Lawrence to launch campus climate survey

Brianna Stapleton

Students have noticed the warmer spring temperatures this week – but this is not the sort of climate with which the Multicultural Affairs Committee is concerned. During the first three weeks of May, Lawrence students will be able to take a campus climate survey on Voyager. The goal of the survey is to determine the overall student satisfaction with different aspects of campus life.
The concept of a “climate survey” is new to Lawrence. Though most other campuses do climate surveys every 5-10 years, Lawrence has never conducted such a survey before.
Bill Skinner, Director of Research Administration, explains, “It’s not a normal sort of survey.” Students will be asked to respond to questions on a variety of topics that address diversity and respect on campus.
Skinner and Erik Farley, Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs, are hoping to learn about the classroom experiences of students with different racial and cultural origins. Some questions on the survey also ask about the level of diversity at the students’ high school so that they can track the history of diversity in students’ lives.
The survey will also address discrimination. Do campus organizations encourage diversity? Have students witnessed or been victim to discrimination or sexual harassment? These are just a few examples of questions that may appear on the survey.
And though certain questions may seem personal, the survey will also address issues of sexual orientation and identity. “If we do not have an idea of the experiences that students are having, it is hard to gauge things,” says Farley.
Skinner wants to reassure students that though the survey is in-depth and personal, all responses will be kept confidential. The results go directly to Skinner’s office, where the ID numbers are then encrypted to protect privacy. Results will only be reported in statistics analyses, due to be ready by this fall.
Students have also been an integral part in the creation of this survey. The Multicultural Affairs Committee has several student members that assisted in planning the survey, and 10 students served as a focus group for the survey’s test run.
This test run, completed last week, resulted in a few changes. Skinner reported that the survey has been condensed to fit into a 20-minute time slot, and redundant questions were eliminated.
The next challenge is getting students to actually respond to the survey. As Skinner said, “The usefulness of this survey is directly tied to participation rate. If the vast majority is not participating, it becomes less useful.”
If students neglect to respond, the campus will not be able to identify and change problem areas. The Multicultural Affairs Committee plans to publicize the survey with posters around campus and their usual e-mail reminders.
Though the survey is an extensive one, Skinner and Farley both hope that students will take the time to complete it. They emphasized that student input is absolutely crucial if Lawrence is to grow and change to meet student needs.
“We are really excited to see the kinds of conversation that stem from this,” Farley stated.
The goal is to have students of all races and cultures feel that they are comfortable and respected at Lawrence – and evaluating the campus climate through student responses is an important step in meeting this goal.

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