Frequently asked questions about Penn State's climate survey

April 13, 2016

Penn State conducted a University-wide survey of students to learn more about their attitudes and experiences related to sexual assault and harassment, and their knowledge of the resources available to them. The results, released April 13, 2016, will help guide the University’s ongoing efforts to curb sexual misconduct. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the survey.

Q: Why was the survey done?

Penn State conducted the University-wide survey of students to learn more about their attitudes and experiences related to sexual assault and harassment, and their knowledge of the resources available to them. The results of the survey will help guide the University’s ongoing efforts to provide resources, information and support to students to combat sexual misconduct. The climate survey was one of 18 recommendations from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment that President Eric Barron formed and which the University is in the process of implementing. By better understanding students’ experiences and perceptions, the University will be better able to help address these issues.

Q: What is Penn State going to do with the survey results?

The results are providing crucial information to the University as it remains focused on strengthening its resources to prevent sexual misconduct from happening and to respond appropriately when it does. The University has already implemented or begun to implement many key changes that came from an in-depth study and report from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment. These results will provide information about the prevalence of various types of sexual misconduct and knowledge of resources available, allowing the University to build on its efforts to stop sexual misconduct.

Q: Who created the survey?

Penn State worked with DatStat, a data research company the University has partnered with on other student surveys in the past. The survey Penn State used is a modified version of the Administration Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) survey, a free campus climate survey created by a consortium of researchers and professionals that was created based on suggestions from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. (For more on the ARC3 survey, go to:

Q: When and how was the survey done?

The surveys were sent via email to students at 23 of the University’s 24 locations in November 2015. (It was not administered at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.) The survey was sent to a statistically representative pool of students to ensure the results’ accuracy and representativeness. Altogether, 35,415 students received the survey, and 9,427 responded, a response rate of 26.6 percent.

The surveys were completely anonymous and included a range of questions about students’ experiences and attitudes. The survey itself, as well as the survey results for all campuses, are available online.

Q: How were the questions created?

A: After reviewing a number of options, Penn State chose to use the ARC3 survey with minor changes. As part of the process, the Office of Student Affairs Research and Assessment administered a pilot survey in spring 2015 to a smaller pool of students at University Park, Penn State Altoona, Lehigh Valley and Fayette, and Penn State Behrend. The respondents provided useful feedback, which was incorporated into the final survey.

The survey questions were designed to be neutral and allow students to respond honestly. The questions and students’ responses provide information that is crucial for the University to fully understand what students are experiencing, including gaining more accurate information about the frequency and types of sexual misconduct that take place.

Q: Some of the questions are very specific/graphic? Is that necessary?

The survey does include specific questions about nonconsensual sexual contact. This information is crucial to gaining a complete and accurate understanding of students’ experiences. Asking questions about students’ experiences with specific behavior rather than using more general terms such as “sexual misconduct” provides for more accurate information.

Q Why isn’t there a question specifically about rape?

Because people may define rape in different ways, the survey included questions about specific types of sexual misconduct, including being the victim of unwanted touching, penetration or attempted penetration.

Q: Were the responses anonymous?

Yes, the responses were and are completely anonymous. The survey was voluntary.

Q: How many students took the survey?

Altogether, 35,415 students received the survey and 9,427 responded for a response rate of 26.6 percent. At University Park, 11,023 undergraduates and 4,000 graduate students received the survey, with a response rate of 26.7 percent of undergraduates and 40.9 percent of graduate students. The response rate was strong for this type of survey and provides a representative and valid sample of respondents. For the rates of response at individual campuses, see the individual campus survey summaries:

Q: How does Penn State compare with other universities? Are there national surveys?

Some comparisons between the Penn State survey and the recent survey by the American Association of Universities can be made. These are noted in the individual Penn State survey reports. On a number of questions, it is difficult to draw a comparison between Penn State and the more well-known AAU survey because the questions are not phrased in a manner that would permit an accurate comparison.

Q: Where can I find more information about Penn State’s initiatives to combat sexual misconduct?

The Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment’s final report and recommendations:

President Eric Barron’s acceptance of the 18 task force recommendations:

A look at the survey before its release:

The University’s appointment of a Title IX coordinator:

University issues ‘Call to Action’ to combat sexual misconduct:

The creation of Stand for State, a Universitywide bystander intervention initiative:

Q: What resources are available to students who may be victims of unwanted nonconsensual sexual behavior?

Sexual misconduct on college campuses has been a nationwide topic of conversation and Penn State is committed to addressing the issue. Listed below are resources — including centers, medical services, counseling services, advocacy and police and safety services — available to Penn State students and others in the University community who have experienced sexual assault and relationship violence.

Center for Women Students
The center serves all Penn State students, male and female, who have experienced sexual assault and/or relationship violence.

Title IX Coordinator, Paul Apicella
The Title IX Coordinator has responsibility to ensure that the University responds appropriately to any student impacted by sexual harassment (including sexual violence) or gender-based discrimination or harassment.

Centre County Women’s Resource Center

Counseling and Psychological Center (CAPS)

Student and Family Services

University Health Services (UHS) Sexual Assault Services
- University Health Services Sexual Assault Victim Care Options Guideline:

Telephone Numbers for University Park Sexual Assault Resources
Medical services:
- University Ambulance Service, dial 911 (identify yourself as a student)
- Mount Nittany Medical Center, emergency department, 814-234-6110
- University Health Services, 814-863-0774
- Telephone advice nurse (24 hours a day), 814-863-0774, option 2

Counseling services:
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), 814-863-0395
- Center for Women Students, 814-863-2027
- Centre County Can Help, 800-643-5432 (Crisis Line)
- Centre County Women's Resource Center, 814- 234-5050

Advocacy, information and support:
- Center for Women Students, 814-863-2027
- Victim/Witness Advocate, 814-865-1864
- Student and Family Emergency Line: 814-863-2020

Police and safety services:
- Penn State Police Service, 814-863-1111
- State College Borough Police, 814-234-7150
- Penn State Escort Service (dusk to dawn), 814-865-WALK

Penn State's Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Hotline
Available 24/7 at all campuses and staffed by trained counselors
800-550-7575, TTY: 886-714-7177
To directly report child abuse, call Childline at 800-932-0313.

Commonwealth Campuses Sexual Assault Resources

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
Statewide hotline: 800-692-7445, TTY: 877-585-1091
24-hour information and referral line: 888-772-PCAR

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Sexual Assault Awareness Month:
- Sexual Assault Response Team information and national SART listserv:

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
- information:
- 24-hour hotline: 800-656-HOPE

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 19, 2017