President Warren’s Message on Campus Climate Study
Dear Members of the Kent State Community:
Earlier this week, we invited members of the Kent State University community to open presentations on the results of our campus climate study. I offer sincere gratitude to everyone who was able to make attending or viewing one of these presentations a priority within your very busy schedules. The levels of participation at these presentations reflect our community's commitment to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all — the foundation of student, faculty and staff success and satisfaction.
It has been nearly 20 years since our last climate study, which asks students, staff and faculty members to anonymously share their views on the culture of our campus and, specifically, who or what has had an impact on their perceptions both in positive and negative ways. The actual survey was thorough — 104 questions in all — and asked participants to be honest and genuine so that we might get a true picture of our strengths and weaknesses going forward. The study was conducted by Rankin & Associates Consulting, a firm that specializes in campus climate studies and analysis, having worked with more than 170 universities in the assessment of campus climate.
In addition to offering my appreciation, I am writing to offer a high-level summary of the climate study findings and to outline several next steps. Links to the executive summary, full report and PowerPoint presentations for the aggregate report, the Kent Campus report and the Regional Campuses report are available on the climate study website.
Key Findings of the Campus Climate Study
- Our climate truly matters — it is how we treat one another; it is how all members of our community feel valued by our words and actions; it is how we lift up our sense of community as the glue that makes Kent State a great place to learn, work and live.
- Although colleges and universities in the United States — including Kent State — aim to foster welcoming and inclusive environments for all, they are not immune to negative societal attitudes and behaviors. Our public university is a microcosm of the larger social environment and reflects the views of the society of which we are a part.
- The majority of respondents expressed positive views of campus climate, with 79 percent of Kent and Regional campus respondents stating the Kent State climate is “very comfortable” or “comfortable.” This perspective held for classroom climate as well, with more than 80 percent of respondents indicating classroom climate was “very comfortable” or “comfortable.”
- According to Rankin & Associates Consulting, 25-30 percent of survey respondents nationally report a personal experience of exclusionary or offensive conduct. Our results reflected 17 percent of respondents at the Kent Campus and 16 percent at Regional Campuses reported a personal experience of exclusionary or offensive conduct. The forms of exclusionary conduct cited most frequently were feeling disrespected, ignored or excluded, and isolated or left out.
These types of conduct often are subtle. Many times, the person exhibiting the conduct does not realize they are making others feel disrespected or excluded. This finding demonstrates why it is so important that we all actively participate in creating a welcoming climate. We need to work every day to become more aware of how our behavior may have an impact on others. And we need to stand firm that overt actions of disrespect have no place at Kent State. If even one person is disrespected, it affects us all.
- The survey results revealed there is disparity in the experience of underrepresented students and the general student population. Additionally, the survey results revealed that first-generation students reported a high level of satisfaction with our campus climate. Our consultants suggested that students themselves are well-positioned to make a positive impact on campus climate for their fellow students. The findings suggest that when students feel bullied or mistreated, they most often first tell a friend. The more we equip and empower our students to support one another, the greater the impact on our campus climate.
- An important consideration in reviewing the results of any study is response rates. With nearly 8,500 participants, we exceeded 30 percent participation by faculty and staff, making the findings generalizable across these groups. At less than 20 percent, student response rates fell below this threshold, therefore we need to proceed cautiously in our interpretation of these data.
In accordance with the Strategic Roadmap that our community created together, the Great Place Initiative committee has been established under the leadership of Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alfreda Brown and Vice President for Human Resources Jack Witt, and co-chaired by Dr. Mandy Munro-Stasiuk and Dana Lawless-Andric. This group will coordinate the detailed review of the climate study data and oversee next steps to create a climate where, every day, we exemplify our value of respect, kindness and purpose in all that we do.
The presentations outlined a number of best practices to positively influence climate for faculty, staff and students. Among those we will implement right away include:
- Providing a greater sense of community and outlets for input from staff;
- Offering professional development and mentoring for staff supervisors;
- Building on existing successful mentoring programs for students and new faculty;
- Expanding communication efforts to ensure awareness of resources and counseling services for members of our community;
- Expanding educational opportunities to increase awareness and prevention of sexual assault; and
- Implementing cultural competency training for faculty, staff and students.
Several initiatives are already underway to address some of these needs as well as others that surfaced in the study:
- We have launched the DEEDS initiative (Dynamic Education and Engagement of Diverse Students). Coordinated by Dana Lawless-Andric and N.J. Akbar, DEEDS is enhancing the academic support, enhanced engagement and academic success of our underrepresented students.
- The relocation of the Student Accessibility Services office from the DeWeese Health Center to the first floor of the library was completed earlier this month. This renovated space quadruples the square footage of this office and expands the private testing space needed for students with disabilities.
- A faculty retention plan has been established to retain all newly hired faculty of color, women, mid-career faculty and other potentially marginalized groups. The plan includes mentoring workshops for deans and chairs, mentoring for new faculty, mid-career coaching, and community and network building. Every academic department has developed and is implementing a faculty mentoring plan.
- We created a social and cultural programming fund ($100,000) to shape broader and more inclusive co-curricular programming for student organizations at Kent State. Vice President Brown and Vice President for Student Affairs Shay Little are working with student and staff leaders to develop this initiative more fully.
- We have expanded our University Stewards program, which now engages more than 40 faculty and staff as informal and neutral resources for students, offering personalized support for those who experience issues related to climate on campus.
I offer my deepest appreciation to Professor Kathy Wilson and Vice President Little, the co-chairs of the climate study, as well as the 25 members of the steering committee. A study of this magnitude required a dedicated team who could manage a survey process reflective of the lofty level of integrity and inclusion to which we aspire. It is clear that they have met and exceeded these significant expectations. I look forward to working together to develop a campus climate where all members of our community feel valued, respected and supported.
With best regards,