Any entity wishing to administer a survey at Occidental College should review the following policies and procedures. 


Survey research is an ubiquitous tool for collecting vital information from campus constituents. This policy aims to: encourage coordinated efforts and best practices in survey research to produce quality data, create opportunities for cross-collaboration and information-sharing, and promote best practices in information security and privacy.


This policy applies to survey activities that are of an institutional nature, and not listed below. It applies to all students, faculty, staff, and non-Occidental researchers or agencies seeking to survey the whole, or any part of, the Occidental student, faculty, staff, parent, and/or alumni bodies. For the purposes of this policy, a survey is defined as information (qualitative or quantitative) gathered from human subjects using questionnaires, interviews, polls, evaluations, etc. to make inferences about a target population. An institutional survey is one that seeks to inform priorities, goals, compliance, practices, policies, procedures, operations, or other decision-making processes of the College (see Appendix for reference).

This policy does not apply to the following activities:

(a) faculty research*

(b) faculty-supervised student research being performed as part of an academic course or for academic credit[1]*                 

(c) teaching evaluation forms

(d) forms used to collect information for administrative purposes (e.g. scheduling)

(e) evaluation of an event by participants

(f) feedback from clients at the point of service

(g) assessments or surveys sent by departments (academic or administrative), program leaders or student group/organization leaders to members within that department, program or group/organization for evaluation or assessment of that department, program, or group/organization (for example, a registered student organization may freely poll its own members or a union may survey its own members).

Policy and Institutional Decision Making

The President of the College, the senior administrative team, and the Office of Institutional Research (IR) are in mutual agreement that survey data can be instrumental in informing decision makers on College policy, practices, procedures or operations. In order for survey data to be considered by decision makers (and the key stakeholders listed above), data provided must be from surveys that adhere to this policy and/or are approved by Institutional Research (where noted below). Data presented from surveys that do not adhere to this policy will be subject to review before determining its significance in the context of institutional decision making. 

Survey projects meant to fulfill requirements from external governing entities, such as federal compliance offices, must also adhere to this policy as a measure of quality assurance.  

Any project, from any community member or group, is encouraged to contact the Office of Institutional Research to determine if the activity is subject to this policy, or would benefit from the policy. All are encouraged to follow these protocols and policies as best practices.


Those interested in administering a survey are expected to be able to communicate reasons for needing a survey, what the survey will be used for, what will be collected on the survey, and who it should go to. The following steps outline the procedure for embarking on an institutional survey project. 


All surveys intended for distribution to any members of the Occidental community (e.g. students, faculty, staff and/or alumni), by any Occidental student, faculty, staff, department, or program are expected to adhere to the following protocols. These protocols are based on existing policy, IRB standards, and reflect best practices in privacy, safety, and security.

  1. All participants must be notified that their participation is voluntary.
  2. Respondents must be notified in advance if data collected will not be anonymous.
    1. If subjects are promised anonymity and a login is required to access the survey (e.g., email address, name, or ID number), the researcher must ensure that login information will not be collected and stored in a way that it can be connected to survey results.
  3. Personally identifiable information should be collected only as required in relation to the expressly stated purpose of research or a project. This information must be volunteered by the respondent/participant. Arrangements to have information from College data systems attached to the survey data can be requested in the survey proposal.  Approval for requested data elements will be subject to the purpose of the research or project.
  4. Survey materials and procedures are unbiased, inoffensive, equitable, and respectful of diversity.
  5. Surveys utilize best practices in administration, function, design, and analysis. 
  6. Respondents must be protected from risk of unreasonable harm, including any risks regarding confidentiality or privacy.
  7. All data collected adheres to College policies regarding information security and privacy ( Appropriate Use Policy ; Information Security Plan ; Electronic Information Privacy Policy ; FERPA ).
  8. If your survey or data analysis will include academic, demographic, or contact information for Occidental students, you may be subject to Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations. You are responsible for understanding your responsibility with this information.  
  9. For surveys going to a defined list of students where a contact list is needed, the Office of Institutional Research, with assistance and express approval from the Office of the Registrar, will provide the list of student email addresses required for the survey. No other office may provide this list of student email addresses without the consent of the Office of the Registrar. The email list should not be redistributed or used for any other purposes without authorization of the Office of the Registrar.
  10. The use of any monitored email listserv to promote or distribute a survey will automatically generate a review.  
  11. Students in formal leadership/governance positions are advised not to use the privilege of their positions to send out invitations/links to surveys that have not been reviewed through this process. 
  12. Survey data collected on Occidental students, faculty, alumni, and staff surveyed using Occidental resources will be considered the property of Occidental College. The principal investigator must be willing to share the survey data and findings if requested from the Office of Institutional Research or appropriate vice presidents for secondary analysis or to ensure it is maintained as a historical artifact.
  13. Use of the college’s survey administration system (Qualtrics) is recommended for conducting campus surveys.  If another system is used, the researcher assumes the full responsibility for the security and privacy of the data.

Certain surveys may require approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The review process outlined in this policy is not a substitute for a review by the IRB. If a survey research project is subject to review by the IRB, approval by both IRB and this policy is required prior to administration.

You may employ the Office of Institutional Research to build and administer your survey for you. If you opt for this assistance, some risks associated with privacy, data security and adherence to College policies may be mitigated.


Proposal Form

These pieces of information are necessary to complete the review process. Survey content, invite language, and purpose are essential. The time it takes for a survey to complete the protocol varies based on several factors, from stage in the planning process, the scope and scale of the survey, the number of reviews, to the amount of revisions (and subsequent views) needed. The sooner the information is complete, the faster the review process can be. Some information will prompt higher levels of review. Additional questions may arise. ‘Institutional’ surveys (Tier 2) should expect to take longer (typically 1-2 months) than Tier 3 Procedural surveys (typically fully reviewed in less than a week). Tier 3 Advocacy surveys should expect the review process to take 1-4 weeks. While this process is not meant to deny surveys, it may result in a survey being denied, rescheduled, or re-envisioned. Feedback on the rationale for the decision will be shared.

When you are ready, you may access the proposal form using this link: IR Survey Proposal Form. 

  • Requestor Info: Name, Affiliation (student, faculty, staff, etc)
  • Primary Survey Sponsor: (could be a committee, group, department, or individual)
  • What other individuals, areas, departments are sponsoring, or have you consulted with on this survey project? 
  • What does the survey [need to] ask about? (content)
  • What will the data be used for? (purpose)
  • Who is the survey going to?
  • How is the survey going to be distributed?
  • When is this survey going to be administered?
  • What personal or identifying information will be collected?
  • How will anonymity or confidentiality be ensured? How will the data be stored?
  • How long is the survey (# of responses a respondent must make)?
  • Will this survey need to be repeated?
  • Will an incentive be offered?
  • Is it administered by a third-party?
  • What is the recruitment/invite language?
  • What is the plan for analyzing the data?


Occidental College has an institutional subscription to Qualtrics University Research Suite ( It is encouraged to use this preferred vendor for survey projects. Follow these instructions to set up an account. Qualtrics provides training in various forms on their website


[1] Though these activities do not specifically fall under the purview of this policy, they do require IRB review and in rare cases may benefit from review under this policy.

[2] See Institutional Surveys page for survey instruments regularly administered at Occidental College.

Effective Date: 9/1/2021