Challenges Highlighted in Campus Climate Surveys
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
Susan Rankin told ECU faculty, students and staff who came to the Campus Climate Survey meetings Sept. 19-20 that she wanted them to leave the forums feeling uncomfortable.
She wanted the campus community to think about how their own words and actions affect others in their respective environments. She wanted people to begin to remedy that by talking to one another.
And she wanted to use the climate survey data to help create a more comfortable environment for ECU’s students, faculty and staff and to address perceptions and realities about diversity, workplace climate, and safety.
“How can you come here and work together when you don’t know about each other?” said Rankin, hired by ECU to conduct the climate survey in spring 2007. “Be open to learning about each other. Begin by talking to each other.”
Rankin told the participants of the six town hall meeting sessions that she wants everyone to be part of the solution in addressing and embracing ECU’s diverse campus.
“None of us can solve the problems for the entire campus,” Rankin said. “But each of us can look in our own offices and see how we treat people around us.”
The survey, which was completed by 3,237 people, suggests that ECU faces several challenges in connection with diversity issues that parallel ones identified in higher education institutions across the nation.
Those problems include concerns about class, status and privilege among staff employees; concerns about race and gender discrimination especially among students; concerns about “invisibility” among people of faiths other than Christian, as well as for people who are gay, lesbian, or transgender; the perception among respondents regarding ECU’s efforts toward creating equity and community on campus.
Dr. Virginia Hardy, interim chief diversity officer, said the survey provided valuable insights for developing strategies to enhance the diversity climate and maximize equity at ECU.
“The university is unequivocally committed to diversity,” Hardy said. “This survey is another tool in helping us understand what improvements are needed and how we should make them.”
More than 43 percent of ECU’s staff members (810) completed the survey; 32 percent of ECU faculty members (514); and 7 percent of the students (1,747). There were 749 people of color; 2,378 white respondents; 151 people who identified a physical disability, and 247 individuals who identified a psychological condition or learning disability.
Specific findings included:
• Most respondents indicated that they were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the overall climate at ECU. There were some disparities based on race. For instance, compared with 75 percent of white people, 61 percent of people of color were comfortable with the overall climate at the university.
• Twenty-one percent of respondents had personally experienced offensive, hostile or intimidating conduct that interfered unreasonably with their ability to work or learn on campus.
• Nine percent of respondents had been subjected to sexual misconduct, such as touching in a sexual manner. Four percent said they had been victims of sexual assault while at ECU.
• Thirty percent of respondents reported that they had observed discriminatory hiring. Twenty-eight percent said they had observed discriminatory promotion practices.
• Forty-nine percent of respondents believe that ECU values their involvement in diversity initiatives on campus. Thirty-four percent said ECU ought to include diversity-related activities as a criterion for hiring.