Beginning in Fall 2015, all surveys that sample Macalester students, employees, or alumni must first be reviewed by the Macalester Survey Coordination Committee. However, as outlined below, some projects are exempt from review.

What constitutes a survey?

A survey is a structured series of questions (either written or oral) that are addressed to a group of persons in order to gain information.  Surveys take the form of written or electronic questionnaires and questionnaires administered by a person (whether face-to-face or via other communications media).

What is the Survey Coordination Committee?

The purpose of the Survey Coordination Committee is to 1) review applications for surveys research whose subjects are Macalester students, employees, or alumni, 2) encourage good stewardship of our campus resources by encouraging collaboration among campus researchers, monitoring the Macalester Survey Calendar, and coordinating the use of samples, 3) monitor and revise survey policies, with the approval of senior leadership, and 4) educate
the campus about Macalester’s survey policies.

The Survey Coordination Committee is composed of two staff members (one from Student Affairs who is appointed by the VP of Student Affairs and one from Academic Affairs who is appointed by the Provost), two faculty members (appointed by Provost), the Associate Dean of the Faculty  or Assessment Staff (to be determined by the Associate Dean), and the Director of Institutional Research.

The 2017-2018 Survey Coordination Committee members are:

Adam Johnson (Chair; Institutional Research)
Nancy Bostrom (Assessment)
Deb Derringer (Advancement)
Polly Fassinger (Institutional Research)
Martin Gunderson (Philosophy & Interim IRB Chair)
Lesley Lavery (Political Science)
Andrew Wells (Student Affairs)

Which survey projects will be given priority?

Highest priority will be given to
  • Projects required by federal or state mandates
  • Surveys required by external grants or their assessment plans
Second‐level priority will be given to
  • Assessment activities conducted by faculty and staff departments, committees, or offices
  • Regularly scheduled projects conducted on behalf of the college by Institutional Research
  • Student survey projects assigned by faculty members

Exempt projects

The following types of surveys conducted by Macalester faculty, staff, or students are exempt from SCC review:
  • Student course evaluations
  • Student evaluations of faculty for pre‐tenure, tenure, or promotion reviews
  • Feedback or evaluation forms for workshops, events, or (customer) service experiences, if conducted within 48 hours of the end of the workshop, event, or service
  • Surveys conducted within one classroom or course (such as MATH 155 students surveying each other)
  • Surveys conducted within the membership of an office, committee, student organization, or faculty department (such as student government surveying its elected members)
  • Academic departments’ assessment surveys of their major and/or minors (current or alumni)
  • Surveys of department majors and/or minors (current or alumni) conducted for academic department reviews
  • Surveys involving only persons who are not Macalester students, faculty, staff, or alumni
 In addition, the following activities are exempt from SCC review because they are not surveys:
  • Polls for scheduling meeting
  • Elections
  • Registration for events or activities
  • RSVPs for events
  • Administrative record collection (e.g., requesting phone numbers)
  • Focus groups
  • In-depth qualitative interviews
  • On-site human-subject lab experiments

Survey Recruitment Guidelines

Not all survey projects should be broadcast to the entire Macalester community. Over-sampling our community without broader coordination or consideration induces survey fatigue, drains people’s time and attention from institutional priorities, and increases the risk that ethical oversights will put respondents’ privacy at risk.

To these ends, the guidelines below encourage thoughtful and discerning use of Macalester’s shared communication tools for survey recruitment, including the Mac Daily and campus listservs.

  • Faculty and Staff survey projects that are not Exempt from SCC review are expected go through the Survey Coordinating Committee (SCC) approval process before researchers submit recruitment messages to the Mac Daily or campus listservs.
  • Student survey projects for classes, capstone research, and/or independent studies generally should not recruit through Mac Daily or campus listservs, unless:
    • The recruitment is for a lab study being conducted at a specific place and time;
    • The survey focuses specifically on populations who might be very difficult to identify and reach through other recruitment methods. This exception must be approved by the SCC.
  • Many requests for program feedback and evaluation are Exempt from SCC review. However, blanket requests for feedback from the larger Macalester community typically qualify as surveys and are not exempt from review, regardless of survey length. Such requests are expected go through SCC review before being advertised to the broader campus.
  • Please be mindful of the ethical implications and necessary safeguards associated with soliciting sensitive information, regardless of recruitment method. Most research on sensitive topics requires IRB approval, both for the protection of respondents and the College.
  • The SCC does not monitor or regulate any survey recruitment done through Facebook, Twitter, Mac Social or other social media.


If you have any questions, please contact the SCC Chair, Adam Johnson (