Sunnie Ning ’18
Assistant News Editor
On Sept. 27, President Kathleen McCartney sent out a letter to the community announcing the launch of the Pathways Campus Climate Survey. The goal of Pathways is to help the administration assess the campus climate by identifying successful initiatives, uncovering challenges and developing strategic initiatives.
In the letter to the college community announcing the survey, McCartney cited Smith’s determination to create a welcoming and inclusive campus atmosphere.
“At Smith, we seek to create an environment characterized by openness, fairness, and equal access for all students, staff and faculty,” she said. “A welcoming and inclusive campus climate is grounded in mutual respect, nurtured by dialogue and evidenced by a pattern of civil interaction. Creating and maintaining a community environment that respects individual needs, abilities and potentials is critically important for our mission.”
The survey is a result of the work of the Climate Study Working Group (CSWG), a cross-section of students, faculty and staff who are charged with assessing the current attitudes, behaviors, standards and practices of the Smith community. This is also known as the campus climate. Earlier, CSWG developed a survey to assess the campus climate at Smith, secured institutional review of the survey and created a plan to ensure maximum participation from the community.
Specifically, the committee selected Rankin & Associates Consulting to conduct the survey. Rankin & Associates Consulting has administered climate assessments to more than 130 institutions. Susan Rankin of Rankin & Associates Consulting is administering the survey. She is an emeritus faculty member of Education Policy Studies and College Student Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University and a senior research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education.
According to the Smith website, a non-Smith researcher was selected because of the need for external expertise in survey administration. In order for members of the community to feel comfortable for their participation, an independent, outside agency was needed. “The administration of a survey relating to a very sensitive subject like campus climate is likely to yield higher response rates and provide more credible findings if led by an independent, outside agency. Members of a college community may feel particularly inhibited to respond honestly to a survey administered by their own institution for fear of retaliation,” said the question and answer web page of the survey.
Rankin & Associates will use a “comprehensive, five-phase strategic model of assessment, planning and intervention,” according to Rankin & Associates. However, CSWG is responsible for developing the survey questions.
The data collected from the survey will be used to plan for an improved climate at Smith, and faculty, staff and students will be invited to participate in the development of post-survey action initiatives. Results of the campus climate survey will be presented in April 2017.
Rankin & Associates reports directly to CSWG, and CSWG is responsible for the development, implementation and interpretation of the survey and its results.
Dwight Hamilton, vice president for inclusion, diversity and equity, said the data will help the administration better understand the campus climate and improve on its inclusion and diversity. “I urge everyone to participate,” he said. “The more responses that we get, the better informed we will be.”