The Gatepost Editorial: Administrators must invest in better campus climate survey

The administration’s decision to reuse last year’s campus climate survey has left the editors of The Gatepost baffled.

It’s not just us who find EverFi’s campus climate survey to be problematic.

In an Oct. 23, 2015 article titled “Sexual misconduct survey finds 16 percent of FSU students have been sexually assaulted,” Kim Dexter, director of equal opportunity, Title IX and ADA Compliance, described the EverFi provided survey as “flawed.”

Dexter suggested FSU might use a different vendor in the future to break down information more effectively.

In The Gatepost Editorial in that same issue, we offered ways this University could better educate the student body on the issues addressed in the survey.

Given the sensitive nature of the topic, the editors of The Gatepost chose not to admonish the administration over its use of a “flawed” survey.

Perhaps we should have.

What has stunned the editors of The Gatepost is the administration’s inexplicable decision to use the same “flawed” survey provided by EverFi again this winter.

They redistributed a 110 question, inherently off-putting survey to FSU’s student body which took an estimated 30-minutes to complete.

According to Dexter, feedback provided by student leaders cited the length of the survey and the confusing nature of some its questions as deterrents for many student respondents.

To put this in perspective, over 6,000 students currently attend FSU.

So how unsuccessful was this latest campus climate survey? Well, according to Dexter, this year’s survey experienced a “significant drop-off” in its response rate as opposed to last year’s. This is a paltry 516 students compared to last year’s 625, which is a decrease of 17.44 percent.

Unfortunately, this steep decrease in respondents has, more or less, rendered many of the survey results unreliable.

Why?

Well, for starters, despite a nearly 20 percent drop in student respondents this year compared to the last survey, the percent of student respondents who reported they had been forced into sexual contact in this latest survey grew significantly.

As Dean of Students Melinda Stoops said in an interview, it is difficult to discern whether there has been a rise in incidents, or a rise in student reporting.

“If this was accurate, that more people were in fact assaulted, that would be very concerning. If it’s an increase in reporting, to me that’s not concerning. It means we’re doing our job,” Stoops said.

Confused?

So are we.

Apparently, Stoops is as well. 

It’s profoundly disturbing, then, that this administration seems unsure how to interpret the data that EverFi compiled for them.

How much more does the pool of FSU respondents need to evaporate before this administration admits EverFi is not the way to go and uses another vendor?

So, with knowing the EverFi survey had its fair share of problems, what on earth compelled administrators to use it yet again?

Well, it’s certainly not because it’s generating valuable information for them.

Perhaps it’s because the survey comes free of charge from EverFi.

Both Dexter and Stoops have been more than candid in admitting the reason the University opted for EverFi’s campus climate survey over others was due to the fact the University wouldn’t have to pay for it.

You see, FSU pays EverFi for access to a litany of the company’s services – in particular, EverFi’s popular AlcoholEdu program, which all incoming students at FSU must take. 

There has been a growing pressure on U.S. colleges to conduct campus climate surveys after President Obama signed the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE) into law in March of 2013.

In an interview with The Gatepost, Stoops acknowledged this mounting pressure and suggested that in the near future universities will be required by law to administer the surveys.

Many companies, including EverFi, took note of this national trend and got in on the burgeoning campus climate survey business.

So it’s a no-brainer this administration chose EverFi’s service for their 2014 survey. The University had never done anything like this before and, after all, it was free.

But to use it a second time was out-and-out foolish.

That this administration still hasn’t ruled out using EverFi’s services for next year’s campus climate survey is shocking.

This administration has given no other reason for its continued use of EverFi’s survey beyond the fact that it’s free.

If you believe the administrators, the purpose of these surveys is to give all of us a better understanding of student perspectives and experiences related to sexual assault.

It’s very telling where a person, business or university invests money. Where this University decides to allocate its funds gives us all a clear insight into what it prioritizes as important.

That administrators have not dropped one solitary red cent on a coherent and respondent-friendly campus climate survey is telling.

The responsibility for the first survey belongs to EverFi.

However, the blame for this recent indecipherable survey lies at the front door of Dwight Hall.

If administrators care as much about sexual violence as they say they do, they need to stop putting a price tag on student safety.

They must invest in a campus climate survey that students will take which will yield results everyone will understand.

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