Campus climate survey results show dissatisfaction

By: Caroline Newman, Editor in Chief

In the fall of 2016, executives on the Missouri S&T campus sent a “campus climate survey” to students, faculty, and staff. This survey was designed to measure the perception of diversity and inclusivity on campus, as well as to serve as a general barometer of the experiences of minorities or other marginalized groups. The results, which were sent to the campus community in September of 2017 (and are available via http://diversity.mst.edu/climatesurvey/), measure the experiences of over 1,500 members of the S&T community.

Of those respondents, 937 are undergraduate students. 75 are graduate or post-doctoral students, 144 are faculty, and 364 respondents were non-faculty staff members. 712 respondents are women, 728 are men, and 58 identify as being on the transgender spectrum. An overwhelming number of respondents are White or Caucasian, with under 250 respondents identifying as Latinx, Asian, Black, African, Asian, or Multiracial.

The survey was designed to examine instances of sexual harassment, race- or gender-based discrimination, as well as the relationships between students and faculty, and faculty and the administration.

The survey results reveal numerous “opportunities for improvement” on campus. Members of several surveyed demographics reported instances of exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, or hostile conduct. Many faculty members or other campus employees reported an unsatisfactory work-life balance. In addition, a “small, but meaningful, percentage of respondents experienced unwanted sexual contact,” including relationship violence, stalking, catcalls, or rape.

It comes as no surprise to see that men were more likely to state that they felt “very comfortable” on this campus than women (30% vs 22%). [Figure 16] Numerous female respondents reported that they had experienced exclusionary conduct on campus, and of those, 37% reported that the conduct was based on their gender. [Figure 26] Respondents also shared they had experienced discrimination based on their religion, ethnicity, political views, and major. [Table 32]

What’s truly concerning is the admission that most instances of exclusionary or hostile conduct do not get reported. [Table 38] In the qualitative summaries of the survey, respondents from various demographics explain that the fear of retaliation far outweighs any potential benefits that may come from reporting inappropriate behavior. This fear is magnified by the numerous survey respondents who perceived “reverse discrimination” on campus, expressing annoyance at the emphasis on diversity and inclusivity; “It’s hard to be white on campus,” said one respondent.

The rest of the survey is similarly distressing. The survey notes that “Analyses revealed significant differences in responses among groups, where the answers of Transspectrum respondents, Women respondents, Undergraduate Student respondents, Off-Campus Housing respondents, Respondents with disability, and respondents with No Religious/Spiritual Identities and Multiple Religious/Spiritual Identities were generally less positive than the reponses of other groups.” [Page 137]

As a campus, we must strive to do and be better. In the words of noted educator Ernest L. Boyer, “A college or university, at its best, is an open, honest community, a place where freedom of expression is uncompromisingly protected and where civility is powerfully affirmed.”