Campus climate results presented to university community
October 4, 2018
Faculty, staff and a handful of students gathered in the Louis B. Mayer Theatre on Wednesday to hear the results of the Campus Climate Survey the university conducted earlier this year.
The “Town Hall Forum” was moderated by Dan Merson, a research associate from Rankin and Associates Consulting, the company that put together the survey.
Rankin and Associates has helped create and assess surveys for nearly 200 universities across the country.
The Campus Climate survey was the most recent step in a years-long process Santa Clara has undertaken in hopes of making the university a more diverse and inclusive environment for its community members.The survey consisted of 117 detailed questions about faculty, staff and students’ experiences at Santa Clara.
The first portion of the questions aimed to gain a sense of who the survey taker was by asking about their ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender and sexual orientation. The meat of the survey, however, looked into each person’s attitudes and feelings toward Santa Clara.
Some questions were general, asking, “Overall, how comfortable are you with the climate at Santa Clara University?” Others dug deep, asking “While a member of the Santa Clara University community, have you ever experienced unwanted sexual contact/conduct?” Respondents were asked to be specific, giving context to the incident and a general timeline.
Merson kicked off the talk by explaining that while nowhere near 100 percent of the campus community responded to the survey, they still received enough responses to be able to generalize the findings.
“We want to reach a certain percent response rate that will give us the comfort to be able to generalize to the population,” Merson said. “The commonly accepted percentage that we use in social science research is 30 percent.”
Luckily for the university, 32 percent of the undergraduate population, 40 percent of faculty and 38 percent of staff responded to the survey. Only 12 percent of graduate students responded, so the university cannot generalize their responses. According to Merson, most universities get survey response rates of between 10 and 15 percent.
After laying out the basics of the survey, Merson summarized the results from some of the most important sections.
72 percent of respondents said that they were either “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the climate at Santa Clara.
Merson explained what Rankin and Associates considered it a positive response.
“Our cutoff is about 70 percent to call something positive,” Merson said. “Your cutoff is whatever you, as a community, decide. So, is that 72 percent overall positive? Or is that an area where you think that there’s room to work on?”
As for how Santa Clara students are feeling in light of the recent survey, some of them are unimpressed, saying the survey is just another way for the university to stall and avoid making actual, tangible changes.
“I kept hearing fluff,” senior Chelsea Alan said, who attended Wednesday’s forum. “It’s a lot of talk and no walk. I definitely think that there’s more concrete things that could be happening now that should have been happening three years ago.”
While discussions about diversity and inclusion at Santa Clara started as early as 1998, the main catalyst was a series of racially insensitive comments posted on YikYak, a public messaging platform, in 2015.
Following the comments, a group of concerned students convened in a group they called Unity 4 and put together a list of demands for the university administration.
The university then created the Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion, which comprised of faculty and staff who were dedicated to addressing the issues presented by Unity 4.
After months of discussion, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force published a 73-page “Strategic Implementation Plan” in June 2017, which laid out specific actions they would take to diversify the university community.
“I’m not seeing any evidence that we’re going to see any type of change,” Alan said. “It sounds like the same exact things in all of the other discussions that they’ve had.”
Members of the university administration remain optimistic about Santa Clara’s path toward increased diversity and inclusion.
“This is not just a report. As somebody who genuinely loves this community, I think this is a call to action. It’s challenging us to live out our Jesuit, Catholic mission,” said Elsa Chen, vice provost for academic affairs. “We should be really proud that so many people here are happy and comfortable and we’re doing many things very well.”
However, she did point out that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
“As we just saw, more than a few people in our community feel devalued, excluded, targeted and unwelcome and we must address that,” she said.
In terms of where the university will go from here now that the study results have been published, Director for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Ray Plaza said he and other members of the Task Force will be looking at the data on a deeper level before any concrete next steps can be made.
“Our office is going to be doing a lot of deeper analysis of the data,” Plaza said. “We’re going to be working on better trying to understand the data and see what we can do to move forward. It may be that we don’t see the changes now, but how do we set the stage for the Santa Clara to-be, for those that are going to follow us.”
Plaza also said the university plans to conduct the Campus Climate Survey at least once every five years in order to track if it is truly improving its diversity and inclusion. For the detailed results of the Campus Climate Survey, visit https://www.scu.edu/diversity/campus-climate-study/ .
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