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Student Social Climate Survey, Fall 2010

Background, Planning, and Data Collection


CU-Boulder conducts this survey every four years. Results from the 2006 social climate survey for males and females, students of different races/ethnicities, GLBT students, students with disabilities, and international students are available. That survey paralleled the 2001 climate survey, which was modeled after the 1998 campus community survey. Items assessing comfort, fit, experiences with stereotyping, and the extent to which different campus/community groups value diversity were similar across the surveys, with the exception that the 1998 survey focused exclusively on race/ethnicity. Both the 2001 and 2006 surveys were administered via the Web, whereas the 1998 survey was a paper instrument.

The student climate survey has benefited from the input of many people. For example, the posting for the 2001 survey states "The student climate survey was developed and administered by ODA on behalf of Ofelia Miramontes, Associate Vice Chancellor Diversity and Equity. We wish to acknowledge the contributions of Ofelia, MaryAnn Sergeant (also of Diversity and Equity), and Beverly Tuel, former director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, in assisting with the development of the climate questionnaire. We also wish to thank Elease Robbins, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, for reviewing and commenting on the final draft of the questionnaire."

Planning for the Fall 2010 Survey

As we prepared for the fall 2010 survey, we continued our practice of soliciting input from a broad spectrum of groups and individuals. A Student Social Climate Survey Advisory Board (PDF available) was formed and ultimately had 23 members:

Title, etc.
Aswad Allen
Director, Leeds School of Business Office of Diversity Affairs
Matt Boettger
Chair, Campus Religious Organizations; Director, The Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought
Fran Costa
Researcher, Institutional Analysis
Jim Davis-Rosenthal
Director of Orientation
Cindy Donahue
Director of Disability Services
Valerio Ferme
French & Italian Chair, A&S Curriculum Committee Chair
Mike Grant
Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education
Tanya Greathouse
Director of Center for Multicultural Affairs
John Henderson
Assistant Director, Residence Life
Daniel C. Jones
Director of Honors LEAD Neighborhood, A&S Diversity Committee
Alphonse Keasley
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Climate
Cathy Kerry
Researcher, Institutional Analysis
Robin Kolble
Manager, Community Health, Wardenburg
Amanda Griffin Linsenmeyer**
Interim Director, Women's Resource Center
Lou McClelland
Director, Institutional Analysis
Sallye McKee*
Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Equity
Melinda Piket-May
Assoc. Prof., Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering; BFA Admin. Appraisal Program Chair 2009-10; Chair, Chancellor's Comm. for Women
Daniel Ramos
UCSU Tri-Exec 
Jeff Schiel
Assistant Director for Survey Research, Institutional Analysis
Alexis Smith
UCSU Director of Diversity Affairs
Julie Volckens
Data Analyst and Assessment Coordinator, Community Health, Wardenburg
Steph Wilenchek
Director of GLBT Resource Center
Julie Wong
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Teresa Wroe
Program Development & Evaluation Coordinator, Community Health, Wardenburg

*Vice Chancellor McKee left CU-Boulder soon after the Advisory Board was formed.
**Amanda Griffin Linsenmeyer joined the Advisory Board in spring 2011.

An initial planning meeting of the Advisory Board occurred March 30, 2010. At that time, the Board had 19 Boulder campus members. Notes from the initial meeting are available.

A second meeting of the Advisory Board was held on May 5, 2010. It was intended to continue planning efforts, and notes from that meeting are also available.

The Advisory Board reviewed drafts of the 2010 questionnaire at both meetings. One of the tasks at the second meeting was to review a draft document describing the purposes of the Student Social Climate Survey and steps that the Advisory Board could take toward meeting those purposes. The purposes document was revised slightly following the meeting.

On July 15, 2010, a meeting was held to update three new Advisory Board members, all members of the CU-Boulder faculty. The new members reviewed the questionnaire and offered to draft items related to diversity of the curriculum and diversity issues in the classroom. These items were added to a preliminary draft of the questionnaire, which was reviewed at the third (August 27, 2010) meeting of the Advisory Board. Following that meeting, online versions of the questionnaire were made available to all board members for further review. Comments and suggestions were collected, and incorporated into a final draft of the questionnaire.

The Advisory Board accomplished several key tasks. These include:

  • Determining that the survey is worth doing again for various reasons (e.g., the information it provides is part of CU-Boulder's academic reputation; additional reasons are provided in the notes from the first meeting).
  • Elucidating the purposes of the survey.
  • Deciding to survey a complete census of all students, rather than a sample of them as was done in 2006. One advantage of a census is that it offers all students an opportunity to express their opinions of the campus social climate.
  • Reviewing and discussing the content of the questionnaire, which led to the revision of existing items, the addition of new items deemed to be especially important, and the removal of existing items that did not seem to be providing very useful information. Several of the new items were borrowed from the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey, and are used with permission of its principal researchers.
  • Discussing hypothetical results from the 2010 survey that the board and others would be excited to see (e.g., a sense that things have changed for the better after challenges faced around the time of the 2006 survey; information that would help us to determine what types of things we should do to improve the campus social climate). Additional examples are provided in the notes from the second meeting.
  • Thinking of ways to motivate students to respond (e.g., providing daily updates to deans of student participation rates, by school/college). Additional suggestions may be found in the notes from the second meeting.

Data Collection

University Communications assisted Office of Data Analytics (ODA) in encouraging students to participate in the survey. Staff members from University Communications prepared and distributed a flyer, posted messages on digital message boards throughout campus, set up an informational table at the UMC, created a video about the survey, and engaged in other activities to draw students' attention to the survey. ODA posted an informational page to assist students in accessing the online questionnaire.

Inducements to respond were offered to students. Students who completed a questionnaire were eligible to win one of five prizes, in the form of either $500 or an iPad. One prize was awarded to a randomly chosen student in each class level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, graduate study). The prize winners are listed here.

Email invitations, asking for participation in the survey and containing a link to the online questionnaire, were sent by ODA to all enrolled, degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students (including those in Law) on October 25 and 26, 2010. Between November 2 and 5, a first reminder email was sent to all students who had not yet responded. A second reminder email was sent on November 15 and 16, and a third reminder was sent on November 22 and 23. Data collection ended on November 30, 2010.

The graph below illustrates that increases in students' responses to the questionnaire generally coincided with their receipt of emails inviting/reminding them to participate in the survey. University Communications' efforts to engage students were at their highest on November 16, which was also a day on which email reminders were sent by PBA. The percentage of responses received on this day is higher than might be expected, and is likely attributable to University Communications' efforts.

A total of 8,768 students, representing 29% of all surveyed students in the population, accessed the questionnaire. However, 991 students did not provide any data (i.e., the majority viewed only the instructions page of the questionnaire and went no further, and a handful of others submitted only blank pages). The total number of students who completed the questionnaire is therefore 7,777 (26% of the population). Separate response rate tables are provided; one for all students who accessed the questionnaire (even if they did not provide data), and another for only those students who completed the questionnaire.

As can be seen in the response rate tables, graduate students completed the questionnaire at a higher rate than did undergraduates (32% vs. 25%, respectively). This is not surprising, and is typically observed in other surveys administered by ODA. Asian-American students completed the questionnaire at a slightly higher rate than did other racial/ethnic groups (29% vs. 25%-27%), and students enrolled in the College of Engineering and Applied Science were more likely to complete the questionnaire than were students in other colleges and schools (32% vs. 24%-29%).

Last revision 05/02/16

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