In the wake of last spring’s multitude of bias incidents and more recently, a student wearing a mask of President Obama with a noose around his neck at this weekend’s game followed by a deficient statement by the university, it is evident that UW has work to be done in creating a campus inclusive for diverse students. The university’s first ever 2016 Campus Climate Survey works to know the specifics of individual students’ experiences on campus to focus their efforts where the most improvement is needed in creating welcoming spaces. I spoke to the survey’s project manager Jacqui Scott-Papke to learn more on what the university hopes to accomplish from the survey and what went into its creation:
Q: What came of last semester’s racial climate survey?
A: That survey was administered by the Multicultural Student Center and was specifically about race. The Campus Climate Survey is targeted towards everyone who is a credit earning student with a “wisc.edu” account. Our surveys don’t have any of the same questions. Some are the same general topics, but the questions are different and our scope is much different.
Q: What was your role in the process of this survey?
A: I have been the project manager for the survey which means I have met with various administrators to find out what they would like to know from the survey so we can better improve campus climate. I also had three listening sessions with 37 individuals and really looked at from their perspective [administration, faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate] what they wanted to know about students and how they propose we get that information. I also had focus groups with students in late April. I then worked with the UW Survey Center in Sterling Hall; they’re nationally known to be specialists in surveys for non-profit organizations. We really relied on their expertise on how we turn all these great ideas into good, solid questions that will produce scientifically verifiable data.
Q: What data was used in the creating of the initiatives on the Campus Climate website?
Those were specifically for the most part responses to the Chancellor’s call for students’ initiatives for improving campus climate last spring. That was separate from the Diversity Framework Initiative. The Diversity Framework Initiative, specifically Initiative 1, is the Campus Climate survey that we’ve been working on. In March 2015, the Diversity Framework, I believe, was accepted by all shared governance, so this would be a plan basically replacing Plan 2008. We went several years without having one and the Forward Together came out of the ad-hoc diversity planning committee. Then, Patrick Simms’s office and I created the Effecting Real Change document which would basically be turning the initiatives from the Forward Together document and Diversity Framework into actionable items that we could implement. The first initiative was the Campus Climate survey.
Q: What does this survey hope to inform or accomplish?
We’re really looking to see where specifically the climate problems are on campus and where are the areas that students feel safe. We also want to know what ethnic studies classes are working and having an impact, and maybe which ones students are getting less out of and can be improved. We’re not changing the ethnic studies program, but we would like to refine it. We’re not asking about specific initiatives, but I imagine in the future we would ask how students feel about programs such as Our Wisconsin. Probably with very little changes, this survey will be administered again in three years. We’re hoping each student on campus for the most part can take it at least twice. That way, we can also see how, potentially, attitude has changed or shifted, hopefully becoming more positive in those three years. We’re looking for benchmarks. We’re doing a lot of things in diversity, and we want to know what are the things we’re doing well because we know anecdotally, especially from Spring 2016, there are a lot of problems on our campus. But outside from certain instances that make the newspapers, we what to know what are other students are feeling and experiencing.
The survey will be available for submission until Nov. 7, 2016.
Learn more on upcoming campus climate initiatives here.