Campus Climate Survey Examples in Higher Education: Case Studies and Outcomes

by | Apr 3, 2024 | Climate Surveys, Higher Education

Ensuring a positive campus experience for all students requires understanding each university’s campus climate – an essential part of guaranteeing a school’s sustainability for faculty and students alike.

A campus climate survey is an excellent resource designed to assess how well a university supports diversity within its campus, allowing higher education institutions to foster a welcoming environment where all students can thrive!

But what are some concrete examples of how campus climate surveys have positively impacted student welfare in higher education? Read more to find out!

Understanding Campus Climate Surveys

Data is critical in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within a university setting. A campus climate survey is an assessment created to measure how students, faculty, staff, and guests feel welcomed and supported within a higher education institution, regardless of ethnicity, race, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The purpose of campus climate surveys is to ensure that universities meet the standards they set out to achieve and to address areas for improvement that can be adjusted for the betterment of the university. Through comprehensive data collection, education leaders can assess whether current diversity initiatives effectively make students feel safe.

Case Study 1: Bellingham Technical College, Washington State

Bellingham Technical College (BTC), a prominent institution under the City University of New York (CUNY) system, has a longstanding commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within its campus community.

In Spring 2022, BTC conducted a comprehensive survey aligned with Washington State Senate Bill 5227 to develop a baseline understanding of perceptions, experiences, and perspectives related to DEI on campus.

The survey engaged students, faculty, and staff, featuring 106 questions designed to gather insights into campus climate, DEI elements, and overall satisfaction with the BTC experience.

Some of the key findings from this assessment include:

  • Over 70% of respondents felt valued and like they belonged at BTC.
  • Staff members expressed lower satisfaction with work aspects compared to faculty, with women faculty reporting fewer opportunities for professional growth.
  • Transgender/non-binary respondents rated the DEI climate less favorably, citing feelings of undervaluation and isolation, along with higher rates of discrimination.
  • BIPOC staff reported more negative perceptions of the DEI climate compared to White staff, with higher levels of perceived discrimination and inequity.
  • While a majority of respondents did not express frequent safety concerns, transgender/non-binary individuals and BIPOC staff reported heightened concerns for their physical safety on campus.

Leveraging the survey results, BTC embarked on a series of initiatives to address identified areas of improvement and build upon existing strengths. This included developing an updated DEI strategic plan in alignment with legislative requirements and institutional goals. 

Additionally, the DEI Committee, supported by the DEI Office and Institutional Planning & Assessment (IPA), initiated efforts to enhance education, programming, and professional development opportunities. By utilizing survey findings to guide decision-making and action plans, BTC demonstrated its commitment to fostering a more inclusive and supportive campus environment for all members of its community.

Case Study 2: North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University conducted a campus climate survey in 2019 to assess the well-being of students on campus. Established in 1887, the university serves over 37,000 students annually. Like the College of Staten Island, this survey was conducted to determine whether North Carolina State University met its diversity objectives.

This climate survey categorized respondents based on their academic level: undergraduate or graduate. Both categories had respondents selected based on race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, disability status, economic background, and sexuality and gender identities.

Some of the key findings from this assessment include:

  • 43.9% of undergraduates reported an excellent experience with the university, while 1.2% reported a poor experience. 43.1% of graduate students reported an excellent experience, while only 0.7% reported a poor experience.
  • 32.4% of undergraduate students reported feeling occasionally like they didn’t fit in, compared to 31.2% of graduate students.
  • 33.6% of undergraduates felt comfortable participating in diversity and identity affirmation activities, compared with 35.6% of graduates.
  • 51.5% of undergraduates felt the school’s counseling services were very accessible, while 56.7% of graduates reported the same.
  • For undergraduates, 56.5% felt the school’s African American cultural center was very accessible, 53.1% felt the disability resources were very accessible, and 60.3% felt the LGBT resources were very accessible.
  • For graduates, 54.2% felt the school’s African American cultural center was very accessible, 51.0% felt the disability resources were very accessible, and 55.3% felt the LGBT resources were very accessible.

In response to these findings, North Carolina State University strengthened its diversity initiatives, though it does not state how it achieved this goal.

Case Study 3: New York University

Founded in 1831, NYU serves over 51,000 students campus-wide. In 2022, the university administered a campus climate survey to assess instances of sexual misconduct in its New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai campuses.

This survey aimed to determine whether students felt that NYU served their needs in preventing sexual misconduct and supporting students who experienced misconduct. The assessment used a random sample of 2,603 students enrolled in a part-time or full-time undergraduate, graduate, or professional program, focusing on students self-identifying as a racial minority.

The core findings of this survey include:

  • 88.1% of respondents felt that NYU takes sexual misconduct allegations seriously.
  • 88% felt relatively safe from sexual misconduct at NYU. 83.6% of women reported feeling safe compared to 97.5% of male students.
  • 80.3% of respondents felt that NYU does a good job of attempting to prevent sexual assault from occurring, while 84.2% felt the university provided helpful services to those who had experienced sexual assault.
  • 68.9% said they were likely to report instances of sexual assault to the university’s sexual relationship and respect services.
  • 7.8% had experienced some form of unwanted fondling experiences within the past 12 months.
  • 10% had experienced some form of unwanted sexual conduct within the past 12 months.
  • 12.5% had experienced some form of sexual harassment since enrollment. 26.1% of undergraduate female respondents had experienced sexual harassment since enrollment compared to 3.3% of undergraduate male respondents.

Following this survey, NYU was able to develop enhanced educational and prevention methods to protect students from sexual misconduct. The university stated that further analyses were necessary to ensure proper support was provided to students and to bridge knowledge gaps in students’ understanding of available resources.

Common Themes and Trends

Across universities, students who belonged to diverse backgrounds – including race, ethnic, sexual, gender-diverse, and disabled backgrounds – were likelier to experience problems with campus climate.

The recurrence of issues like sexual assault among female respondents compared to male respondents indicates a potential issue with gender as affiliated with one’s comfort on campus.

Improving these surveys may require increased focus on diverse student populations, and universities might consider conducting studies based solely on diverse demographic factors to compare the results of minority students to majority students.

Implementing Campus Climate Surveys for DEI Initiatives

Campus climate surveys are essential resources that allow universities to determine how well they foster a welcoming climate where all students feel safe and comfortable existing. Implementing a climate survey is critical for campuses looking to enhance their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

SoundRocket provides campuses with resources to conduct campus climate surveys, from study design and data collection to reporting and analysis. Learn more about our services today or schedule a consultation with SoundRocket!

About the Author


Understanding human behavior—individually and in groups—drives our curiosity, our purpose, and our science. We are experts in social science research. We see the study of humans as an ongoing negotiation between multiple stakeholders: scientists, research funders, academia, corporations, and study participants.