University releases findings of campus climate survey on diversity and inclusion

The University of Chicago has released data from the University’s first Campus Climate Survey aimed at capturing experiences and perceptions on campus concerning issues of diversity and inclusion.

In the spring of 2016, the survey questionnaire was sent to 14,658 students, 3,315 faculty, academic appointees and postdoctoral researchers, and 7,621 staff. The campus-wide response rate was 29 percent. Comprehensive data from the survey can be found here.

In a letter to share the survey’s findings with the campus community, Provost Daniel Diermeier said the survey would allow for a greater understanding of the campus climate, and would be one step in helping guide discussions and future actions on key issues.

“It is crucial that we cultivate a climate that is welcoming for individuals of all backgrounds,” Diermeier wrote. “As the data make clear, we have work to do to ensure a diverse and inclusive campus climate, and we have a foundation for making positive change.”

The survey is one of multiple initiatives at the University intended to accelerate progress on issues of diversity. The Office of the Provost is allocating resources to make measurable progress in creating a diverse campus, with several efforts led by Melissa Gilliam, vice provost for Academic Leadership, Advancement and Diversity. The Diversity Advisory Council, which has been charged with advising leadership on campus climate issues, will soon issue recommendations for ways to enhance diversity at the University. These recommendations, along with further discussions with the campus community, will help inform action steps and the development of a comprehensive plan for diversity and inclusion at the University.

“Many of the issues this survey helps to identify are similar to those confronted by our broader society,” said Executive Vice Provost Sian Beilock. “We are determined to make progress on issues of diversity and inclusion, and it is vital that our plans are informed by data and voices from across the University.”

In the short term, the University will hold small discussions and town halls to discuss data from the survey and their implications. The meetings, which will be announced in the coming weeks, also will help shape the University’s approach to addressing concerns raised in the report.

“This is an important moment for the University to listen to members of our community, many of whom have expressed a deep desire for improvement in the campus climate,” Gilliam said. “The process can be difficult, but we’re going to work together toward an inclusive campus that benefits all of its members.”

Development of the climate survey was led by a steering committee chaired by Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor in Political Science and the College; and a survey working group chaired by Micere Keels, associate professor of Comparative Human Development and the College. The design of the survey, and the issues it addressed, also were informed by 17 climate survey forums that took place across campus during the last academic year, and by comments emailed directly to the survey team. Keels said this approach helped in formulating a survey that is relevant to specific concerns on the UChicago campus.

Keels noted that it’s unusual for a university to undertake a campus-wide climate survey encompassing staff as well as students, faculty and all academic appointees. She said one important element of the preparation for the UChicago survey was research into the best ways of framing questions about diversity issues.

“Because this is a research institution and the issues were going to be taken up by faculty, we knew it would be important for the survey to be grounded in research on what we know about diversity issues in post-secondary institutions,” Keels said. “For example, we looked closely at the literature on how to ask about sexual minority status, disability status and other questions so the survey approached these issues from an inclusive standpoint.”