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Campus Climate Surveys for Community Colleges

older student photoWhen going about conducting a campus climate survey, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account. Community colleges have special considerations in the administration of their campus climate surveys. Issues surrounding student demographics and resources can all affect the success and results of your survey. These considerations and differences do not make conducting a campus climate survey on a college campus impossible nor useless. Understanding these differences enable you to make the changes necessary to cater your survey to your particular institutions needs.

Student Demographics

Community colleges have a different student body makeup than that of a traditional 4-year college or university. One of the biggest mistakes you could make while conducting a campus climate survey on a community college campus is to assume that all of your students are the same.

To make sure that you are able to understand your survey results within the context of your different student groups, make sure to ask distinguishing questions, as well a questions that would only apply to those particular students. This can be accomplished by placing skip-questions strategically within your survey; that way, students only answer questions that directly apply to them. Here are a few student types that require special consideration.

Part-time students

Community colleges generally have more part-time students than they do full time students. This differs from more traditional colleges where there is a sizable student population that resides on campus and have more full-time students. When surveying, make sure to take their status into account. Part-time and full-time students may have different experiences on campus. For example, part-time students may be more likely to take night classes to make room for their work schedules and therefore get a different perspective of campus than day students.

2-year degrees

Campus climate surveys are meant to be administered every two years or so. This timeline is useful to see trends over time; conduct the surveys too frequently and it becomes harder to see the effect of policy changes or opinions. The fact that a lot of community college students pursue 2-year degrees means that many students will not be able to participate in a second survey. If many of your community college’s students are pursuing 2-year degrees, it may not make sense to follow up with students for future surveys.

Collecting information from 2-year degree students can still yield useful information even if you won’t be able to follow up with them again in subsequent years, as is the case with 4 year students, which allows for multiple opportunities to survey. In a way, you can use this to your advantage; every two years the majority of your students will be giving you a fresh and potentially less biased data of their experiences on your campus.

Older Students

Community college students tend to have a broader age range and educational backgrounds vs. traditional 4 year colleges and universities.  Make sure that the survey instrument allows for skip/branch logic so certain questions can be skipped if it does not apply to older student demographic.

Commuters

Community colleges see a fair number of students who commute to school. Commuters do not spend the same amount of time on campus, especially at night. They most likely do not live in the campus dorms, where many instances of sexual assault occur. While sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime, commuters may not be the most helpful group to understanding campus climate. Make sure to ask distinguishing questions to sort answers from those that live on campus and those that don’t.

Community class members

Those involved in community classes are not considered enrolled students. However, they are important to survey because they interact with the campus as well. The problem with community class members is that they may not be involved in the campus awareness campaigns related to the campus climate surveys and may end up not participating in the campus climate survey. Community college’s campus climate survey questionnaire should include demographic questions that allow for segmenting the results by this group.  Your college may wish to forego surveying community class members and focus only on enrolled students, demographic questions can help you make sure of inclusion/exclusion.

Resources

The second biggest distinguisher between traditional 4 year universities and community colleges is resources. Community colleges may not have the funding or research teams that are often considered necessary to conduct a successful campus climate survey. However, do not let your funding or campus resources discourage you. Campus climate surveys can be conducted on budgets and with non-social science research teams.

Lack of funds

Community colleges often work with tight funds. Conducting a full campus climate survey can be an expensive project. For campuses with tight funding, hiring outside consulting teams may make economical sense, especially if you do not want to pay for surveying packages and statistical programs. Fortunately, most colleges have access to at least one of these types of programs, one of the biggest costs of conducting and analyzing a survey.

Other ways to save funds would be to assemble a small but competent team to create and conduct the survey. Besides having a small team, the survey may need to be shortened at first to save money on surveying costs. A small, concisely written survey is better than not administering a survey at all.

No research teams

Not all community colleges have research departments. This is especially relevant to trade and vocational schools who likely do not have the social science research skills or departments often used to conduct campus climate survey. The good thing is that a research department or school of social science is not necessary to conduct a successful campus climate survey. The lack of these main resources just means your college must get more creative with who they pick to create the survey. Research skills transfer into many disciplines, and there are bound to be students or faculty at your community college qualified for the job.

Conclusions

Conducting and administering a campus climate survey to a community college poses its own unique challenges, but it is not an impossible project. With the proper preparations and considerations taken into account, your survey can be successful and bring about valuable information about your campus.

 

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Photo by COD Newsroom  "New Student Orientation"

Campus Climate Surveys: What to Expect in 2016

campus climate survey for 20162016 is a big year for Campus Climate Surveys and legislation. The surveys aims to give institutions the opportunity to better understand their campus and to make informed decisions about how to create and improve the safety of their educational environment. Recently, the US Senate Hearing 7.29.15 addressed the official bill The Campus Accountability and Safety Act. With that, the White House Task Force is adamant about cracking down on sexual assault and violences on campus.  With that, this upcoming year Campus Climate Surveys will potentially be federally mandated for all colleges and universities.

The first step in solving a problem is to name it and know the extent of it -- and a campus climate survey is the best way to do that. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

Several states like California and New York have already adopted these surveys and other policies like “Yes Means Yes”. This is a standard that requires affirmative consent — affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity — throughout the encounter, removing ambiguity for both parties. With these two proactive states leading the way, the Campus Climate Surveys surveys will soon be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.  So what do these tests entail?

They compromise student and employee knowledge about:

    • The Title IX Coordinator’s role;
    • Campus policies and procedures addressing sexual assault;
    • How and where to report sexual violence as a victim/survivor or witness;
    • The availability of resources on and off campus, such as counseling, health, academic assistance;
    • The prevalence of victimization and perpetration of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on and off campus during a set time period (for example, the last two years);
    • Bystander attitudes and behavior;
    • Whether victims/survivors reported to the College/University and/or police, and reasons why they did or did not report.
    • The general awareness of the difference, if any, between the institution’s policies and the penal law; and
    • The general awareness of the definition of affirmative consent.

With the topics being brought to light in the college community, many people will now be educated  about the basics of sexual assaults and what to do if involved. Many people remain unaware about the severity and frequency of sexual assaults. So, the surveys are an excellent tool in providing “education” to people who would otherwise be blind to an offensive and serious situation.

Surveys May Hold Problems Clearing Areas Of Ambiguity

The surveys seem invaluable but, there are also challenges like areas of ambiguity for the utilization and implementation of them. It is unclear for what purpose a climate survey would be used: “Is it intended as a consumer information tool, an institutional improvement tool, an enforcement mechanism or some combination of all three?” The answer to this question could have a substantial impact on how a survey is designed and on how schools and others react to its results.

However, the plausibility of how these tests results can impact schools across the nation is incremental and erases many doubts. But, the usage and implementation continues to be questioned. As legislation improved and becomes widespread, we will begin to see change in colleges and universities. California and New York provide proof that Campus Climate Surveys and “Yes Means Yes” legislation can work and be properly enforced.

Forerunners New York and California Enact 2015-16 Bills

New York and California are two out of fifty states to enact “Yes Means Yes” legislation requiring Campus Climate Surveys and legislation against sexual assault state-wide. As these forerunners continue to implement their policies, they set an example for the rest of the states to follow.

State by state Campus Climate Survey requirements as of Dec 2015

The leader of the pack, California created a standard in 2014 that requires affirmative consent throughout the encounter, removing ambiguity for both parties. The law protects both individuals by ensuring that there is a mutual understanding. Legislation deems a person who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent. With this legislation, California colleges are being held more accountable for prevention, evaluation and a consistent protocol surrounding sexual assault.

New York’s Campus Climate Assessment Policy gives institutions the opportunity to increasingly understand their campus and to make informed decisions when it comes to providing a safe educational environment. Beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year, each State University of New York State-operated and community college will conduct a uniform climate survey that ascertains student experience with and knowledge of reporting and college adjudicatory processes for sexual harassment, including sexual violence, and other related crimes.

With these states creating the standard, Affirmative Consent laws and policies are making their way through the states. To Keep updated with continuing legislation, here is an updated list of Title IX Schools under investigation for Sexual Assault by the US Department of Education.

Affirmative consent legislation isn’t just about the more than 20 percent of young women and girls who will have to live as assault survivors. It’s about the 100 percent of women who have to live every day, never quite certain of their physical safety. Research shows that with affirmative consent education, we can create a culture of respect.”