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Campus Climate Survey — Count Me In

The results of a survey that invited faculty, staff and students at the University of Georgia to share their experiences and perspectives on a range of issues will now be used as one of several inputs to inform ongoing efforts to enhance the campus environment.

The Count Me In survey was conducted Oct. 20 to Nov. 20, 2015 by Rankin and Associates Consulting and was open to all faculty, staff and students to ensure that every member of the campus community had a chance to provide feedback. Several reminders were sent to encourage participation, and a 23 percent response rate was recorded. Rankin and Associates recommended caution in generalizing the findings for groups with a response rate below 30 percent.

“The Count Me In survey reflects the university’s commitment to listening to the voices of our faculty, staff and students as we work together to ensure that the University of Georgia is a place where each and every individual can achieve their full potential,” said Associate Provost for Institutional Diversity Michelle Garfield Cook, who chaired the 11-member committee that worked with Rankin and Associates to develop the survey.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Count Me In survey is part of a broader effort to ensure that the University of Georgia maintains an environment that fosters academic and professional success.

Dr. Susan Rankin of Rankin & Associates Consulting, which served as the outside consultant for UGA’s climate survey, defines university climate as the “current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of employees and students concerning the access for, inclusion of and level of respect for individual and group needs, abilities, and potential.” The climate is often shaped through personal experiences, perceptions and institutional efforts.

Dr. Rankin’s research maintains that positive personal experiences with university climate and positive perceptions of university climate generally equate to successful outcomes. Successful outcomes include positive educational experiences for students, productivity and sense of value for faculty and staff, and overall well-being for all.

The survey was developed by Rankin and Associates, which has conducted institutional climate studies at more than 100 institutions across the country, in conjunction with UGA’s Climate Study Working Group (CSWG), a committee with faculty, staff and student representation chaired by Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost for institutional diversity.

The Climate Study Working Group—in consultation with Rankin & Associates—was responsible for the development, implementation and interpretation of the survey and its results. The members of the Climate Study Working Group were:

  • Carolyn Carreno, Undergraduate, Hispanic Student Association
  • Allan Cohen, Professor, Educational Psychology
  • Deborah Elder, Clinical Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Dexter Fisher, Director, Facilities Management
  • Manuel Gonzalez-Canche, Assistant Professor, Institute of Higher Education
  • Audrey Haynes, Associate Professor, Political Science
  • Chris Linder, Assistant Professor, Counseling & Human Development
  • Bill McDonald, Dean of Students, Campus Life
  • Duane Ritter, Deputy Chief HR Officer, Human Resources
  • Marika Walker, Graduate Student, Kinesiology
  • Michelle Garfield Cook (Chair), Associate Provost, Office of Institutional Diversity

To minimize potential conflicts of interest and to create an atmosphere that allowed respondents to freely express their perspectives, the university contracted with Rankin and Associates Consulting, which is led by Dr. Susan Rankin. Her organization has conducted campus climate surveys at more than 100 universities across the nation, and Dr. Rankin worked directly with the committee on the project.

Dr. Susan Rankin of Rankin and Associates Consulting is an emeritus faculty member of Education Policy Studies and College Student Affairs at Pennsylvania State University and a senior research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. She has extensive experience in institutional climate assessment and institutional climate transformation based on data-driven action and strategic planning. Dr. Rankin has conducted multi-location institutional climate studies at more than 100 institutions across the country.

Questions about the Count Me In Survey can be directed to Dr. Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost for institutional diversity and chair of the Climate Study Working Group, at (706) 583-8195 or mgcook@uga.edu.

The survey was conducted Oct. 20 to Nov. 20, 2015 via a Web survey, and paper surveys were also made available upon request.

Participation in the survey was completely voluntary. Rankin and Associates recommended caution in generalizing findings as a result of self-selection bias as well UGA’s 23 percent response rate, which was below the 30 percent threshold identified by the consultant.

Participants did not have to answer any question—except the first positioning question (student, staff, faculty) — and could skip any questions they considered uncomfortable. Paper and pencil surveys were also available and were sent directly to the consultant.

The Office of Institutional Diversity and UGA’s Division of Marketing and Communications heavily promoted the survey through university websites and publications and through social media, digital and print signage and e-mails to all faculty, staff and students. The goal was to include as many voices as possible because every voice at UGA counts.

The goal of the survey was to hear as many voices as possible. Rankin and Associates Consulting recommended not using random sampling because that methodology may inadvertently exclude populations where numbers are very small (e.g., Native American faculty). The survey was open to all faculty, staff and students to include the broadest array of perspectives possible.

Yes, the study falls under the category of human subjects research and was approved by the UGA’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) in October 2015. The IRB approved the Count Me In study with the understanding that the public dissemination of results would not include any information that could be linked to an individual.

The consultant took several precautionary measures for individual confidentiality and the de-identification of data. No data already protected through regulation or policy (e.g., Social Security number, campus identification number, medical information) was obtained through the survey. No personally identifiable information will be shared in the event of any publication or presentation resulting from the assessment.

IP addresses were stripped when the survey was submitted, and the survey was run on a firewalled web server with forced 256-bit SSL security. In addition, the consultant and university will not report any group data for groups of fewer than five individuals, because those “small cell sizes” may be small enough to compromise confidentiality. Instead, the consultant has combined the groups or taken other measures to eliminate any potential for demographic information to be identifiable. Additionally, any comments submitted in response to the survey were separated at the time of submission to the consultant so they are not attributed to any individual demographic characteristics.

UGA worked with the consultant to develop a research data security description and protocol, which includes specific information on data encryption, the handling of personally identifiable information, physical security and a protocol for handling unlikely breaches of data security. The data from online participants were submitted to a secure server hosted by the consultant. 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.

All Rankin & Associates analysts have CITI (Human Subjects) training and approval and have worked on similar projects for other institutions. The web server runs with the SE-Linux security extensions (that were developed by the NSA). The server is also in RAID to highly reduce the chance of any data loss due to hardware failure. The server performs a nightly security audit from data acquired via the system logs and notifies the administrators. The number of system administrators was limited and each will have had required background checks.

Several key themes emerged from the study:

Comfort with the climate at UGA.

Of the 23 percent who responded overall, 81 percent reported being comfortable or very comfortable with the climate at UGA, in line with findings from these types of surveys at similar institutions. The findings also indicated that students felt comfortable in the classroom environment and perceived faculty as role models.

Faculty/staff work-life issues.

Virtually all of the faculty respondents agreed that research was valued by UGA. Faculty respondents also reported a clear understanding of the criteria for promotion and tenure. Similarly, the vast majority of staff respondents reported that their supervisors provided them with adequate resources to pursue professional development.

On the other hand, of the faculty and staff who responded to the survey, a majority noted that they had seriously considered leaving UGA in the past year, due primarily to low salaries. In addition, some faculty and staff indicated a need for improvement in areas such as hiring practices, reclassification decisions and work-life balance.

Closing the salary gap between the university and its peer institutions, which grew in the wake of the Great Recession, has been a key institutional priority. For the past three years, the university has been able to offer merit-based raises to faculty and staff. The recently expanded Office of Faculty Affairs has partnered with Human Resources to deliver training on best practices for recruiting and hiring, to strengthen existing supervisor training programs, and to craft materials to help search committees maximize the diversity of hiring pools. The office also offers workshops on faculty mentoring that include information on improving the retention of faculty in underrepresented groups.

In addition, the university launched a Women’s Leadership Initiative in March 2015 to promote gender equity. As a result of the initiative, UGA has updated its hiring practices, introduced leadership development programming and made new resources available to faculty and staff.

Differing experiences reported by groups.

Of the 23 percent who responded, 16 percent reported experiencing exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct, compared with 20 to 25 percent of respondents at similar institutions. The report noted that minorities and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender were more likely than others to report incidents of this nature.

The executive summary of the survey’s results is available here and the complete results are available here.

The report by Rankin and Associates Consulting noted that “UGA campus climate findings were consistent with those found in higher education institutions across the country, based on the work of R&A Consulting.” A slightly higher percentage (81 percent) of all UGA respondents reported that they were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the climate at UGA. Likewise, 20 to 25 percent in similar reports indicated that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct. At UGA, a lower percentage of respondents (16 percent) indicated that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct. The results, though slightly different, parallel the findings of other climate studies of specific constituent groups offered in the scholarly literature.

In response to the report, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten is charging a series of student, faculty and staff working groups representing Human Resources, the Division of Student Affairs, Office of Institutional Diversity and Office of Faculty Affairs to review the findings of the survey and explore opportunities to continue to enhance the living, learning and working environment at UGA. An additional action step is a campus-wide communications audit to determine levels of awareness regarding campus resources for faculty, staff and students. The findings from this audit will help the university identify strategies to better promote programs and services.

The findings from the Count Me In survey are being used to inform efforts to promote inclusion at the University of Georgia, and a follow-up study is not currently being planned. The University is implementing a series of action steps in response to Count Me In and plans to routinely assess their impact.

Anyone with concerns regarding the campus climate at the University of Georgia is urged to contact a University Ombudsperson or the University’s Equal Opportunity Office.

The University of Georgia has been repeatedly recognized as a national leader in creating a campus environment that fosters diversity and inclusion. For the past two years, it has been a recipient of the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. The HEED Award is the only designation of its kind awarded to institutions that exhibit outstanding efforts and success in the area of diversity and inclusion throughout their campuses.

Through its Office of Undergraduate Admissions, its Office of Institutional Diversity and its schools and colleges, UGA seeks to recruit and retain a diverse student body to create a world-class learning environment.

Outreach programs such as the Georgia African American Male Experience, Georgia Daze and Movimiento Latino are helping create a more diverse student body. In addition, UGA offers several need and merit-based scholarships to students and increasing the number of these awards is a key institutional priority.

The Division of Student Affairs has a number of programs that foster an inclusive campus environment, and students can choose from more than 800 student organizations. The Center for Leadership and Service, the Office of Multicultural Services and Programs, the LGBT Resource Center and several other units within the Division of Student Affairs offer programs that aim to help raise awareness of diversity-related issues and build bridges of understanding among students. In fall 2015, the Division of Student Affairs opened The Intersection, a physical space in the Tate Student Center that provides a safe environment for students, faculty, staff and all members of the university community to explore a range of pressing social issues.

For faculty and staff, UGA provides a Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion, which is a certificate program taught by faculty and staff who specialize in different areas of diversity. In order to receive the certificate, employees must participate in six three-hour trainings. The certificate began in 2012 and is a collaboration between the Office of Institutional Diversity and Human Resource’s Office of Training & Development.

The university has redoubled its efforts to prevent sexual assault and support survivors in recent years. Since 2014, incoming students at the University of Georgia have been required to complete Haven, an online sexual violence awareness and prevention course. In 2014 UGA also launched the WatchDawgs Bystander Intervention program to help students recognize and prevent dangerous situations. Last spring, the university instituted a free, 24-hour hotline where students can discuss relationship and sexual violence. Last year the University Health Center also created four new Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention staff positions to provide 24-hour support to students.

Student Support Services provides individualized assistance to students experiencing hardship circumstances, support to faculty and staff working with students in distress, and guidance to parents seeking help and information on behalf of their students.

The Equal Opportunity Office is responsible for ensuring that UGA complies with all applicable laws and policies regarding discrimination on the basis of race, sex (including sexual harassment or violence, dating/domestic violence, stalking and pregnancy), gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin, religion, age, genetic information, disability or veteran status.

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides high quality, affordable services to UGA students and their eligible partners. Its services include short-term individual and couples’ counseling, group counseling, medication evaluation and monitoring, crisis intervention, psychoeducational programs and workshops and consultation to the UGA campus community regarding mental health/wellness, managing crisis situations, suicide prevention, and promoting campus safety.

All incoming students are required to take AlcoholEdu® for College, an educational online course about alcohol and other drug safety that has been shown to reduce high-risk drinking and alcohol-related harms among college students.

In addition, the John Fontaine Jr. Center at the University Health Center provides a comprehensive range of evidence-based prevention, early intervention and recovery support services to the UGA community.

In 2015, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten expanded the scope of the Office of Faculty Affairs to increase the support and services that faculty receive. The Office of Faculty Affairs recently created a new position to provide faculty with career development programming customized to each stage of their career. Human Resources also hired a campus-wide Work-Life Balance Coordinator.

The university launched a Women’s Leadership Initiative in March 2015 to promote gender equity. As a result of the initiative, UGA has updated its hiring practices, introduced leadership development programming and made new resources available to faculty and staff.

The recently expanded Office of Faculty Affairs has partnered with Human Resources to deliver training on best practices for recruiting and hiring employees and to craft materials to help search committees maximize the diversity of hiring pools. In addition, the Office of Faculty Affairs recently began offering workshops on faculty mentoring that include information on improving the retention of faculty in underrepresented groups, including women.

The inaugural class of the university’s Women’s Leadership Fellows Program was announced in November, and Human Resources has hired a Work-Life Balance Coordinator to support faculty and staff.

The UGA Work/Life Balance Coordinator, who is part of Human Resources, works to provide resources to help employees achieve a healthy work/life balance. Resources include information about workplace issues and flexibility, child and elder care, volunteer opportunities and health programs.