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Inside Iowa State
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October 24, 2003

Campus climate survey is first in 10 years

by Anne Krapfl
Members of the Iowa State community will be asked for their opinions about the "climate" on campus. Later this semester, 8,000 staff, faculty and students will receive an e-mail or letter inviting them to complete an online survey that asks about their experiences at Iowa State.

"The two questions we're trying to get at are: 'Is Iowa State a welcoming and inclusive place for all?' and,'Do we offer services to meet the needs of all?'" said Carla Espinoza, assistant vice president for human resource services. With Education dean Walter Gmelch, Espinoza co-chairs the President's Advisory Committee on Diversity, which recommended a climate survey to President Gregory Geoffroy last spring.

"This won't be an intellectual exercise, but an emotional one," Espinoza said. "It will measure attitudes."

Iowa State's last campus climate survey was done in November 1993.

Todd Herriott, coordinator of ISU Disability Resources and chair of the climate assessment subcommittee, said an online survey was selected as a cost-effective format. Employees who don't have access to computers will receive specific instructions about using a computer lab on campus.

Herriott said the sampled population will include over-sampling of underrepresented populations, random sampling of majority populations, and snowball sampling of "invisible" minority populations, for example persons with disabilities, or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. "Snowball" sampling involves word-of-mouth communication about completing the survey, with the intent of over-sampling a minority group.

Susan Rankin, lead consultant for Rankin and Associates who also works at Pennsylvania State University as a diversity planning analyst, was hired this summer for the project.

Rankin held focus group sessions with students and employees this summer to give her a feel for what the issues are on campus and help her write the survey. Herriott said he hopes Rankin can provide a preliminary report on the survey results by mid-spring semester. "If there are implications for how money gets spent on campus, we'd like to know before planning is done for the next budget," he said.

Espinoza said the survey results will be used to create policies that are supportive for all at Iowa State, including ethnic and racial minorities, single parents, older students and other minority populations.

"Changing the rules may change behaviors, but that still doesn't necessarily change the atmosphere," Espinoza noted.

Rankin will be paid up to $36,000 for her work. The President's Office is funding the project.

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