In front of students, faculty, staff and an online audience in the Memorial Union Strafford Room on Wednesday, Sept. 11, the results of the campus’ climate survey were released after months of speculation.
The survey, which asked students, staff and faculty to rate their experiences and feelings toward the culture of the entirety of the university’s campus, was conceptually introduced approximately a year ago and received a 34 percent response rate.
With an opening by the university’s Associate Vice President for Community, Equity and Diversity Monica Chiu, University of New Hampshire (UNH) President James W. Dean, Jr., took the stage to voice his approval of the process.
“I’m really excited and proud of this work to take it from vision to execution in such a short time,” said President Dean, adding that those involved in the process moved it along with a “spirit of ingeniousness and creativity.”
The survey’s response rate, spearheaded with the help of Pennsylvania-based Rankin & Associates Consulting, is a percentage that Rankin & Associate’s Julie Del Giorno assured the crowd was a feat in its own for a larger university.
Del Giorno, an executive associate and senior research associate at the firm, led the trimmed-down presentation that aimed to show key points to the crowd. The 120 question-long survey was returned by 6544 members of the UNH community. The survey also focused on certain identifiers such as gender status, racial identity, sexual identity, religious/spiritual identity, citizenship status, military status, length of employment, etc.
Del Giorno noted that, in modern society, a major reason why college students leave their respective higher education institutions is due to the fact that they lack a sense of belonging. Pulling up a national statistic, the firm found that 30 percent of students have considered leaving their college-level setting based off their dissatisfaction in their sense of worth there.
As results of the survey came to light, Del Giorno revealed that 81 percent of respondents said they felt comfortable at UNH, while 74 percent of staff and faculty respondents said they were comfortable with their department or program regarding campus climate; 86 percent of faculty and student respondents felt comfortable with their experiences of campus climate in the classroom.
However, Del Giorno added that, despite such positively high figures, the statistics required further observation. Amidst those numbers, marginalized groups recorded lower numbers than people in majority groups. Women reported lower scores for campus climate than men and people of color or people or of multiracial backgrounds gave lower ratings than participants who identify as white.
With a preface by Del Giorno stating that sensitive statistics were to come with the subject matter, the climate survey results revealed that 11 percent of respondents had been a victim of unwanted sexual contact on campus.
UNH Student Accessibility Services Director Michael Shuttic reminded the crowd that, since the survey was released in the second semester of last year, those numbers could be higher due to students potentially having left the university before being given the chance to answer the survey.
The last major statistic reported that 37 percent of respondents have seriously considered leaving the university for a variety of reasons. Honing in on the student aspect of the statistic, Del Giorno stated that 49.9 percent of the undergraduate students within that spectrum didn’t feel a sense of belonging at UNH, thus causing them to consider leaving the university altogether.
After Chiu took over for Del Giorno to highlight some of the action steps the university has taken to combat these issues, such as creating an Inclusion Council that meets monthly, Rankin & Associates Consulting Principal and Chief Executive Officer Sue Rankin took over the microphone to offer her viewpoint.
“We can say no to helping people, but we chose to work with you guys. Remember that you decide how you want your community to be. You’re here cause you want to be,” she said. “Here’s how we make change: A random act of kindness every day. That would make this institution already better.”