This spring, 14 SDSU faculty members, staff members and a student were brought together by Provost Laurie Nichols and President David Chicoine to serve as the Campus Climate Survey Action Steps Task Force.
The Campus Climate Survey was conducted in November of 2013. The results were analyzed and put into a report. The task force’s goal is to review the report and develop action steps that will make the “university a more comfortable, supportive, safe and welcoming place for students, staff, faculty and visitors,” according to the charge written to the task force by Nichols and Chicoine.
“We were waiting to get the results back…we started getting initial reports…there is a lot of data. We started to think about ‘how do we have the campus embrace this and understand it’s a campus initiative,’” Nichols said.
In a team effort by Nichols and Chicoine, the task force was put together with multiple qualifications in mind. A request for nominations was sent out to all university Deans and Vice Presidents last fall and everyone responded, Nichols said.
When narrowing down the nominations, Nichols said they made sure to consider what departments and colleges were represented on the task force as well as what genders and ethnicities made up the task force before finalizing who would serve on the task force.
“There’s a wide variety of people on the task force…you want to include people that have had a variety of experiences,” said Mary Emery, head of the Department of Sociology and Rural Studies and chair of the task force.
The task force met for the first time in January and will continue to meet until it puts together a final report which they will give to Nichols and Chicoine in mid-March, Nichols said.
The report put together by the task force will align with IMPACT 2018, the strategic plan for the university, as the campus climate and environment is a performance indicator in goal 4 of the strategic plan.
While the task force has not set any specific plans yet, the group has been split into subgroups.
“We have three subgroups. One is identifying data points that the task force needs to focus on. The second is taking an inventory on current groups, resources and activities. The third is taking focus groups,” Emery said.
Following the first meeting, the task force has set a strong foundation for what it needs to do, said Shiann Haupert, university law enforcement officer and member of the task force.
“I went and found the survey results and these numbers, these statistics, there are definite areas where we need improvement…It’s hard because we all have something different to bring…but we all want to see the positive outcome,” Haupert said.
Each member of the task force comes from a different area of campus and therefore has different goals and ideas Haupert said. Working to make people on campus feel more comfortable reporting sexual assault is one aspect that Haupert would like to work on based on the results of the survey.
“Being in the law enforcement role…we deal with sexual assault…it’s definitely not something that we want to have happen to people … but you want people to feel safe reporting it,” Haupert said.
While the data can be overwhelming, Haupert said the task force is excited to tackle the challenge.
Jacob Sutton, junior speech communications major, serves as the student representative on the task force and will be focusing on the student data from the survey.
“There are thousands more students that took the survey than faculty,” Sutton said, “Based on what the Campus Climate Survey has presented to us you can see what groups have received hostility … I have found students who are willing to speak out about their experiences.”
Many faculty issues can be fixed through policy, whereas student issues of inclusion are more difficult to fix, Sutton said. Sutton would like to see more diverse events come to campus to bring groups together, and more course options that discuss different cultures and their role in society.
“I’m just really impressed with the faculty on the committee…there are so many faculty members who want to help improve the student experience and the faculty experience,” Sutton said.
According to Emery, the Campus Climate Survey results and the task force provides an opportunity to make a more welcoming environment for everyone on campus.
“Clearly it’s an issue that has national significance…we need to take some action to make [SDSU] more inclusive,” Emery said.
Along with putting together a recommendation for how SDSU can make improvements in issues involving inclusion and safety, the group will also assess what potential changes need to be made for the next survey, Nichols said.
A second Campus Climate Survey is scheduled to take place in 2016. One potential change is the length of the survey. The 2013 survey included a lot of questions, and results showed that many people started the survey but didn’t finish it, Nichols said.
“30 percent return rate raises some questions about what it is like for the 70 percent that didn’t respond,” Emery said.
The task force will put their recommendations together in a report for the president and the provost to approve. Once the task force gives its report, work will begin to decide how to implement the suggestions, Nichols said.
“It’s something that you have to realize in order for valuable work to be done, it’s not going to be instantaneous…it’s going to take time,” Sutton said.
The task force will be taking feedback from students, faculty and staff under consideration, Sutton said.
“If it’s really going to be successful…it’s got to come from the campus as a whole,” Haupert said.