ARC3 Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender

February 20, 2024

Dear University Community,

I write to inform you of an important project aimed at continuing the University of Michigan’s efforts to prevent and address sexual harassment and misconduct on our campuses.

At U-M, we are steadfast in our commitment to foster a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment for everyone. We firmly believe that every individual within our community deserves to live, learn, and work free from any form of misconduct, harassment, or discrimination.

As part of this commitment, the University contracted with Rankin Climate, an external and independent campus climate assessment firm, to conduct the ARC3 Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender. The survey was designed and created by the Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3).

Beginning March 4, Rankin Climate will email survey invitations to a random representative sample of students, faculty, and staff on each of our three campuses and Michigan Medicine. 

Understanding the full spectrum of experiences within our community is crucial. If you are asked to participate, please complete the survey.

To learn more about the survey, please visit the Climate Survey page on the Sexual Misconduct Reporting & Resources website. The page will also include additional information and future updates, frequently asked questions, links to relevant research and a variety of campus resources.

This is an important project for us, as a university deeply committed to the values of safety, respect, integrity, inclusivity, and the well-being of every member of our community.

Through your engagement, we can strengthen the University of Michigan, reflect our commitment to one another, and help shape the future of our university.


Santa J. Ono

University Record Articles

U-M surveying community related to sexual harassment, misconduct

Why is the University of Michigan conducting a campus climate survey related to sex and gender?

Climate surveys have long been identified as a best practice for universities to better understand sexual harassment and misconduct on their campuses. As such, the university maintains a regular cadence of climate surveying. This year’s Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender is designed to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual violence (sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking), along with perceptions of these issues on our campuses, and awareness of campus responses and resources.

This qualitative and quantitative research effort will allow us to better understand the experiences of individuals in our campus communities. The survey is designed to assess perceptions and experiences related to a wide range of issues around sexual harassment and other forms of sexual harassment and misconduct that impact our students, faculty, and/or staff. Gathering data about our communities experiences, as well as  perception(s) and knowledge around these issues will better inform our efforts to end sexual harassment and misconduct at the university.

Research shows that thriving campus climates contribute directly to overall wellbeing and success for students, staff and faculty. Information gathered in this survey will help us better understand how members of our university communities experience the university climate, including the ways it is impacted by sexual harassment and misconduct, and how healthier campus community climates can be supported with prevention and response efforts.

Who is rankin climate and why were they contracted to administer this survey?

Rankin Climate is an external and independent campus climate assessment firm. Best practice for conducting comprehensive climate studies indicates the need for third party expertise in survey administration so that participants can feel confident about the integrity of the surveying process and the confidentiality of their responses. This results in higher response rates and more credible findings. With over 20 years of experience, Rankin Climate has done climate assessment using the ARC3 with more than 250 universities nationwide. Dr. Kevin Swartout, a partner at Rankin Climate, is advising on survey implementation. 

Did the institutional review board (irb) review this survey and study protocol? if so, why?

Yes, the ARC3 Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender survey instrument and protocol were reviewed by the University of Michigan’s IRB, which determined the study to be exempt. IRB review is significant for several reasons. First, an IRB review considers whether the research protocol meets institutionally established ethics standards, ensuring that participants are treated with respect and dignity, considering the potential risks and benefits associated with participation in the study, and making sure that the benefits of conducting the survey outweigh any potential harm to participants. For climate surveys, it’s important to ensure that diverse perspectives are represented to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the university community’s climate. So, IRBs also consider whether the recruitment and participation processes are inclusive and do not discriminate against any particular group. Second, IRB approval means that procedures have been reviewed for clarity to ensure that participants are fully informed about the nature, purpose, risks, and benefits of the study before agreeing to participate, and how their responses will be used. Third, IRBs evaluate the security measures in place to protect the data collected during the survey, ensuring that it is stored and handled securely. Climate surveys may involve sensitive information, and IRBs assess the procedures in place to protect the confidentiality of participants’ information, which is particularly important as participants may share sensitive information about their experiences or opinions, and to ensure that there are safeguards to prevent unauthorized access or breaches. Last, IRB review checks that the survey meets institutional policy and adheres to relevant laws and regulations governing human subjects research, such as the Common Rule in the United States. The primary investigator for this survey is Dr. Rachel Roth Sawatzky, Specialist with the Prevention Education, Assistance and Resources office (PEAR) in the University of Michigan’s Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX office (ECRT).

What is the timeline for the university’s Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender?

January 2024
Survey planning and university IRB approval process finalization.

February 2024
University of Michigan President Santa Ono announces the upcoming climate survey.

March 4, 2024
The University of Michigan ARC3 Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender opens.

Summer 2024
Rankin Climate conducts data analysis and report development.

Fall 2024
Findings shared with university campus communities.

How was the ARC3 survey instrument developed?

The Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) survey instrument was developed by a collaborative composed of leading researchers and higher education professionals in response to a 2014 White House Task Force Report1 which considered rates of sexual violence on college campuses in the United States and set forth action steps and recommendations, including conducting regular campus climate assessments.

The questions asked in this survey are intended to support a comprehensive understanding of the campus climate related to sex and gender, including with regards to sexual violence.

The survey has been widely used by colleges and universities in the U.S. as well as internationally. It has been implemented at the state level in university systems in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington and has also been used by the national university systems of Denmark and Ireland.

1 White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Violence, Not Alone, April 2014, 1-23.

What survey methodology is being used for the Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender?

A stratified representative sample of undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff on each campus at the University of Michigan including Michigan Medicine will receive an email invitation to complete the survey. Sample surveying is widely recognized as the gold standard for collecting comprehensive reliable information representing the range of campus experiences1. For a system-wide survey assessing experiences on a number of different campuses a high-quality stratified sample approach achieves the following:

  • Assessment of representation of the varied experiences and perceptions of campus populations. This is because certain demographic groups are both over-represented within our campus communities and more likely to respond to an invitation to participate in a survey resulting in a particular demographic of experiences becoming the dominant narrative in survey findings. Sample survey methodology improves the reliability of the findings.
  • More accurate representation of the rich contextual nuances of different campuses within a large university system so that differences are both accounted for and findings are comparable across the system — comparisons that can only be made if the same methodology is used to collect data on each campus.

1Daniel, J. (2012). Choosing between taking a census and sampling. In Sampling Essentials: Practical Guidelines for Making Sampling Choices (pp. 23-65). SAGE Publications, Inc.,↩︎

Who is being invited to take this survey?

A representative sample of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff on each campus at the University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine will be randomly selected to complete the survey. 

An effective stratified sampling design incentivizes participants to complete the survey with some form of compensation. It is important to adequately incentivize survey participants; not doing so leads to low response rates, biased survey results, and an inability to calculate key estimates at a unit level. The current best practice is to offer compensation that corresponds with $1/minute. Because the survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, each person who returns a completed survey is offered a $15 Visa gift card.

Students, faculty and staff who are not randomly selected to be part of the survey sample are invited to contribute to the campus climate assessment using an anonymous feedback questionnaire which will be linked on this website in early April 2024. Responses to this questionnaire will be submitted directly to Rankin Climate, the independent firm facilitating the survey, who will anonymize and de-identified the responses. Any identifiable information submitted in response to this questionnaire will be redacted and the university will only receive these redacted comments.

How is participant confidentiality protected?

Confidentiality is vital to successful climate studies particularly as matters of personal sensitivity are assessed. Rankin Climate, the independent firm facilitating the survey, will be the only party with access to the anonymized raw data. Their data security procedures take multiple precautionary measures to enhance individual confidentiality of the de-identified data. No data already protected through regulation or policy (e.g., Social Security number, campus identification number, medical information) is obtained through the survey. In the event of any publication or presentation resulting from the assessment, no personally identifiable information will be shared.

Participant confidentiality will be maintained to the highest degree permitted by the technology used (e.g., IP addresses will be stripped when the survey is submitted). No guarantees can be made regarding the interception of data sent via the internet by any third parties; however, to avoid interception of data, the survey is run on a firewalled web server with forced 256-bit SSL security. In addition, the consultant and the 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 and the university will combine the groups or take other measures to eliminate any potential for demographic information to be identifiable. Additionally, any comments submitted in response to the survey will be separated at the time of submission to Rankin Climate so they are not attributed to any individual demographic characteristics. Identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments will be redacted and the university will only receive these redacted comments.Information in the introductory section of the survey will describe the manner in which confidentiality will be guaranteed.

What protections are in place for data storage, including for future secondary use?

Rankin Climate uses 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 will be submitted to a secure server hosted by the consultant. The SaaS hosting platforms are SOC2. The firewall is via Next-Gen Fortigate Firewall. Data is stored in a SQL database which can only be accessed by VPN via authorized personnel only. Our encryption for communication is via HTTPS TLS 1.2. Rankin Climate associates working on the project will have access to the raw data. All Rankin Climate analysts have CITI (Human Subjects) training and approval and have worked on similar projects for other institutions. The server performs an hourly and daily backup and stores the backup on a separate context offsite for safety.

Data from the 2024 University of Michigan administration of the ARC3 Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender will contribute to a merged database of anonymized aggregate data from more than 250 other institutions who have also contracted with Rankin Climate to administer the ARC3. Data is maintained by Rankin Climate on a secure server. No institutional identifiers are included in the full merged data set held by the consultant. The raw unit-level data with institutional identifiers is kept on the server for six months and then destroyed.

Rankin Climate will provide the primary investigator with a data file at the completion of the project.

What will be included in the final summary reports?

Rankin Climate, the independent climate assessment firm facilitating the survey, will provide a comprehensive report including an executive summary of the findings and data visualization dashboard.

What will the findings be used for?

The data from the Campus Climate Survey Related to Sex and Gender will be used to further university efforts around sexual violence prevention and response.

The data will not be used for generalizable research or participation. However, other universities who also administer the ARC3 may use the data for benchmarking purposes.