Students, faculty and staff at UCLA received an email last week inviting them to participate in the University of California’s first survey on campus climate – the largest survey of its kind within any institution of higher education.
University leaders have said the survey aims to gauge campus climate at all 10 campuses and UC-affiliated organizations by asking students, faculty and staff about their thoughts on diversity and work environment within the University.
The surveys are being rolled out in phases. UCLA will be the sixth UC-affiliated organization to take part in the survey since October.
Campus climate is the level of understanding and inclusion that various groups have for each other on campus, said Christine Littleton, vice provost for diversity and faculty development at UCLA.
“We’re trying to find whether there are specific places or groups that are more or less satisfied with the environment in which they’re working,” Littleton said.
Recent incidents of racial discrimination and a need for hard data to confirm student testimonies on campus climate motivated UC officials to commission the study, said Jesse Bernal, interim diversity coordinator for the UC.
Bernal cited the UC San Diego “Compton Cookout,” a 2010 event where fraternity members hosted an event derogatory to numerous racial groups, as well as a noose found in the UCSD library and vandalism of the UC Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender center as recent examples of what University leaders feel are underlying issues with campus climate at the UC.
“The realization was that there was no statistically significant data behind many of the things that we were hearing from various community members,” he said. “So (the UC’s committee on campus climate) encouraged the president to initiate an exhaustive and comprehensive (campus) climate study.”
In order for the University to use results with confidence, there would need to be at least a 30 percent response rate from the survey – a statistic Littleton said may be hard to achieve.
“My biggest concern is that we will not have the 30 percent response (needed) in order to get statistically valid data for each group,” Littleton said. “My one message (to students, faculty and staff) would be (to) just do it.”
Questions in the UC survey – which reaches both faculty and staff, as well as students – are similar to a Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA study in 2011, which only recorded student responses, Littleton said.
Littleton added that she feels campus climate affects all major groups of the University’s community.
“We know the more positive the environment is, the more productive people are and the healthier they are,” Littleton said. “(More) productivity in research, if you are a faculty member, or (success in) your studies, if you are a student, or your ability to progress in your career, if you are a staff person – all of that is dependent on what your work environment is like.”
Erik Woodruff, a third-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student, said he was excited by the prospect of having a say in University policy with the survey.
“I am a concerned member of the UCLA student body and I want my opinion on campus climate to be heard,” Woodruff said.
Bernal said the survey will result in 14 reports – one for each area studied – and an aggregate report about the UC as a whole. The reports would give baseline data to help develop policies to improve campus climate, he added.
“The president has relayed to the chancellors that he expects them to identify annually two to three actions that they plan to take based on the report findings,” Bernal said.
Chancellor Gene Block said during a meeting with the Daily Bruin Editorial Board last month that he acknowledges the importance of inclusion and sensitivity as a part of general campus climate. He added that the UC’s campus climate survey could help identify problems within smaller communities
that may otherwise be overlooked.
“On a climate survey you indicate your group and so we will be able to look at group by group to see how people feel,” Block said.
In addition to identifying problems with diversity, Littleton said she sees the survey as a way to help keep the UC at the forefront of higher education.
“If we want to stay an education leader we have to make sure our policies are based on data and not old ideas, assumptions or what we did 20 years ago,” Littleton said.
The survey, which is administered on a campus-by-campus basis, will be available online for UCLA students, faculty and staff starting Tuesday and will be open
until Feb. 22.