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Drake Conducts Campus Climate Assessment

On Nov. 9 and Nov. 10, Drake University hosted two online Campus Assessment Town Halls via Zoom to discuss the results of the 2019-2020 Campus Climate Survey.

The Campus Climate Survey was conducted in November of 2019. The survey consisted of a variety of questions asking participants to explore their experiences at Drake and identify times in which they felt included or excluded. It is the second survey of it’s kind conducted by the university; the first took place in 2015.

The university worked alongside a research team to analyze the data and compare it to peer institutions. More than 2,400 individuals took the survey in November 2019. Of those individuals, 72% were students. Dr. Bob Reason of Iowa State University presented the data at the town hall.

“Climate, as we study it, is best understood through kind of anthropomorphic terms,” Reason said. “We’ll say things like, and we do this all the time, ‘Drake University is friendly. Drake University is warm. Drake university is hostile.’ And those anthropomorphic terms where we’re applying kind of human characteristics to the institution is generally how people think about climate and conceptualize it. So [the research team] often asks about the comfort that someone feels on campus.”

Every respondent answered a question regarding how comfortable they felt on campus. 74 percent of respondents reported feeling comfortable or very comfortable with the campus climate. While this number is down from 80 percent in 2015, it is on par with peer institutions.

In terms of comfort in the classroom, disparities occurred in overall levels of comfort between races. While white students reported feeling comfortable or very comfortable in the classroom at 89 percent, Black students felt the same way only 54 percent of the time. Similarly, 77 percent of faculty and staff reported feeling comfortable or very comfortable in their primary work environment, with groups such as tenure-track faculty, LGBTQ faculty and multi-racial respondents feeling the least comfortable.

24 percent of all survey respondents also reported experiencing exclusionary, intimidating, offensive or hostile conduct, also known as harassment, within the year prior to taking the survey. This number is up from 20 percent in 2015.

Participants perceived harassing conduct to be primarily based on political views. In fact, 71 percent of Republicans who reported harassment indicated it was based on their political affiliation. Other forms of harassment were based on position at the university, racial identity, gender/gender identity and ethnicity.

“Many respondents specifically cited the treatment of Turning Point USA . . . as part of the harassment they witnessed,” Reason said. “I would also say however that many respondents reported that the N-word is still used regularly on campus.”

Reason noted that issues of gender, sex, ethnicity and sexual identity are not new issues on college campuses and have endured for many years, but the increased importance of political identity is new.

“I know from working with students, the focus around political identity certainly emerged over the last several years,” Reason said.

Other data from the survey shows that over one third of undergraduate students have seriously considered leaving Drake. This is seven points higher than it was in 2015. Similarly, 61 percent of faculty have considered leaving Drake.

In the years since 2015, Drake has also seen an increase in the number of respondents reporting unwanted sexual contact, jumping from 4 percent to 10 percent. Reason said this higher percentage could be a result of higher reporting.

“The awareness brought onto unwanted sexual contact and sexual harassment by the Me Too movement . . .  are all reasons that could help explain this higher reporting of unwanted sexual context,” Reason said. “It’s certainly still a troubling finding for Drake as well as the rest of the country.”

Other topics covered by the survey include faculty satisfaction with their work environments and opportunities for advancement, as well as faculty’s experiences with invisible work in terms of marginalized identities.

Following the Campus Assessment Town Halls, Associate Provost for Campus Equity and Inclusion Erin Lain said small group discussions will take place over the next two weeks to discuss issues pertaining to the survey results and equity and inclusion on campus. According to Lain, the university plans to have a new “strategic plan” based on the 2019 Campus Climate Assessment by Spring 2021.

In the past, data from the Campus Climate Survey was used to implement a variety of programs at Drake, including the Bulldog Foundations class for first-year students, a new preferred name policy, mandatory equity and inclusion training for all incoming students and the Flight program.

“Those are some wonderful things that we’ve been able to implement from the 2015 climate assessment,” Lain said. “We hope to have just as impressive and maybe even longer lists coming out of this assessment.”

Lain stressed the importance for students, faculty and staff to engage with the process in order to make campus a better place for all.

“It’s so important that we don’t just talk about issues, but that we act in order to affect change,” Lain said. “We need to hear your voice, and you can do that by signing up for one of those small groups and helping us brainstorm next action steps.”

To learn more, visit www.drake.edu/duwhatmatters.

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