In this issue, I review the results of the climate study that were released last week.
Climate study results show progress, areas for improvement
Last week we completed and released the report from the campus climate study. The full report is available on the diversity and inclusion website.
Missouri State University has focused on creating a healthy campus climate for many years because students learn better when they have a diverse student body and faculty, and their environment is free from negativity and discrimination. A healthy, supportive work environment is an important part of professional development for employees. Employees who have been targets of discrimination tend to suffer decreased health and well being, and they are less engaged and less productive.
Prior diversity study
In 2008, Dr. Paula Caplan, an associate at Harvard University’s DuBois Institute, conducted a research project titled “The Voices of Diversity”. Missouri State was one of four universities that participated in the project. Dr. Caplan found that, at Missouri State:
- About half of the students participating in the study felt they connected to the college and off-campus community and felt as though they fit in on campus;
- Approximately one-fifth indicated that they have experienced discriminatory practices on campus; and
- Only two-fifths of participants believed there was little or no racial discrimination on the campus.
Missouri State took this feedback to heart and took a number of actions to improve the campus climate for diverse students. You can see a list of Missouri State’s actions and the actions of others in the Springfield community in the University’s press release.
Climate study gauges University’s progress
In 2013, we decided it was time to conduct a climate study to see what impact these efforts have had on our campus climate and to see where we should focus our efforts going forward. The results of this study make two points clear: first, we have made progress; and second, we still have work to do.
The vast majority of respondents in the climate study indicated that they had not experienced discrimination, sexual harassment, a hostile work environment or retaliation. This is a very positive finding. Additionally students of color and white students responded similarly when asked whether they believe they are treated fairly at the University.
Despite these positive findings, our work is not done. The climate study’s findings about micro-aggressions indicate that we have room for improvement. Findings about feelings of inclusiveness and belonging also indicate that we have room to improve.
DiversityWorks, the consultant who performed the climate study, has informed me that the findings in Missouri State’s climate study are very similar to findings at other universities. What this means is that Missouri State University, like other universities, needs to keep diversity and inclusion as a priority and make conscious decisions to continue moving forward.
Plans for action
To do this, we have put a series of actions in place:
- We have selected The Other Wes Moore as our common reader for the fall, and Wes Moore will provide our Public Affairs Convocation Lecture in October. Through the common reader and convocation, students will engage in a campus-wide dialogue about diversity issues.
- We have retained Drs. Ed and Myra Hubbard, consultants specializing in diversity analytics, to provide a public presentation on campus in the fall and to conduct two days of diversity training with University administrators and community leadership.
- We have retained Dr. Pat Ashton and Wayne Williams to conduct a diversity training seminar with all of our academic deans and department heads this semester as well as a large number of student affairs professionals.
- We have retained Giving Voice, a student-based theatre organization that provides workshops and presentations to address oppression, micro-aggression, and discrimination, to perform a series of reenactments on campus in conjunction with our Criminology and Criminal Justice Conference in April.
- We are in the process of putting together a committee to recommend additional responses to the climate study. These recommendations will be addressed as part of our long-range planning process starting in the fall.
We will continue to focus on diversity because it is critical to our students’ academic experience and future success. I look forward to seeing what additional progress we can make in the years ahead. If you have any suggestions about actions the University should take in response to the climate study, please submit them.
Thanks for all you do for Missouri State!
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