Campus climate survey timeline to be solidified soon
A proposed campus climate survey will likely not be conducted until next fall or winter, college spokesperson Justin Anderson said. Anderson said the Office of the Provost will be involved in the survey, with incoming provost Carolyn Dever leading the survey’s implementation.

The request for such a survey has been voiced numerous times at the College, and was listed among other proposals in the “Freedom Budget,” which called for “continuous external reviews” of the College focusing on racism, classism, ableism and heterosexism. Following the sit-in of College President Phil Hanlon’s office last month, a document signed by protestors and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson included an agreement to conduct a survey and release the results publicly by 2016. The extent to which internal or external actors will be involved in the survey is not yet clear, Anderson said. Many details of the survey — and a firm timeline for its implementation — have yet to be formulated, as the College awaits the findings of an ongoing Title IX investigation. Anderson said investigators have often suggested specific requirements for such surveys at other schools. Anderson also highlighted the need to more fully understand the suggestions for conducting such surveys contained in a report by White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault  released last month. The 20-page report urged schools to conduct campus climate surveys in the coming year. Anderson also cited a desire to wait for Dever’s arrival. “The worst thing we could do is dive right into this and get going and then realize we would have to do it again,” Anderson said. “The thinking that has gone into this to date has led to the decision that we should wait until the optimal date.” The newly elected Student Assembly leadership has also called for assessments of campus climate. In a budget proposal, student body president Casey Dennis ’15 and vice president Frank Cunningham ’16 listed, among other objectives, a desire to form a task force on campus climate that would create and distribute quarterly surveys. “These studies allow us to know what the students truly want us to focus on, what issues they feel are the most serious to our campus,” Cunningham said. Dennis and Cunningham requested $4,000 for the initiative. The Undergraduate Finance Committee allocated the Assembly $40,000 of its requested $70,500, so it will likely be unable to spend the full $4,000 on the task force, Dennis wrote in an email. Many peer institutions have already conducted or moved toward conducting such surveys. This month, Yale University deputy provost Stephanie Spangler announced that Yale would be conducting a quantitative survey of campus climate during the 2014-15 academic year. Yale previously released a qualitative report on campus climate in 2011. Of schools that conduct such surveys, not all choose to release data publicly. A recent report by Amherst College’s Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Assault drew on internal survey data in addition to public assessments, committee member and Amherst senior Liya Rechtman said. “Our head of institutional research was terrific and really knew how to explain and contextualize the data for our focus groups,” Rechtman said. At Tufts University, students are awaiting a campus climate survey that will be partially based on the suggestions of a student-faculty task force, said Tufts junior Annie Goodman, who has been involved in activism surrounding the issue of campus sexual assault. The survey would serve as an accountability mechanism and demonstrate the wide-reaching impact of sexual assault, she said. “I think the survey is an important way to reinforce what we’re saying and show that the issue is not a little pet-project of a small portion of the student body,” Goodman said. “It impacts everyone.” While the White House has primarily focused on the issue of sexual assault as the impetus for recommending campus climate surveys, many institutions have used such surveys to address a variety of issues. Reed College in Oregon conducted a survey in fall 2012 that broadly addressed the institution’s academic and social experience, and in March the University of California system released the largest university climate study in the country, which addressed similar issues. The suggestion of a campus climate survey has been raised at the College in previous years. In November 2013, the College’s Committee on Student Safety and Accountability recommended in a nine-page report that Dartmouth “partner with external social science experts to perform a methodologically rigorous and data driven campus study.” “This is something that has been part of the discussion for quite some time,” Anderson said. Previous calls have embraced a broad approach. In its November report, COSSA recommended that the College address a number of factors, including the impact of race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status on campus, and review the ways in which Greek organizations affect campus.
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