On Tuesday night, the College Diversity Roundtable released preliminary results on its campus climate assessment survey. The survey was meant to obtain an idea of UR undergraduates’ experiences with and perceptions of diversity on campus. The school has not completed a climate survey since 1982, but that was significantly different from the one developed by the CDR committee this year.
“The questions [on the most recent survey] were sufficiently different [from the 1982 survey] that there is simply no useful comparison to be made,” Dean of the College Richard Feldman said. “If we conduct surveys again in the future, [the current survey] will give us a good basis for measuring changes.”
Recently completed by 1,381 UR undergraduate students, the survey asked participants a number of questions about their identity with regard to gender, class year, ethnicity and religious identification, among others. While the complete report will not be released until next fall, the CDR’s preliminary results highlight a couple of areas the roundtable found particularly interesting.
According to the survey, 58.2 percent of students acknowledged that before entering UR, more that half of their friends, schools and communities where they lived were similar to them in terms of ethnicity and race. Upon coming to the University, 46.3 percent of students indicate that it has been very easy to get to know people of different ethnicities; 62.9 percent of students feel that it has been easy to get to know people of different religious identifications; and 48.6 percent of students said that it was easy to get to know people of different sexual orientations.
The survey also indicated that the majority (50.2 percent) of its respondents were of liberal political ideology, while only nine percent identified themselves as conservative. More than half of students indicated that religion plays an important role in their daily lives.
The CDR was designed to establish a forum through which diversity can be recognized and supported. Consisting of faculty, staff and students, it is co-chaired by Assistant Dean for Diversity Initiatives Beth Olivares and Director of Minority Students Norman Burnett.
“The Diversity Roundtable can also serve as a focal point for diversity discussions, initiatives and best practices,” Olivares said.
“The CDR has assisted in developing the University’s Statement of Educational Principles, as well as a wide variety of University-wide and College-specific policies.”
Earlier this year, the CDR acted to create a subcommittee that would research various campus climate assessments used by other colleges and universities.
After review of other assessments, the subcommittee settled on an assessment created by Educational Benchmarking Incorporated – an organization used by many other factions of the University, including Residential Life, Admissions and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Olivares explained the intentions behind choosing EBI as a model appropriate to gauge UR’s climate of diversity.
“Because it was developed by researchers and was validated by Ohio State, we believe that the EBI survey, in its depth and breadth, could help us to take a snapshot of the prior experiences with and current attitudes toward diversity of our undergraduate students,” Olivares said.
In addition to the survey, the subcommittee also led a number of focus groups geared toward gathering more qualitative results.
The faculty is optimistic that these initiatives will be satisfactory to achieve a feel for the current environment existing on campus.
Feldman expressed his thoughts on the survey’s effectiveness.
“The present survey will be useful to give us an understanding of current students’ views about the climate on campus,” Feldman said.
Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.