College to release results of first climate survey

Results from Emerson’s climate survey, the first of its kind for the college, are set to be released on April 23. The survey, developed by Emerson’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the survey firm ModernThink, polled students chiefly on sexual assault awareness and prevention at the college, but also included questions about diversity, faculty and administration participation, and general well-being.

The survey, titled Emerson360, ran from Nov. 3 -21, 2014. Overall, 1,428 undergraduate and graduates, or 32 percent of the student body, participated in the study.

A separate survey for faculty and staff members, also about the campus climate, was conducted at the same time. Sixty-six percent of faculty and staff filled it out.

Sylvia Spears, the vice president of diversity and inclusion, and Robert Amelio, the director of diversity education and human relations, led the development of the survey on the administrative level. Amelio said he and Spears began discussing ideas for the climate survey in 2013, although they started working on it this school year.

The college previously conducted a survey of faculty, staff, and students in 2009, Amelio said, but its results are not comparable to the new poll because only 35 students participated. 

Margolis Healy, a professional services firm specializing in college gender equity issues, conducted an outside review of the college’s sexual assault prevention and response procedures in 2014. Spears said the company advocated for this new survey and stressed the importance of understanding student perceptions on sexual assault in today’s academic world. 

“Climate surveys are really becoming a kind of best practice for assessing students’ exposure to power-based violence and other kinds of sexual misconduct,” Spears said. 

Spears and Amelio enlisted the help of ModernThink, a firm specializing in climate surveys, to reduce any bias in how the survey was conducted, help boost participation, and analyze the data, according to Spears. 

“Our small office would not have had the capacity to analyze all the data in a quick turnaround,” said Spears.

In 2014, a White House task force recommended that colleges begin conducting climate surveys to gauge the campus responses to power-based violence. Spears said she then spoke to President M. Lee Pelton about this new guidance. She said she and Amelio contacted ModernThink and requested that they shift questions away from general climate and orient them at sexual misconduct to fit the guidelines.

Spears said the climate survey will help the college improve by highlighting areas that need more attention.

“The data that we received from this survey helps to show what we’re doing really well and what we, as an institution, can be proud of,” Spears said. “And it also shed some light on places where there are opportunities for improvement.”

 

News Editor Dina Kleiner contributed reporting for this article.

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