and that we were going to be using an instrument that was very much tailored to RIC. This isn’t an off-the-shelf, cookie cutter, sort of 500 pages of downloaded copyrighted tool. When people say someone “wrote the book” on something, well, Susan Rankin pretty much wrote the book on campus culture in the United States, so we’re extremely lucky to be able to work with her, and at the same time very privileged to create our own home grown product.

Can you walk us through the process of the survey for those who don’t know?

Everyone received an email from the office of the president through their RIC account on Tuesday, March 19. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. The survey is now in a link that is on a server that is not at RIC, so it is 100 percent confidential and anonymous, the information is not shared at all with any of the administration. All of the information goes straight to a server at the University of Pennsylvania which is managed by Rankin and Associates. The survey takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The really big important question is the first one, which is “Who are you?” are you a student, are you part-time or full-time, are you a faculty member or staff?… Once you identify who you are, then the questions will be generated accordingly. There is also an open ended section after almost every series of questions to just type whatever you want, whether you think a question was stupid or irrelevant or “by the way I have alot to say about this issue and here’s what i want to say…We’re going to be doing incentives to take the survey which you can sign up for like gear giveaways, tickets to sports event, lunch at a local restaurant with President Sanchez…we also have a paper and pencil option if people feel like they want to do that instead of using a computer, Rachel Greenleaf in the Office of the Provost has those…there also will be computer lab space open across campus to take the survey in Human Recources as well as other computer labs that will be available to anyone who doesn’t have computer access.

When do you think you’ll have all of the information back from Rankin & Associates?

The survey will close April 19, giving participants 30 days… we will get preliminary themes in the early summer, I would say the end of May. Then there will be a series of community forums where the entire report will be delivered to this campus. One thing that’s very important to note is that before we entered into our contractual agreement with Susan Rankin, she had a very direct conversation with President Sanchez and myself in which she said that she only works in institutions with presidents that allow the results to be shared with the community before the presidents see the results. We will all see the results at the same time, and if the president does not agree to that, she won’t work with that institution.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the campus climate survey?

Just that I hope every single person will take 15 to 20 minutes to take it. The survey just went live on the 19th and so far enthusiasm is palpable…I’m very grateful to faculty and students who are using their own leadership positions to facilitate the taking of the survey, mentioning it in classes or clubs…Industry says we need 30 percent of students to take it for the results to be valid so we really want our participation rate to be competitive because we really want to compare our results to other peer institutions, so if it’s not we won’t have access to that other generalizable information.