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Scope and Who is Governed by This Policy
This policy applies to all institutional and administrative surveys for the purposes of institutional research and to some surveys for academic and scholarly research. All Suffolk University staff, faculty, and students are subject to the Suffolk University Survey Policy and Procedures. In the case of an outside entity, the university contact will submit to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) and provide the required supporting information ensuring that the survey is consistent with Suffolk University policy and procedures.
Purpose and Need
The goal of the policy is to ensure efficiency, accuracy, accountability and consistency in the administration of surveys and data collection efforts at Suffolk University. This policy is intended to:
- eliminate unnecessary and duplicate data collection efforts, thus reducing survey fatigue;
- improve the response rate and quality of results for all data collection projects;
- alert programs, departments, divisions, and schools to existing available data (where appropriate);
- ensure that collected data is valid, reliable, and secure;
- ensure that data collection projects do not violate privacy or confidentiality rules or run counter to any stated Suffolk University policies;
- promote the effective use of Suffolk University resources.
The policy covers administrative and institutional surveys for internal and external use in support of assessment, evaluation, and reporting for accreditation, rating, ranking, and related purposes. In the cases where research surveys are involved for scholarship or serve a dual function or institutional research and scholarly research, this policy does not replace existing Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements for the protection of human participants. Surveys conducted for the use as both institutional research and for scholarly research must be reviewed by both the OIRA and the IRB.
Suffolk University values thoughtful reflection, collaboration, planning and evaluation as essential for meeting the institutional mission and strategic goals. Administrative data collection is an important tool for gathering information, evaluating outcomes, and informing decision-making.
Reason for Policy
When collecting data through surveys the university strives to improve quality, reduce redundancy and over-surveying, coordinate efforts for the reliable and valid collect information, and aims to inform decision makers. The utility of the survey information is critical so that there can be potential for benefit to the students, faculty, staff, alumni and any additional sector of the university addressed by the survey. The expectation is that the policy will also enable best ethical practice in survey construction, implementation, and data usage and protect the privacy and confidentiality of those who participate in institutional surveys.
In order to support Suffolk University’s goals for evaluation, assessment and informed decisions, institutional research activities shall be conducted as approved by the OIRA. Surveys and related institutional assessment efforts shall be approved or denied based on their importance to the university strategic plan and mission, population, timing, ethical construction and implementation, and resources. The level of survey utility and degree to which the dissemination of information will be accessible to appropriate constituents will also be considered in the approval process.
Exclusions and Special Situations
The following surveys do not need to be reviewed by the OIRA:
- The following types of surveys do not have to be reviewed: surveys used for assigned classroom course work, participants' event evaluations or point-of-service surveys targeting specific users, course evaluations, and focus groups.
- Surveys that have been approved by the IRB (including all dissertations and theses).
- Exception 1: A research survey that targets a significant portion of the university community. In this case, the survey originator must consult with the OIRA to determine the most appropriate time for administrating the survey in an effort to maximize response rates and robust data collection.
- Exception 2: Dissertations or theses that intend to serve the dual purpose of institutional research and scholarship. In this case, the survey originator must consult with the OIRA to ensure the survey is consistent with the goals of the policy for institutional research surveys.
The following surveys do need to be reviewed by the OIRA:
- Surveys that would be administered to employees in more than one department or division.
- Requests from external parties to survey Suffolk University students, staff, faculty, and/or other university constituents. These surveys must have a Suffolk University sponsor and the external party must be under contract with Suffolk University that defines personal data and e-mail security or under a formal agreement. Surveys from external parties for institutional research that do not have a sponsor and contract with Suffolk University will typically be denied.
- Surveys for which contact information is needed from OIRA, HR, IT, etc.
The OIRA will review all submissions for institutional research in a timely manner. Once the Institutional Assessment Form is completed and submitted with accompanying documentation (survey), the materials will be reviewed. The individual(s) conducting the survey will be informed as to whether the survey is approved, approved pending revisions, or denied. If approved, the OIRA will recommend the steps needed to be taken to implement the survey. If additional information is required as part of the decision-making process, the individual(s) conducting the survey will be contacted.
If the individual(s) conducting the survey disagree with the outcome decision made by the OIRA and a satisfactory resolution cannot be attained, then an appeal should be made to the University Provost. The Provost will review the appeal and consult, when appropriate, with University Leadership and make the final determination. The Provost’s determination regarding institutional surveys is final and not subject to further review.
Deliberate failure to adhere to FERPA, Association of Institutional Research Code of Ethics, and related Suffolk policy and procedure may subject individuals conducting the survey to institutional action.
Submit a Survey for OIRA Review
To submit a survey for review, please complete the form below and send it as an email attachment to OIRA. As a reminder, you will need to also include a copy of your survey when you submit the completed form.
This form is for ALL current student, faculty, and staff members of Suffolk University wishing to distribute a survey to members of the Suffolk community.
Appropriate lead time (7-10 business days) is asked for all account requests.
By creating an account it is expected that you will abide by FERPA and Suffolk University's Research and Compliance guidelines. Explanation of the guidelines are listed below.
Failure to abide by FERPA provisions and Research Compliance guidelines will results in immediate suspension of your account. Further disciplinary action may be taken by Human Resources and/or another appropriate office.
It is expected that you will:
- Handle this information in a confidential manner, keeping it secure at all times
- Communicate this information only to other parties authorized to have access to it in accordance with the provisions of FERPA
- Use this information only for its intended purpose
- Properly dispose of this information when it is no longer needed
Research that is involves human participants may be exempt from IRB approval prior to start of research falls under two categories.
Research conducted in established or commonly accepted educational setting, involving normal educational practices such as:
- research on regular and special education instructional settings
- research on the effectiveness of or the comparison among instructional techniques, curricula, or classroom management methods.
Research involving the use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures or observation of public behavior unless:
- information obtained is recorded in such a manner that human subjects can be identified, directly or through identifies linked to the subject,
- any disclosure of the human subjects' responses outside the research could reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects; financial standing, employability, or reputation.