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UWRF assesses staff, students’ perspectives

November 5, 2009

UW-River Falls, along with three other UW System schools, is participating in a campus-wide survey to assess the attitudes of students and staff towards the University environment.

The Campus Climate Survey is available now until the end of this semester and focuses on questions that will provide information to help the University ensure that the environment is conducive to working, living and learning. 

Campus climate is defined as the “current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of employees and students concerning the access for, inclusion of, and level of respect for individual and group needs, abilities and potential,” according to the UWRF web site.

According to Craig Morris, chief diversity officer in the Office of Equity, Affirmative Action and Compliance, last month Susan Rankin, a nationally known expert in assessing and improving campus climate, visited campus to meet with staff, students and faculty to discuss UWRF’s participation in the Campus Climate Survey.

Brad Kerschner, a student on the Campus Climate Committee said that the survey is vital to the future and improvement of our campus.

“The results will tell us what areas we need to improve on at UWRF,” Kerschner said. “With this information, students, staff and faculty will be better equipped to make our campus a better, more friendly place to be.”

Morris said the purpose of the survey is to learn more about how people feel on this campus. 

“We really want to understand the experiences of all and how those who work and study here perceive our campus,” Morris said.

Information gathered from the survey will guide our campus in the future for improving our campus climate, Morris said, along with assisting to make the campus inclusive and welcoming for all.

The UW System mission is “to …serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities.” In 2004, when the issue of bias incidents at several campuses was made aware, taskforce committees were formed to investigate consulting firms who conduct climate assessments. At this point, Rankin and Associates was identified as the leading expert for this. 

According to notes from a Sept. 19 committee meeting, one reason the survey is being done is to ensure that the University is providing leadership for constructive participation in a diverse, multicultural world. With the results, it is the hope that the University will open its doors wider to underrepresented groups.

While the survey is not required, students and staff are strongly encouraged to participate. In order for UWRF to make changes on campus, those who are attending and working here need to be heard.

Nikki Shonoiki has taken the survey and said that she feels if enough people take the survey, the assessment will help the University shape the policies and programs to be implemented in the future.

“I feel that if enough people from all areas of campus and all walks of life take the campus climate survey it will offer the necessary information to make positive changes at UWRF,” Shonoiki said.

Kuzie Nzara, a junior biology major, took the survey and said he thought the questions being asked were good because they were direct and personal.

“[The results] will show what the campus thinks about when it comes to diversity and other racial issues,” Nzara said.

Michelle Parkinson, assistant professor of English and Women’s Studies coordinator, said an online survey is the best way to gather this type of information because it allows for confidentiality.

“Students and staff can be honest in their answers and not worry about recrimination because of the way the survey is designed,” Parkinson said. “I can’t think of a better way to gather this quantity and quality of data.”

UW-La Crosse, UW-Milwaukee, UW-OshKosh, UW-Stevens Point and University of Wisconsin Colleges completed this same type of survey last year. 

This year, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Parkside and UW-Whitewater will participate, along with UWRF. 

The results from the survey will be publicly presented in spring 2010, according to the Campus Climate Web site.