Last Wednesday, the college released the Campus Climate Survey – a survey that is over 30 questions – which aims to assess “climate” on campus. Climate is defined as “current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of employees and students concerning the access for, inclusion of, and level of respect for individual and group needs, abilities, and potential.” We at the Phoenix believe that this survey has glaring issues both in content and form and will serve to be largely ineffective at making an accurate and comprehensive assessment of campus “climate.”
First, a survey that takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, asks over 30 questions,
and primes respondents with a caveat regarding potential triggers is an ineffective means of grasping a holistic understanding of the campus climate given the self-selection bias that this will cause. The only people to respond to this survey will be those members of our community who feel most strongly about this issue, thereby neglecting the opinions a large swath of the campus population.
Furthermore, insofar the survey asks several questions regarding discrimination on the grounds of abilities and English language proficiency, one must wonder how the members of our community who are most affected by these issues are expected to respond. The individuals with the largest stake in such concerns may unintentionally be left out of this survey altogether.
We also found it puzzling that a study assessing inherently social issues such as “inclusion,” “respect,” and “group needs,” somehow fails to include any questions regarding social life on campus and the dynamics of social spaces such as the dorms, the fraternities, event spaces, and Sharples.
Additionally, the survey’s dozens of questions get to a level of detail about the identity of the respondent that is concerning at a school the size of Swarthmore. The survey asks for the respondent’s class year, gender, sexuality, race, academic major, dorm, and any organizations or activities that they might be a part of. At an institution with 1,534 students, it seems incredibly likely that an administrator reviewing survey responses could easily identify the individual respondent based on their responses to these questions of objective demographic factors. Given that many of the questions on the survey handle intimate issues of identity, sexual assault, bullying, and physical violence, it seems incredibly inappropriate that the college could conceivably put a name to a survey response that was given under the pretenses of anonymity.
The survey was prepared by Rankin & Associates Consultants, a firm which works to create surveys used by a number of colleges and universities to assess various aspects of campus life. Simply googling Rankin & Associates Consultants reveals a message on their website, which states, “Greetings world we are moroccan hackers. We will Inshalaah with The help of Many Muslim Hackers Take You Off From The InterneT ! Your Credit Cards…” Insofar as the survey is asking incredibly intimate questions about individuals who can easily be identified, one must be curious about how safely this information being guarded.
For all of these reasons, we feel that the Campus Climate Survey is a poor attempt at accurately gauging “climate” on campus, and we encourage the administration to pursue other means of assessing issues of community, diversity, and respect in the context of the entire Swarthmore community.