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Students complete online polls to improve diversity on campus

By Flavia Casas

Feb. 11, 2011 9:42 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article contained two errors. The Diversity Learning and Environments Survey was created by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. Also, administrators said the benefits outweigh the costs.

In light of recent racial conflicts that have taken place at other UC campuses, UCLA administrators have made it their mission to increase the level of diversity on campus.

To achieve this goal and get a better understanding of the current environment, the UCLA Student Affairs Information and Research Office will be administrating the Diverse Learning Environments Survey online. The survey asks about students’ academic and social satisfaction, as well as their experiences with discrimination on campus.

The need to take action against events like last year’s “Compton Cookout” at UC San Diego became a pressing matter for students, said Cristopher Santos, external vice president for the Undergraduate Students Association Council.

However, taking action proved a difficult task without the appropriate student feedback.

Because the Diversity Learning Environments Survey is the first of its kind since the early 1990s, its data is representative of an entirely different population, said Pam Viele, director of Student Affairs Information and Research Office. This year’s version is necessary to gather conclusive data about UCLA’s current undergraduate body, she said.

“We’re really pushing to mobilize the campus population and press upon students the importance of representing their experiences,” said Kristen McKinney, associate director for the Student Affairs Information Research Office.

The university is investing a large amount of money to maximize participation rates. However, the precise amount depends on the response rate. This is because the survey, created by the Higher Education Research Institute, has a base cost for the survey and an additional costs for processing each student’s response, McKinney said.

In addition, randomly selected participants will receive prizes ranging from tickets to L.A. sporting events to an annual parking pass.

A symposium to discuss the results will be offered sometime around late fall 2011 and early winter 2012, as well as a Fiat Lux course that will begin next quarter, McKinney said.

Obtaining this data is expensive, but administrators across the board said the benefits outweigh the costs.

“It’s not a cheap endeavor,” McKinney said. “But we have to invest in this effort because we believe it’s a very valuable thing. We need to get a better picture of our campus.”

Addressing issues of campus climate and diversity has been something students and the administration have been collaborating on, and the Diversity and Learning Environments Survey is another step in that direction, Santos said.

Excited for what the results will yield, Santos said his office plans to use real-time data to promote advocacy and education about the diversity problem.

“Education (on diversity) has to be a part of this process,” he said. “As much as we want to talk to the regents about the bad diversity crisis, at end of the day, if our own UC students don’t understand the problem we have in our hands, we’ll never be able to breach the gap.”

Once the results are in, Santos said he and his office plan on presenting them to the UC Board of Regents and elected officials in Sacramento and Washington D.C.

The survey will be available online to students from Feb. 28 to June 30.

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Flavia Casas
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