Swarthmore Self-Study

The Swarthmore Survey on Learning, Working, and Living is intended to be one method of identifying how members perceive our community, the relationships between people and groups, and the sense of belonging each member experiences. We are aware that some in our community have concerns about the survey instrument and we want to address those concerns.

Last spring, members of the Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Committee recommended that the campus engage in an in-depth study of our campus culture — often referred to as a campus climate self-study. The college contracted with the well-respected research group Rankin and Associates. College leadership also convened a representative committee of 19 community members to manage the process.

Rankin and Associates shared a large battery of questions that have been used successfully in their projects with more than 100 other colleges and universities. From those we chose, edited, and created others from scratch. This survey, like any other, cannot possibly capture everything. And trying to construct a survey that works well for all members of the community — students, faculty, and staff, each group with a diversity of backgrounds and community experiences — is a very difficult challenge. We recognize that some of our choices may not feel right for everyone. But it is important to take this step to systematically gather information from everyone that, when taken together with other input, will inform the complex work we have ahead of us: rebuilding trust in our community after several turbulent years.

This survey is just one part of a larger effort. For example, we had the help of more than 165 students, faculty, and staff members who participated in focus groups where they shared their experiences, which helped us get a better understanding of perspectives beyond our own. We know from feedback that these discussions were at times difficult, and at other times, cathartic. The themes that focus group participants discussed informed the topics we addressed in the survey.

What we learn from the collective experiences of all survey participants will be shared with the entire community next academic year. Through community-wide conversations, we will all set meaningful goals toward making Swarthmore what want it to be. This is the baseline, not the finish line.

Confidentiality is vital to the success of this study. No data will be reported on any group with fewer than five individuals, because those small cell sizes could compromise confidentiality. Any comments submitted in response to the survey will be separated at the time of submission so they are not attributed to any individual. Identifiable information submitted in comments will be redacted before being shared with the College.

All responses are stored securely. While the firm’s marketing page was compromised, the data storage has not been hacked. The survey is run on a firewalled web server with forced 256-bit SSL security. It is stored on a SQL database that can only be accessed using encrypted SSH connections originating from the local network. The web server runs with SE-Linux security extensions and performs a nightly security audit. This is similar security to on-line banking.

We care about this community and believe that we can do better by and for one another. Use the text boxes in the survey, your concerns and critiques can be as long as needed.  If there is a question we didn’t ask, pose it yourself. Share your experiences and concerns by taking the survey at https://rankinsurveys2.com/swarthmore.

Please feel free to reach out to any member of the committee with questions or concerns.

Ailya Vajid ’09, Alejandra Barajas ’15, Kaaren Williamsen, Liliana Rodriguez, Meghan Kelly ’18, and Mohammed Lotif


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