Campus inclusion climate survey indicates more financial stress, less welcoming environment for students of color

Article Originally Published by Makayla Herron on North Texas Daily

The university released the results of its first-ever campus inclusion climate survey, which the school conducted in conjunction with Viewfinder to assess the university’s existing policies and determine whether they are effectively serving their students.

The survey was offered to all students, faculty, staff and administrators. The total number of student responses is 3,545, which amounts to 9.2% of the student body.

“The Campus Inclusion Climate Survey can help the university enhance its efforts to be a welcoming and inclusive campus community,” Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Joanne Woodard said. “The survey findings reveal that different groups on campus are having different experiences and some do not find the campus as inclusive as others.”

The survey indicated that students of color feel the university is a more hostile learning environment than Caucasian/White students, and African American/Black students believe the university is less welcoming to all groups overall.

“Overall, I’m not super surprised,” music education freshman Garrett Hicks said. “I get the impression that UNT is a pretty diverse and inclusive school. But the nature of our society is that people of color and other marginalized groups have less safe, less satisfying experiences with universities overall.”

According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Education, race is the most frequent motivator for hate crimes on college campuses. Most students who experienced discrimination, bias or harassment did not report it, and the primary reason for not reporting is that they thought it was not important enough or did not feel anything would happen.

“I think UNT needs to go further,” Hicks said. “UNT needs to make sure they hold those who discriminate against people of color accountable. This would make people of color feel safer and more comfortable on campus and consequences would discourage discrimination.”

Woodard said the university will use these results to conduct focus groups and further investigate areas of concern. The survey’s conclusion section also suggests an awareness initiative to create an awareness of the level of inclusion the university desires.

“Professional staff needs in-depth training, and I believe students need a mandatory diversity and inclusion class,” Business junior Abigail Johns said.

Students of color felt more strongly that all groups should participate in mandatory diversity training and were also more interested in receiving diversity training than Caucasian/White students.

“The fact that all groups — students, faculty, staff and administrators — were supportive of diversity training at UNT [was interesting],” Woodard said. “There is still work that needs to be done to ensure UNT is indeed caring and perceived by its students and employees as a great place to work and learn.”

In regards to student resources, outreach and services, the survey revealed students overall are least satisfied with emergency funding and need-based scholarships. Recently, students expressed frustration via social media that the university will still charge full-price tuition in light of the pandemic and the likelihood of not having access to all the facilities.

“To be honest, I haven’t struggled with financial aid or emergency funding at all,” Johns said. “But many of my friends have and are currently in debt. There’s a lot of room for improvement in regards to the distribution of funds as well as determining the threshold of students who receive it.”

International students also rated the adequacy of Financial Aid to serve them more poorly than the other offices.

Although students worried reporting instances of harassment, discrimination or bias felt nothing would happen, those who did report indicated it was taken seriously, according to the survey. Woodard wants students to understand the importance of speaking up about how they feel.

“I want students to know that their voice makes a difference,” Woodard said. “Every student, every voice counts at UNT. While we in the Division of Institutional Equity & Diversity can develop programs and initiatives that will promote a more inclusive and equitable campus climate, those efforts will be much more effective if they are guided by feedback from students.”

Woodward said she wants to increase student outreach for future surveys.

“It is interesting to note that UNT employees who are administrators had the highest response rate — almost 65 percent — of the groups taking the survey,” Woodard said. “When the next climate survey is administered, I hope students will participate and actually take the survey in larger numbers.”

Featured image: A mural reading “Our Community” on display in the Union on July 14, 2020. The university has released the results of the campus inclusion climate survey. Image by Samuel Gomez

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Source: North Texas Daily