Frequently Asked Questions

Share Your Voice - The USF Climate Assessment

Students, faculty, and staff suggested that an assessment/survey could help us improve the climate at USF. This campus climate initiative has the support and commitment of USF’s senior leadership.

Campus climate is defined by the current attitudes, behaviors, standards, and practices of employees and students. The climate is often shaped through personal experiences, perceptions, and institutional efforts.

USF’s Campus Climate Working Group, in consultation with Rankin & Associates Consulting, developed, conducted, and interpreted the survey. The working group acted independently of USF senior leadership.

The working group was composed of 25 members, including faculty, staff, and students, drawn from every sector of the university and from every job level. The group members were chosen for their diversity, their varied opinions, and their commitment to USF. Click here for a complete list of the working group members.

USF had an initial internal work-group (Campus Climate Survey Task Force, made up of many of the members of the current Campus Climate Working Group) whose charge included assessing what the university had done prior, research and review possible survey instruments available, and to make a recommendation to the Provost on their discoveries. The recommendation included the need for USF to engage in a comprehensive campus climate process, and that Rankin & Associates was a viable option because of their successful track record. The Provost made the decision to contract with Rankin & Associates to facilitate with and for USF.

For more information about Rankin & Associates, please visit Dr. Susan Rankin, who worked directly with the working group on this project, is an emeritus faculty member of Education Policy Studies and College Student Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University and a senior research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. She has extensive experience in institutional climate assessment and climate transformation based on data-driven action. Dr. Rankin has conducted climate studies at more than 170 institutions across the country, including six other Jesuit campuses. Rankin & Associates assists campuses in identifying current successful initiatives as well as suggesting challenges that need to be addressed.

Dr. Dan Merson, who also worked directly with the working group on this project, studies college student success, college environments, and STEM education. He most recently served in a fixed term capacity as an assistant professor of Higher Education and a research associate with the Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education at The Pennsylvania State University. He currently consults on campus climate assessment with Rankin & Associates Consulting, and provides professional methodological consulting and support to researchers and graduate students. He received his Ph.D. in Higher Education from Penn State, following degrees from The University of Michigan and Kansas State University, as well as several years of professional experience in student services and academic affairs.

We needed an objective assessment conducted by an outside party. A survey on a sensitive subject like campus climate is likely to yield higher response rates and provide more credible findings if led by an independent, outside agency. Members of a community may, out of fear of retaliation, not respond honestly to a survey implemented and analyzed by their own institution.

The working group created the questions in consultation with Rankin & Associates. Rankin & Associates has developed a repository of tested questions from which the working group chose. The group then tailored those and created additional individual questions to create a USF-specific survey. The working group also drew from the USF campus-climate focus groups and consulted contributions from the many climate-assessment efforts already completed at USF.

The primary investigator from USF for the IRB process is Jeff Hamrick, vice provost for Institutional Budget, Planning, and Analytics. An IRB application was submitted for the project and after the project was approved, the survey was administered. Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Shirley McGuire oversaw the IRB process.

34% of USF students, faculty, and staff participated in the survey.

The working group and Rankin & Associates took multiple steps to protect confidentiality. Confidentiality in participation was maintained to the highest degree permitted by the survey technology used, which included a firewalled web server with forced 256-bit SSL security. In publications and presentations released since, no personally identifiable information has been shared. Identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments have been redacted and USF has only received these redacted comments.

Participation in the survey was completely voluntary, and participants skipped any questions they did not wish to answer. Paper-and-pencil surveys were also available, and survey responses were sent directly to Rankin & Associates. The introduction to the survey described the manner in which confidentiality was ensured, and additional communication to participants provided expanded information on the nature of confidentiality, possible threats to confidentiality, and procedures developed to ensure de-identification of data.

Rankin & Associates’ final report included an executive summary; a report narrative of the significant findings based on cross tabulations; frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations of quantitative data; and content analysis of the textual data. The report provided high-level summaries of the findings identify themes found in the data. Generalizations for populations are limited to those groups or subgroups with response rates of at least 30%. The working group reviewed draft reports and provided feedback related to readability to Rankin & Associates prior to public release.

A population survey — administered to all students, faculty, and staff at each USF campus — is the best way to ensure that all voices are heard. If we used random sampling, we might have “missed” particular populations where numbers are small (e.g., Native American students). In addition, randomized stratified sampling is not used because we do not have population data on most identities. For example, USF collects population data on gender and race/ethnicity, but not on disability status or sexual orientation, so a sample approach could miss many groups.

USF’s Center for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness (CIPE) will create sub-reports for the university’s five schools and colleges as well as for the Division of Student Life and Strategic Enrollment Management. These sub-reports will be posted on the Campus Climate homepage as they are completed.

CIPE is focused on creating sub-reports in 2019-2020 so additional data requests will be difficult to fulfill. However, a data assist request can be filed with CIPE and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. All requests must be for internal use. If the request is intended to support a research project that will be published, IRB processes must be followed.

No. We have agreed, both as a community and with Rankin & Associates, to only provide visual and tabular summaries of data in order to prevent identification of survey responses from specific individuals. Similarly, many of the open-ended survey questions generated comments that would allow specific individuals to be identified.

Further Questions?

Your questions and comments are very important as we continue through this process. Please share by contacting working group co-chair Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi at