In May 2021, the Institute conducted its first campus climate survey to more fully understand the experiences of individuals who work and study on campus. Responses have been analyzed, and insights from the survey will guide Caltech's continuing efforts to improve diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility.
Campus climate is the attitudes, behaviors, and standards of employees and students concerning the access for, inclusion of, and level of respect toward individual and group needs, abilities, and potential. Campus climate is shaped through personal experiences, perceptions, and interactions, and can influence educational and professional outcomes, as well as a community's overall well-being.
Understanding the experiences of individuals who work and study on our campus is essential to fostering a more inclusive, equitable, and accessible community. By seeking honest, anonymous comment on what it is like to study and work on campus, a climate survey may yield insights that will inform future programs and that strive to advance Caltech's commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
All active students, faculty, staff, and postdocs—as well as affiliates working at the Caltech Y, the USGS Pasadena field office on Wilson Avenue, the Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union, and the Caltech Childcare Center and Child Education Center—were encouraged to participate in the survey. Every response provided essential feedback and perspective.
Survey results were presented at two virtual sessions on November 19, 2021. Members of the Caltech community may download copies of the full report and results presentation.
Anonymity is essential to the success of campus climate research, especially with regard to sensitive and personal topics.
First, no protected data (for example, Social Security numbers, Institute identification numbers, or medical information) were collected.
In addition, all data will be reported only in aggregate or summary form. Where there is group data for groups of fewer than ten individuals, this data will be suppressed from public display but will absolutely inform decisions and future campus efforts.
Any comments submitted in response to the survey were separated at the time of submission so they could not be attributed to any individual; and identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments was redacted by Rankin & Associates, the external consultants conducting the campus climate survey, and was not visible to Caltech.
To ensure transparency and to provide external expertise, the President's Diversity Council, chaired by Professor Bil Clemons, established the campus-based Climate Survey Working Group (CSWG), whose members represent all campus constituencies, and engaged Rankin & Associates Consulting, LLC, to conduct the survey. Rankin & Associates is led by Susan Rankin, emeritus professor of education policy studies and college student affairs at The Pennsylvania State University and senior research associate at Penn State's Center for the Study of Higher Education. Rankin & Associates reports directly to the CSWG.
Rankin & Associates, the external consultants engaged to conduct Caltech's climate survey, have provided a final report including: an executive summary; a narrative of the findings; descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations); and content analysis of textual data.
These results will be used to guide and inform future inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility initiatives at Caltech, and to establish baselines for progress.
Survey questions were based, in part, on a repository developed and tested by Rankin & Associates, the external consultants conducting Caltech's climate survey. The Climate Survey Working Group, made up of Caltech faculty, staff, students, and postdocs, reviewed all questions, edited them to provide Institute-specific context, and approved the final survey instrument.
It is important in campus climate research for survey participants to see themselves in response choices. This prevents the "othering" of individuals or their characteristics. Some researchers maintain that assigning someone the status of "other" is a form of marginalization and should be minimized, especially in campus climate research, which has the intended purpose of inclusivity. Accordingly, survey participants saw a long list of possible choices for many demographic questions. While it was not reasonably possible to include every potential choice, the goal was to reduce the number of individuals who must select "other" in response to a given question.
The survey was administered in accord with Caltech's Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocols. The project's primary investigator is Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux (MS '03), assistant vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, and assessment.
Caltech and Rankin & Associates, the consulting firm conducting the campus climate survey, have developed a data security description and protocol, which includes specific information on data encryption, the handling of personally identifiable information, physical security, and a protocol for unlikely breaches of data security. Survey data were submitted to a secure server hosted by Rankin & Associates. The survey was run on a firewalled web server with forced 256-bit SSL security and is stored on a SQL database that can only be accessed locally. The server itself may only be accessed using encrypted SSH connections originating from the local network.