STORY BY COLE NORUM
Another survey? Joey Gale, Drake University’s student body president, understands that students less than three weeks into their semester would be wary to answer questions, graded or not. But he promises this won’t be like the others.
“I’ve been framing (this survey) as one of the most important surveys that, as a student at Drake, you’ll be taking in your four years here,” Gale said.
The series of questions, requiring approximately 20-30 minutes to complete, represents an approach to gauging student living.
The Campus Climate Assessment (CCA) was issued from the guidance and expertise of a powerhouse consulting firm, Rankin & Associates Consulting.
“This is literally taking the climate and understanding the students, why we do certain things,” Gale said.
The survey comes at a time of increased awareness amongst calls for progression for the institution set to welcome the thirteenth president in its 134-year history.
The decision to release a survey was not a sudden one, however. In an August meeting — months before Marty Martin was even a final candidate for the presidency — the provost’s office placed the survey on its radar, according to Gale.
“A welcoming and inclusive campus climate is one of the foundations of a Drake education and is grounded in mutual respect, nurtured by dialogue, and evidenced by a pattern of civil interaction,” Deneese Jones, provost of Drake University, said in an email preceding the release of the survey.
It so happened that as Jones and her team of Quality Initiative leaders, comprised of Michael Couvillon, Renee Cramer and Melissa Sturm-Smith, discussed how to better understand students’ experiences, Gale and his senators were in similar deliberations.
The result of the student government’s discussions was the Student Experience Survey, a collection of questions with a more narrow, student wishes – oriented focus than the CCA.
“That was to kind of get a pulse for what students thought about Drake,” Gale said. “What kind of tangible aspects … what kind of services were exceeding expectations and which ones weren’t.”
The idea for a campus survey was a development of the Senate 60, which is a comprehensive list of goals and initiatives compiled by the senators in order to address issues ranging from quality of toilet paper to improving school pride through the LiveBlue Campaign.
The Senate 60, according to Gale, set the tone for the school year in terms of quantifiable goals. Thirty-seven have been completed.
Thus far the ambitions of the student government’s list are couched in terms of achievable goals within the school year, there remains one that will become linked inextricably to the Campus Climate Assessment: making Drake a top-20 LGBT-friendly college by 2018.
Inspired by Grinnell College’s recognition as the number 18, most-friendly LGBT college, Gale, too, wanted Drake to be recognized as an inclusive campus.
With Rankin & Associates, Drake will have the data to pursue a number of policies centered on inclusion and accommodation.
“This is a mile wide and a mile deep,” Gale said in reference to the commitment by Drake to not only the range of students covered by the survey, but the extent to which differences in experiences are considered and welcomed.
“This information, really, is what I think is going to pull some trends together that we see already.”
Yet it is also what is unseen, unheard and unreported which the assessment aims to unearth. That information will be analyzed and incorporated into strategic planning and initiatives, according to the firm’s website.
The anticipated result is a meticulous and exhaustive exposé.
Above all, it is an opportunity to give voice to the previously voiceless.
“This will dig up the things we do want to hear and don’t want to hear,” Gale said. “I think students are going to share the things they may not have wanted to in the past.”
Despite his upcoming graduation in May, most likely before the results of the survey are made available, Gale asserts that the CCA is a way to measure the strides Drake has made in his time as a student while looking toward the future.
“As a gay student … I know I experienced something vastly different than many other students,” Gale said. “It will be powerful to see what we get out of this.”