NASPA Online Learning Community

How to Conduct Sexual Misconduct Climate Surveys: A Step-by-Step Course

Includes a Live Web Event on 08/01/2024 at 1:00 PM (EDT)

July 28- August 26, 2024

In 2014, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault first advised American higher education institutions to conduct regular student sexual misconduct climate surveys. The Department of Justice called these climate surveys an important tool to gather knowledge about the scope and nature of sexual harassment and violence in their communities. In the following years, climate surveys have moved from a best practice to a mandate. Not only have around a dozen states passed legislation requiring the administration of regular climate surveys, but the 2021 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act added a requirement for all colleges and universities to conduct a survey as well. In addition, multiple Canadian provinces and European countries have either mandated or strongly encouraged sexual misconduct climate surveys for their own institutions: this mandate to make assessment a core part of the work is taking hold across the globe.

However, surveys not based on science and best practices may not accurately measure sexual misconduct. Universities may have both the capacity and the will to conduct meaningful climate surveys, but they might not be sure of where to start, how to conduct the survey, and what questions to ask. 

In partnership with Rankin Climate, NASPA is providing a comprehensive course to meet that need: this course guides participants through the entire survey process step by step. This training will provide a blueprint for institutions that choose to administer a survey using only “in-house” resources or minimal external assistance. This training builds a foundation for further data collection and assessment strategies, including general climate surveys and analysis of internal sexual misconduct case data.

Learning Outcomes
  • Understand how to balance legal mandates with institutional needs in conducting sexual misconduct climate surveys (SMCS).
  • Learn the best practices related to the assessment of SMCS from the research literature, specifically to (1) evaluate and select survey instrument(s), evaluate data collection and analysis strategies, and (3) reconcile data from different instruments historically used by the institution.
  • Organize information from across literature and institutions to determine the key to a successful SMCS administration at your home institution.
  • Evaluate different approaches to action planning and be able to apply the theory to data
  • Identify themes within and across survey results to develop clear action steps for immediate implementation.

Course Outline

  • Week One: Introduction to Climate Surveys and Planning Your Process
    • History of Campus Climate Surveys and Sexual Misconduct Climate Surveys
    • Current Legal Landscape: Who has to do it, and what do we do?
    • What We Know From Current Research About Sexual Misconduct in Higher Education
    • What to Consider When Deciding to Conduct a Survey
    • Articulating Survey Goals
    • Working Within Your Budget
    • Looking Ahead to Future Administrative Decisions
  • Week Two: The Science Behind Surveys
    • Laying Out A Survey Approach: Do It Internally or Externally?
    • How to Choose a Survey Instrument
    • Switching Surveys and Reconciling Different Data
  • Week Three: Administration Nuts & Bolts
    • Forming a Climate Survey Working Group
    • Customizing a Survey Without Breaking the Measurements
    • Sample Approach or Census Approach
    • Whether or Not (and How) to Submit to IRB
    • Creating a Communications/Marketing Strategy and Toolkit
    • Incentives: What Works and Maximizing Your Budget
    • Conducting Data Analysis
    • Creating Data Dashboards
  • Week Four: Action and Community Engagement
    • Shifting from a Climate Survey Working Group to an Action Group
    • Overview of Public Health Strategies of Prevention and the Socio-Ecological Model
    • Synthesizing Other Institutional Data for Comparison and Context
    • Evaluating Different Approaches to Design Action Plans
    • How to Identify Your Key Findings
    • Creating Solution-Oriented Action Items to Address Key Findings
    • Sharing the Results with Your Community: How to Report Out
    • Solidify Assessment Plan for Future

Live Sessions

  • August 1 from 1:00-3:00 (ET) 
  • August 8 from 1:00-3:00 (ET) 
  • August 15 from 1:00-3:00 (ET) 
  • August 22 from 1:00-4:00 (ET) 

This course will be synchronous and asynchronous, with weekly live sessions. Depending on the content and speakers of each live session, the session may be recorded for viewing at a later date. Attendance and participation in the live session are highly encouraged, as they offer an opportunity to engage in activities and knowledge sharing that will add to the learning experience.

Meredith M. Smith, JD, MS Ed

Senior Vice President

Rankin Climate

Meredith Smith spent a decade working in Title IX and nearly two decades in higher education administration overall, serving as the Title IX Coordinator for the University of Virginia and the Assistant Provost for Title IX and Clery Compliance and the Sexual Misconduct Response/Title IX Coordinator at Tulane University. Meredith is a founding member of the Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) and works for the Victim Rights Law Center as a Department of Justice Violence Against Women grant consultant. She has participated in the Office on Violence Against Women roundtable on sexual violence adjudication and the American Bar Association’s recommendations on college sexual assault investigation and adjudication. She contributed a chapter to Addressing Violence Against Women on College Campuses (Temple University Press, 2017). She was also a guest editor of The Society for Public Health Education’s journal Health Education & Behavior‘s 2020 journal supplement on college sexual assault policy and prevention. She is currently serving on a National Science Foundation grant on sexual misconduct climate surveys. For her work on the Tulane Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey and subsequent culture change initiatives, she was honored with a 2019 Visionary Voice Award from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Meredith has a BA (magna cum laude) in English-Creative Writing from Miami University, a JD  from The Ohio State University, and a MS Ed in Administration and Policy from Northwestern University.

Kevin Swartout, Ph.D.

CEO and Partner

Rankin Climate

Kevin Swartout leads Rankin Climate, bringing deep research and academic expertise after spending more than 15 years teaching and conducting research on university campuses. Kevin received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a concentration in social psychology. He most recently served as a professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgia State University, earning tenure in 2017 and achieving the rank of full professor in 2020. His research focuses heavily on the influencers and psychology of decision-making. A significant portion of his work has centered on identifying and engaging distinct and diverse subpopulations.

Susan Rankin, Ph.D.


Rankin Climate

Dr. Susan (Sue) Rankin retired from Pennsylvania State University in 2013, where she most recently served as an Associate Professor of Education and Associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. Dr. Rankin has presented and published widely on the intersections of identities and the impact of sexism, genderism, racism, and heterosexism in the academy and intercollegiate athletics. Dr. Rankin has collaborated with over 200 higher education institutions to implement campus climate assessments and develop strategic plans for social justice issues. In her advocacy work, Dr. Rankin is a founding member of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, a network of professionals doing advocacy work for LGBT people on college campuses, and the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition, a network of individuals and organizations across the Commonwealth committed to securing and defending full civil rights for LGBT individuals. 

Jess Neumann-Kersten, Ph.D.

Managing Director, Research

RW Jones Agency

Jess manages research initiatives at the RW Jones Agency and uses her years of experience in higher education administration to support clients through evidence-based practices and mixed-methods research. Jess and her team most recently developed, fielded and analyzed the inaugural State of the CDO survey and report with the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). She earned her Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Denver and her bachelor’s degree in media, culture and communication, and gender and sexuality studies from New York University.

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