Campus climate survey to look at academics, work conditions, environments

Students, faculty and staff looking for changes can give their two cents as part of the first-ever University-wide climate survey.

The University’s rationale: to get a feel for how the University community feels about the campus’s work conditions, living environments and academic opportunities.

“If there are areas that we could see improvement, we would like to focus on those areas,” said Mrinalini “Meena” Rao, speaking several weeks ago when she was the vice president for academic affairs. “We could prioritize.”

Starting Wednesday, almost 100,000 individuals will be sent unique links via email to take the survey on the third-party site surveygizmo.com. Those affiliated with the University will get repeat reminders until the survey officially ends just before Thanksgiving Day.

Then, the Survey Research Laboratory on the Chicago campus will analyze the results and release a public report in April. In addition, University president Michael Hogan will set up a group to help him interpret the data and set priorities moving forward.

The survey, which is funded by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, will be comprised of approximately 55 questions, but should not take more than 15 minutes to complete, Rao said.

Questions will be asked about people’s perceptions of their campus in areas such as inclusiveness, support and academic opportunities.

In addition, there will also be one or two open-ended questions, according to Rao. The questions will be the same to all students, regardless of campus or concentration, and likewise with faculty and staff.

Tim Johnson, director at the laboratory, said a separate survey planning group studied similar questionnaires administered at universities, including the University of Michigan and Pennsylvania State University, to consider questions for the Illinois survey.

Previously, there have been narrowly tailored campus-level censuses administered, but none of this magnitude, Rao said. Such previous surveys were targeted towards specific groups in specific colleges.

But for concerns to be properly addressed, enough people have to voice them, Rao said.

“The success of the survey is going to depend on the response rate. If you have a survey that’s going to give you 2 to 4 percent, you can’t base your decision off the 4 percent response,” she said.

Hannah Ehrenberg, Urbana’s student trustee, said she plans on speaking with student organizations and college councils to spread the word about the survey.

“It will show what students like about the campus and what students don’t like,” she said.

Rao said in addition to the hope that the University will learn about feelings about its climate, the potential success of this survey will bring forth another survey two or three years down the line.

She said the results of this inaugural survey will help the administration redesign questions that reflect the climate later on.