January 21, 2011

Campus Climate Study Results Discussed in “Town” Meetings

A series of “town meetings” held on campus Dec. 2 and 3 provided an opportunity for all faculty, staff, and students to hear a presentation by Sue Rankin, principal, Rankin & Associates Consulting, who holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration, on the results of the Campus Climate Survey conducted last spring.

The survey was designed to assess the level of success that Lafayette has as a community in creating a welcoming and inclusive climate grounded in mutual respect, nurtured by dialogue, and evidenced by a pattern of civil interaction. The survey was created by the Campus Climate Working Group (CCWG) working with Rankin & Associates. It was designed for respondents to provide information about their personal experiences with regard to climate issues and their perceptions of institutional actions including policies related to climate issues and concerns on campus.

“A positive climate for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators—regardless of individual identities or positions at the College—encourages individual growth and discourages expressions of discrimination and harassment,” said President Daniel H. Weiss in the Nov. 16 announcement to the campus about the scheduled town meetings.  “The survey was designed to provide baseline information about where we are most successful in building a positive climate as well as where we have important work to do. The results will be used to inform our ongoing discussions about initiatives to create positive change at the College.”

The participation rate was 37%, which Rankin described as a “great response.”  She said the unusually strong response rate means that the results can be generalized to the whole campus population. The executive summary noted the strengths revealed by the survey, which include that a majority of employees are satisfied with their jobs, a large majority of students are satisfied with their academic experiences, a majority reported that they are comfortable with the climate, and a majority of faculty and students are comfortable with the classroom climate.

The summary also identified some challenges, which include that some respondents perceived experiences of inequity or harassment based on their racial identity, their gender, or their sexual orientation. Rankin noted that similar challenges are found in higher education institutions across the country.

Rankin’s presentation as well as the full report and an executive summary are available on the web, A Lafayette network ID and password are required to view the documents.  A hard copy of the full report is on reserve in Skillman Library.

In December, Provost Wendy Hill informed the campus of the next steps. “We learned about many positive aspects of our community,” she said. “Yet, as a community, there is important work to be done in a number of areas.” She asked members of the community to provide suggestions for actions that would make Lafayette a more inclusive and welcoming climate either by responding to an anonymous Opinio survey or by participating in one of the small group discussions that the CCWG has scheduled for Feb. 3, 4, and 7.

By May 1 the group will provide Weiss with three tiers of initiatives: actions to begin by fall 2011, those to begin during 2011-12, and those to be done in the next three to five years.

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