Surveys show majority of U-M campus satisfied with the climate

November 2, 2017

Positive experiences not equally distributed across institution

ANN ARBOR—Surveys measuring the climate related to diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan show that the majority of the community—72 percent—is satisfied with the climate on the Ann Arbor campus.

A majority of students, faculty and staff believes the institution is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. A majority also say they feel they are valued and say they belong, and are growing and thriving at the university.

However, these positive experiences with the U-M campus are not equally distributed across the institution. In general, members of traditionally marginalized groups across race, sex, sexual orientation, age, ability status and national origin experience the campus less positively than members of traditional majority groups.

In particular, females and underrepresented minorities are less satisfied with the climate and have less positive experiences on campus than others.

The findings are informed by data from three sample surveys of a total of 8,500 students, faculty and staff conducted by U-M last fall to capture perspectives and experiences related to diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.

“Although we know that many in our community recognize our commitment to
diversity, equity and inclusion, this survey provides information that is critical in
helping us to better serve members of the U-M family who have experienced our community more negatively,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel.

“The purpose of doing these surveys was to get an honest and rigorous assessment of our campus climate. That honesty is critical to our ability to understand and to improve our campus environment.”

The data create a benchmark by which to measure change over time and will inform DEI efforts, some of which are already under way.

The surveys asked a range of questions about demographics, perceptions of the campus climate and the DEI climate, interactions with other members of the U-M community and experiences of discrimination at U-M.

“As a result of the high quality of the data, the surveys provide better estimates than ever before of the composition of U-M students, faculty and staff on several variables, including race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities and political beliefs,” said Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer.

For example, when it comes to religious background, the largest group of students—39 percent—identify as being agnostic, atheist or having no religious background. The largest religious identity group for staff (43 percent) and for faculty (28 percent) was Christian.

Underrepresented minorities, especially African-Americans, consistently report having the least positive experiences compared to any other social identity group on campus.

For example, 62 percent of undergraduate underrepresented minority students and 55 percent of underrepresented minority faculty said they are satisfied with the campus climate, compared with 72 percent of the overall U-M community. Among faculty, those identifying as Hispanic or Latinx are significantly more likely to report feeling neutral, unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the climate than all other ethnicities.

For underrepresented minority staff, 46 percent of staff identifying as African-American said they are satisfied with the campus climate, followed by Middle Eastern or North African (58 percent) and Hispanic or Latinx (63 percent).

Across the U-M community, females, members of the LGBTQ+ communities or those with a disability are among other traditionally marginalized groups that have fewer positive experiences on campus than members of traditional majority groups.

For example, students with disabilities were 145 percent more likely than students without a disability to report feeling neutral, unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the climate. LGBTQ+ students were 59 percent more likely than heterosexual students to report feeling neutral, unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the climate.

The survey also asked about discrimination. Approximately 17 percent of the U-M community said they felt discriminated against on campus in the past 12 months.

Gender and race were the most frequent reasons students, faculty and staff reported experiencing discrimination. Undergraduate students also said political orientation was a leading reason they were discriminated against.

Members of minority groups were significantly more likely to report experiencing discrimination. For example, 51 percent of African-American staff said they experienced at least one discriminatory event as a result of race in the past 12 months.

Among faculty, 41 percent of females said they experienced at least one discriminatory event as a result of gender in the past 12 months.

For students, 48 percent of those with disabilities said they experienced at least one discriminatory event as a result of their ability status in the past 12 months.

“The results show that certain populations of the U-M community report feeling less welcomed and having less positive experiences on campus than what we strive for as an institution,” Sellers said. “We are taking steps to improve the climate for these groups as well as for the campus community overall.”

Some of the DEI efforts currently under way that address the findings include:

  • Making campus facilities more accessible to all including those with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ communities.
  • Better coordination and greater awareness of the university’s bias response resources that are directly relevant to the findings of reports of experiencing discriminatory incidents.
  • Initiatives to further diversify the student body such as the Urban School Initiative, Native American Student Initiative, Wolverine Pathways and Go Blue Guarantee.
  • The Inclusive Teaching Initiative designed to equip faculty with more resources and skills for making U-M classrooms more inclusive and effective.
  • Providing staff members with extensive professional development experiences designed to help them develop the skills necessary to contribute to and thrive in a diverse community.
  • Efforts to include faculty and staff’s efforts around DEI in their annual performance review process.

The surveys were designed by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, with assistance from two advisory committees and experts from the U-M Institute for Social Research. An outside vendor was hired to conduct the study in order to ensure confidentiality in survey responses.

The surveys were of random samples of 3,500 students, 3,500 staff and 1,500 faculty designed to adequately represent the U-M community. The surveys used a special two-phase design to better represent the full diversity of the community and produced high response rates.

The reports represent a small piece of the full set of data collected by the surveys that will be available online for use by the U-M community. There will also be funding opportunities for students, faculty and staff to dive deeper into the data through targeted projects.

“We are just scratching the surface on what we can learn about our community. There is still much more analysis that will be done,” Sellers said, adding that community meetings to continue to explore the findings are scheduled in the weeks ahead.

Also, currently under way are separate census surveys, also designed by U-M, open to participation from the entire campus community on the topic of DEI. The census surveys capture data from students, faculty and staff that will be used to inform planning efforts at the school, college or unit level.


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