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Spring is here!

On April 2, an email was sent to the entire Penn community asking students to take part in the Association of American Universities’ campus climate survey.

The survey, administered by the social science research firm Westat, asked questions about students’ experiences — or lack thereof — with sexual misconduct in the Penn community and the campus resources dedicated to dealing with misconducts.

The same survey is being administered across 27 other universities within the AAU, which is chaired by Penn President Amy Gutmann. All of the Ivies are participating except for Princeton, which is conducting its own independent survey.

“I think this is one of the largest surveys of its kind in the field for some time,” Vice President for Institutional Affairs Joann Mitchell said.

Since the survey relies on student participation, the main concern is having a “significant enough percentage of the population participate to get meaningful results,” Mitchell said. The survey spans across the entire University, including undergraduate and graduate students from all of Penn’s schools.

The more students participate, the more accurate the data will be, and the administration is concerned with ensuring that all aspects of Penn’s student body, not just a small subsection, are represented in the results of the survey.

“The better response rate we have, the more we’ll understand our campus,” Vice Provost for Education Andrew Binns said. “We want to hear every voice.”

“If they can get people to take the survey seriously, you’ll hear from people who otherwise wouldn’t speak up,” College senior Devin Barney said.

Emails will be sent campus-wide on a weekly basis asking students to take the survey. Because the survey is completely anonymous, “we don’t know who has responded, so the reminders go to everyone,” Binns said.

The survey data will be released next fall and the current plan is “to make the information public,” Mitchell said. The information is currently intended to be released to the Penn community and compared to other schools’ data, though the administration is still deliberating whether a PennKey will be necessary for access.

“This is a way for us to compare information with other organizations,” Mitchell said.

The fact that the data spans multiple universities makes the survey unique. The data collected will enable Penn to find out what other schools, and Penn itself, are doing particularly well and discover “what things we can do better,” Mitchell said.

The administration will receive weekly updates of how many students have completed the survey until it is closed later this month. Students who have already taken the survey appreciate its objective but seem more skeptical of the structure of the survey.

“I thought that the survey was pretty thorough with regards to asking about the touchy subjects. They also asked really open and honest questions. I thought it was really pragmatic in that way,” Barney said. “I don’t exactly know if I necessarily like the long-form survey as a way to get at understanding the student body. I don’t know if surveys like that lend themselves to being open and honest.”

The survey, which states in its instructions an estimated completion time of 20 to 30 minutes, does involve a time commitment.

“I didn’t end up reading a lot of it. It’s important, but there were just a lot of questions and I’m sure I missed something,” College sophomore Carla Hoge said.

The survey will be open until April 23.

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