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University Policy 51

Conducting Surveys

Formerly Executive Memorandum 94-108
Initially Approved: January 1, 1978
Revised: July 3, 1978
Revised: June 1, 1986
Revised: April 15, 1987
Revised: June 1, 1999
Revised: December 17, 2003
Revised: March 19, 2024

Policy Topic: Governance and Administration
Administering Office: Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness

I. Policy Statement

This policy exists to manage surveys conducted on the Western Carolina University (WCU or University) Campus Community; to monitor survey frequency; minimize the survey burden on the WCU Campus Community; to support the privacy rights of those being surveyed; to ensure the safety of data collection and usage; and to have official approval when an organization, unit, or individual under the authority or control of the University is conducting a paper or electronic survey in the name of the University. This policy shall not be used to unreasonably restrict academic endeavors or otherwise violate the principles of academic freedom as defined in the Faculty Handbook (Section 4.02); WCU Policy and Procedure; or University of North Carolina Policy and Code.  Nothing in this policy shall be interpreted to infringe on the free speech rights of individuals.


This policy applies to any person, either a member of the WCU Campus Community or someone external to the University, planning to issue a survey to members of the WCU Campus Community.  The Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness and the Institutional Review Board reserve the right to review any planned or initiated survey, to determine if it is subject to this policy.  In instances where a University Survey is already distributed, and has not previously undergone review, the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness and/or the Institutional Review Board reserve the right to suspend the survey until review and approval (if needed) is completed.


"Campus Community" – Refers to any person affiliated with Western Carolina University, including but not limited to administrators, faculty, staff, undergraduate or graduate students, and alumni.

"Census" – all individuals who are part of a population are included in a survey

"External Survey Request" – Survey that originates from outside the Campus Community and desires to survey members of the Campus Community.

"Institutional Review Board or IRB" – Refers to the WCU entity established to protect the rights and welfare of human subject research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the institution with which it is affiliated.

"Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness or OIPE" – Refers to WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness.

"On-Campus Survey Request" – Survey that originates from within the Campus Community and desires to survey members of the Campus Community.

"Primary Survey Administrator" – The primary contact person for the survey, and generally the person seeking to implement the survey.

"Sample" – the part of a total population selected to participate in a survey. (Examples: All undergraduate full-time students, all faculty; all SHRA staff)

"Survey" - means a tool used to collect, measure, and analyze data from a population being studied and may include the collection of responses through questionnaires, interviews (including oral histories), or focus groups.

"Target population" – a collection of all people to whom survey results can be generalized.

"University Survey" - means an established and usually recurring survey, either produced and maintained in-house, or contracted by WCU through a professional academic research entity, (1) whose respondents are entirely or primarily drawn from the Campus Community, (2) that covers university-wide issues, and (3) that is designed to draw conclusions about WCU based on the data obtained.


Surveys excluded from this policy include:

  1. Surveys required by the University of North Carolina System Office;
  2. Student evaluations of course instruction, including instructor-initiated ad hoc evaluations and required evaluations of instruction;
  3. Student classroom surveys designed by instructors to elicit course-specific feedback informing pedagogical development (e.g., teaching effectiveness, teaching style) or curricular changes (e.g., course content, course workload). The results will not be published or otherwise disclosed to an audience external to WCU;
  4. Faculty and/or students conducting surveys of students in their own class(es), to fulfill the requirements of a course assignment. The results will not be published or otherwise disclosed to an audience external to WCU;
  5. Human Resources administered employee evaluations;
  6. Event evaluations by event participants;
  7. Point-of-service surveys administered during or immediately following the service interaction;
  8. Anonymous feedback surveys not directed to a specific sample (Examples: event feedback questionnaire, comment cards, webpage feedback prompts, published or printed QR code-driven surveys);
  9. Surveys administered internally within WCU divisions related to business improvement and development sent to fewer than 200 participants.
  10. Polls or ballots used for voting purposes;
  11. Surveys sent to membership of voluntary associations and the Student Government Association and are not for research purposes;
  12. Surveys exempted by the Chancellor or designee.


External survey requests to survey the Campus Community will be denied except in cases where a member of the Campus Community is a research collaborator, or where business related to compliance with federal regulations, or institutional accreditation requires the survey. Requests for exceptions to this Policy may be made in writing to the University Survey Oversight Committee via the OIPE, for review.  The OIPE will develop internal guidelines for the review of exceptions to this Policy as well as survey requirements.


  1. Surveys require a completed registration form with the OIPE a minimum of ten business days in advance of implementation. Survey timing and sampling will be coordinated by the OIPE.  Such coordination will be implemented by avoiding survey timing overlap and selecting prospective respondents who have not yet been included in other surveys' samples, to the extent possible.
    1. For surveys sent directly to respondents, sampling will be utilized unless the survey originator can demonstrate need for a census.
  2. The OIPE manages the survey approval process which applies to On-Campus survey requests and External Survey Requests. Approval prior to implementation is required for surveys which meet the criteria below. 
    1. Registration is required for all surveys.
    2. Surveys targeting entire populations, or with sample sizes greater than 200 recipients, must be reviewed and approved by the OIPE.
    3. Surveys with target populations primarily served by specific departments are subject to approval by those departments (e.g., A survey targeting alumni and not developed by the Office of Community and Alumni Engagement, would need approval from the Office of Community and Alumni Engagement).
    4. As part of the approval process, submitted survey registration forms will be routed to the appropriate supervisor for review and feedback.
    5. Survey research involving human subjects must receive IRB approval prior to survey administration. More information on human subjects research can be found at the Office of Research Administration website.
  3. On-Campus Surveys that are electronic in nature will be administered through the primary survey software adopted by the university, or other WCU Division of Information Technology (IT Division) approved platform. Information on approved platforms is available from the OIPE and the IRB.
    1. All surveys subject to this policy must comply with electronic and information technology accessibility standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Current technical guidelines are outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG), providing helpful guidance concerning minimum success criteria and conformance requirements for accessibility of information and communication technology (ICT) features.
    2. Electronic surveys must be designed to ensure that when the responder completes the survey, a message appears indicating that the survey has been completed and transmitted.
  4. Surveys shall contain a statement concerning the privacy of the responder's responses, how the data from the survey will be analyzed, and who will see the results of the survey. In addition, an email address and telephone number should be provided as contact information in case of questions or technical problems. Any representations made regarding the privacy of responses should disclose that it is limited to applicable public record laws or orders by a court of competent jurisdiction.
  5. When possible, all surveys should be encrypted with an encryption method, such as secured socket layer (SSL) that has been approved by the IT Division, to assure the responder that the information that they provide will not be viewed by anyone else. All databases used to store data should be in a secured location on a university-managed server.
  6. Upon the completion of an On-Campus or University Survey a copy of the final report, the survey instrument, and raw frequencies for each question are to be supplied to the OIPE to become part of the university’s official survey record.


  1. Written notification to the responsible party and the responsible party’s supervisor will occur if university personnel administer surveys that violate this policy. Repeat policy violators may have their access to university approved survey tools restricted and/or may require clearance from their supervisor before they may administer future surveys.
  2. Parties responsible for an External Survey in violation of this policy may be restricted from access to University resources, including but not limited to, access to University e-mail systems and/or access to the Campus Community (University Access). The University may withdraw any restriction at its discretion. 


This Policy shall be reviewed and revised as necessary every three (3) years.


The University Survey Oversight Committee is responsible for administering this policy.  The committee meets biannually and as needed to address special circumstances and petitions.  Committee membership includes:

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness
Research Compliance Officer, Office of Research Administration
University Survey Administrator, OIPE
Director of Institutional Assessment, Office of the Provost
Public Communications Specialist, Office of Communications and Public Relations
Coulter Faculty Commons representative
Division of Information Technology representative
Division of Student Affairs Representative
Faculty representative (Faculty Affairs Council)
Staff representative (Staff Senate)
Student representative (Student Government Association)

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