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Campus Climate Survey FAQs

What is campus climate?

Campus climate is defined as “the current attitudes, behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential” (Hurtado, 1992; Rankin, 2001).  Diversity and inclusion are extremely important aspects of campus climate.

Research studies have found how students experience their campus environment influences both learning and developmental outcomes and that discriminatory environments have a negative effect on student learning. Research supports the value of a diverse student body, faculty, staff, and administration on enhancing learning outcomes.  Other research suggests faculty and staff members who consider their campus climate healthy and inclusive are more likely to feel personally and professionally supported.

A healthy campus climate is grounded in respect for others, nurtured by dialogue between those of differing perspectives and evidenced by a pattern of civil interactions among community members.

What is a campus climate survey?

A campus climate survey is designed to assess and evaluate the campus culture, as well as provide an opportunity for the entire SDSU university community to share perspectives on their experiences engaging with the university.

This survey is for students and employees who work both on campus and off campus.

Purpose of campus climate survey at SDSU:

The mission of SDSU is to offer a rich academic experience in an environment of inclusion and access through inspired, student-centered education, creative activities and research, innovation and engagement that improves the quality of life for people and communities of South Dakota. As such, South Dakota State University is participating in a national survey developed to assess the overall climate (perceptions and experiences) at post-secondary institutions.

The primary purpose of the Skyfactor Benchworks Campus Climate, Safety, and Sexual Assault Assessment is to provide SDSU with information to inform policies, programs, and practices that enhance the campus environment.

This assessment provides campus constituents (anyone employed by SDSU or takes courses from SDSU) an opportunity to voice their experiences and perceptions of the campus environment. Specifically, it serves as a conduit for providing feedback to help direct university initiatives. This information will be used to develop strategic priorities related to the campus environment and all who interact with the SDSU community including all students, future students, alumni, visitors, faculty, staff, and all stakeholders.

Describe the survey selected

The Campus Climate committee reviewed several national campus climate surveys. After a review of the surveys, the committee found that Skyfactor Benchworks had many capabilities that were important. This included a survey for students and employees, meeting Title IX recommendations, a flexible administration timeline, ability to add additional questions, peer comparisons and national benchmarks, and reporting features. In addition, by using a third-party vendor, the company provides an additional layer of data confidentiality.

Most important, the survey addressed topics that were of institutional priorities for SDSU.

The Skyfactor Benchworks Campus Climate, Safety, and Sexual Assault Assessment focuses on:

  • Perceptions of the SDSU related to the ability to assess diversity, inclusiveness, visibility, equity, safety, and treatment

  • Personal attitudes and behaviors related to working with people from diverse backgrounds

  • Perceptions of institutional policies, procedures, and training in compliance with Title IX (sexual assault and harassment)

  • Perceptions of satisfaction with the institution

When will the survey open?

The surveys will launch the second week in February with subsequent reminders.

Who can take the survey?

The surveys will be sent to the following:

Student survey

  • Degree seeking undergraduate students

  • Graduate Students

  • Non-degree seeking students

  • Excluding dual credit and concurrent enrollment (HS students)

Faculty/Staff survey (primary role)

  • Permanent (full-time or part-time) Employees

How long will this survey take to complete?

The Campus Climate, Safety, and Sexual Assault Assessment will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

As faculty/staff, can I complete the survey during work hours?

Yes. Completing the survey should be considered part of your service to the institution. We encourage all faculty, staff, administrators, and students to complete a survey.

Will I receive anything for participating?

There are no incentives to participate in the survey.

How has the information been used in the past?

The campus climate survey data is important for strategic planning purposes and continuously improving the experiences of the entire SDSU campus community. The survey results have been used to provide professional development opportunities, such as diversity training. In addition, various committees and offices have used the results to help guide programs and initiatives. For example, the Office of Financial Aid created a Welcome Committee to help onboard new staff and ensure staff felt connected to the university.

The SDBOR also uses this information to provide a comprehensive report on free speech and intellectual diversity. Intellectual diversity is defined as a “learning environment that exposes students to and encourages exploration of a variety of ideological and political perspectives” (SD HB 1087). The campus climate data ensures SDSU is creating a collegiate atmosphere that promotes free speech and intellectual diversity

How is my privacy and confidentiality protected?

Informed Consent

Participation in the survey is encouraged but is voluntary. Students and employees will not be coerced to participate. Emails and the first page of the survey will contain language that addresses informed consent. For example, the survey states:

“By accessing the survey, you are verifying that you have read the explanation of the study, and that you agree to participate. You also understand that your participation in this study is strictly voluntary. If you do not wish to participate in this survey, simply exit the survey by closing your internet browser.”


We cannot guarantee survey results are anonymous. However, due to the nature of this survey, reasonable precautions to protect confidential information obtained through the survey will be taken. The following describes how we plan to protect participant information.

The survey data is collected from a third-party vendor. No personally identifiable information is captured unless participants voluntarily offer personal or contact information in any of the comment fields. Additionally, responses are combined with those of many others and summarized in a report to further protect participants.

However, if a participant chooses to report information related to discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, or retaliation, we are required to report this information to the Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator.

Please review the sections below (Survey Data and Survey Results) for additional information on how the data will be stored, accessed, and used.

Survey Data

The campus climate data will be collected and stored by a third-party vendor (Skyfactor Benchworks). SDSU does not receive the data until approximately 6 months after the survey administration has ended.

Survey reports may be available by request. A request will need to be made to the Office of Institutional Research & Assessment. The request will include why the data is needed (purpose), who will have access to the survey report, and how the reports will be used and shared. The Campus Climate committee will review requests and make a determination.

Good faith effort will be made to provide reports as requested; however, some requests may not be possible due to how the data is collected and organized.

The raw survey data will not be released unless approval is obtained from a member of the SDSU Senior Team.

The survey contains open-ended responses and comments. It is important to review this information to look for themes and concerns related to campus climate. Because of the potential sensitivity of open-ended responses and comments, only the AVP of Institutional Research & Assessment, the Ombudsperson, Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator, VP of Human Resources, and the President of SDSU will have access to unredacted (uncensored) comments. After a review of the comments, if any comments warrant further investigation, this information will be shared with offices as appropriate.

Redacted (censored) comments may be reviewed and analyzed by the Campus Climate survey committee. Redaction procedures include removing all names, departments, and other identifiable information.

Survey Results

The Executive Report will be released in the Fall semester following the survey administration.

Reports and presentations will use aggregate (summary) data. Efforts will be taken to protect participants’ confidential and private information.

Reports and presentations will be saved to the InsideState and MyState Campus Climate site.

Efforts will be made to present the executive summary of the survey to a variety of SDSU committees and groups.

Because of our shared governance commitment, it is our hope that the survey data is used by a variety of campus constituents (e.g. Student Association; Faculty Senate; Civil Service Advisory Council; Professional Staff Advisory Council, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, etc.) and leadership to make institutional improvements and direct strategic university initiatives and create a welcoming campus climate for all stakeholders.