A common inquiry from participating institutions and instructional staff focuses on the confidential nature of FSSE survey responses. The short answer is that instructional staff responses to the survey are confidential to their institution and FSSE staff. Although not technically anonymous, FSSE staff do what they can to ensure that instructional staff respondents can be confident that their responses are not individually identifiable.
A third-party survey operation, IU Center for Survey Research (CSR), administers the FSSE survey. CSR assists in the process of administering, collecting, and storing instructional staff data. In preparation for sending the invitation, follow-up, and reminder e-mails, CSR assigns a survey identification number, called surveyID, to all participants in order to track responses. This surveyID connects instructional staff names and email addresses during the survey administration. This link allows CSR to report institution-level response rates and to discontinue contacting instructional staff who complete the survey or decline participation. CSR never reports individual information, such as which particular instructional staff have or have not responded, to FSSE staff, who are then unable to distribute this information to participating institutions.
When data collection is complete, CSR submits the collected respondent data along with the surveyID to FSSE staff. Identifying information (respondent names and email addresses) is not included with the respondent data. FSSE staff then analyze the data and create individual institutional reports. Each participating institution receives their reports as well as an electronic file containing their institution’s raw data. It is important to note that demographic responses (gender identity, racial/ethnic identification, etc.) are included in this data file. If requested by the participating institution, FSSE staff can withhold demographic information from the institution’s raw data file.
Sixty days after survey administration closes, CSR destroys the link between the surveyID and instructional staff names and email addresses to further ensure that respondent identities will not be compromised. The respondent database, held by CSR, is permanent, but this does not contain information that would allow instructional staff to be identified once the sample and population files have been destroyed.
Because FSSE staff return data that includes participant-provided answers to certain demographic questions, some combinations of responses (e.g., part-time female assistant professor in physics who teaches a general education requirement) could reasonable identify an individual instructional staff member. For that reason, FSSE staff require participating institutions to agree to the following procedures and safeguards:
Participating Institution shall not release personally identifiable survey response data to any third party, unless required to do so by law. Further, Participating Institution shall not intentionally analyze survey response data for the purpose of re-identifying particular survey participants and linking them to survey responses. Notwithstanding the above, in the event Participating Institution becomes aware that one or more survey responses are linked to a certain survey participant, Participating Institution shall not use such knowledge to take any sort of specific action against or toward that individual, such as singling out that individual for specific training. Participating Institution may only use survey response data on an aggregate or anonymous basis.
Additionally, instructional staff receive the following information as part of their informed consent for participating in FSSE:
Your school and the Center will make every effort to keep your responses confidential, although absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Personally identifying information (e.g., name or email address) will not be included in the data sent from the Center to your institution. No information associated with your name will ever be released publicly, but personally identifiable responses may be inspected by university and government organizations when required by law. Your participation in this study is voluntary and you may refuse to participate without penalty.
Please direct any other questions about FSSE or FSSE survey respondent confidentiality to firstname.lastname@example.org.