Does the College of Charleston provide an open, welcoming campus environment for all students, faculty and staff? This question and many others were reviewed Friday, Oct. 10 at the Colleges’ town hall meeting where the results of the Campus Diversity Climate Survey were revealed. Over 2,220 students, faculty and staff of the College completed the survey last spring. The survey was a part of the Colleges’ past two years of effort in evaluating the campus climate. Climate, Dr. Susan Rankin described as being, “not the weather but the environment in which we live.”
The results of the campus-wide survey which was available on MyCharleston from March 12 to April 25, 2014 were compiled into a 140 slide PowerPoint and an over 300-page report, which will be made available on MyCharleston and in Addlestone Library later this month. When Rankin spoke about the survey results at the town hall meeting, she summarized her findings.
The survey received a 60 percent response rate from faculty and 43 percent rate from staff/administration. 13 percent of undergrads responded and 10 percent of the graduate student population responded to the survey. The anonymous survey covered topics ranging from working conditions, institutional policies, divisional responsibilities and efforts made to make the College a more welcoming and inclusive community.
Findings of the survey included student perceptions of campus climate. 86 percent of students said they felt valued by faculty and staff. 85 percent of students who responded said they had faculty members or instructors they viewed as role models. 92 percent responded saying they felt the College is an intellectually stimulating environment and 87 percent of students who responded felt that they had opportunities for academic success equal to those of their classmates. Based off her work across the country, Rankin said, “These numbers are way off the charts.” While the survey found many positive aspects of the College’s campus climate, it also shed light upon some unflattering statistics.
60 percent of faculty and 53 percent of staff have seriously considered leaving the College of Charleston. Staff said they feel that they have limited opportunities for advancement. 11 percent of students said they had seriously considered leaving the College with 52 percent of those students who replied being Black/ African American. The number one reason students gave for considering leaving, was that they felt the Colleges’ climate was unwelcoming. Rankin responded that she never sees this as a top issue for students leaving a school.
105 undergraduate students said they have experienced sexual assault. 39 percent of the time it occurred during their freshman year with 52 percent of the cases involving another student perpetrating the harassment. 66 percent of the time the incidents occurred off campus.
The survey found 291 responders saying they have felt isolated or left out at the College, 275 responses reported they felt they had been deliberately ignored and 209 people reported being intimidated or bullied with gender being the main reason. 64 percent of respondents said they had experienced verbal harassment with 54 percent saying they have experienced non-verbal harassment during their time at the College.
Rankin was brought to the College of Charleston as a consultant two years ago to work along with a committee, to assess the Colleges’ campus climate. According to Rankin, campus climate consists of current attitudes, behaviors, standards and practices of employees and students of an institution. Which includes personal experiences, perceptions and intuitional efforts. Rankin, along with a committee comprised of College of Charleston faculty, have met every two weeks for the past two years to discuss a range of topics including; projected outcomes, data analysis, and potential survey questions to evaluate the Colleges’ campus climate.
Rankin received her P.H.D in Higher Education from Penn State University. She has presented and published widely on the impact of racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Currently, she focuses on the assessment of intuitional climate and provides policy makers and program planners with recommended strategies to improve overall climate. Rankin has worked with more than 70 universities including the University of California Education System. At the town hall meeting Rankin said, “Everything I’ve done in my career has been about trying to be more inclusive.”
Overall, 68 percent of respondents said they are comfortable with the campus climate. However, in order to further increase this number and advocate for the data that the survey found, the College will be hosting 10 community forums throughout the rest of the fall semester. They will be open to all students, faculty and staff to solicit input from the campus and to identify two to three specific actions that can be accomplished in the next 12-18 months to increase the Colleges’ long-term campus climate. The actions will then be distributed to the campus community from January 2015 through September 2015. The College plans for these actions to be concrete, meaningful, and specific and hopes they will help to create an even more positive campus climate.