Diversity recommendations

Diversity and Equity Commission releases recommendations based on Campus Climate Survey

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9:27 a.m., May 10, 2011--The University of Delaware Diversity and Equity Commission (DEC) has presented President Patrick T. Harker with eight recommendations designed to help the University create a welcoming environment for all members of the community.

The recommendations come in response to the Campus Climate Survey administered to faculty, staff and students in the fall of 2009. Harker charged the commission to study the survey results and make appropriate recommendations to address the concerns it revealed.

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"The University of Delaware must provide an environment that values and is respectful of diverse views and values," Harker said. "I encourage all members of the campus community to support the work of the Diversity and Equity Commission as it spearheads this important work."

"In keeping with the Path to ProminenceTM, we are committed to providing all members of the community an academic and social atmosphere that supports and encourages them. I am confident that the strong foundation of support that exists for so many members of our community will give us an excellent starting point as we work to improve the campus climate for all," said Araya Debessay, professor of accounting and MIS and DEC co-chair.

"The Campus Climate Survey revealed a number of positive sentiments by the University community as well as a number of areas for improvement," said Dawn Thompson, dean of students and associate vice president for student life and DEC co-chair. "DEC met throughout the year to write recommendations to address the concerns of the University community regarding diversity and equity issues. The recommendations are written broadly to provide senior leadership the flexibility to task the projects to the appropriate University units and align the recommendation within budgetary constraints."

Recommendations

Recommendations of the commission are

• President Harker should publicly announce a call to action for all students to create and cultivate a more inclusive campus.

• To increase visibility and transparency, UD should align its policies and procedures on addressing racial discrimination with best practices identified by other higher education institutions.

• To determine if students think faculty members are prejudging their abilities based on identity or background, the course evaluation form should include a question on that topic.

• Increased emphasis should be placed on actively recruiting and retaining underrepresented faculty members. 

• Department chairpersons should be made aware of the need to support and encourage research endeavors that may have appeal to underrepresented groups.

• A managerial training program should be implemented for all managers, including faculty, so they can improve their effectiveness as supervisors. 

• To address the fact that some faculty and staff members have felt excluded or judged unfairly, individuals from these caucuses should be identified to serve as intermediaries for their constituent groups, serving as confidential resources where individuals can communicate exclusionary, intimidating, offensive or hostile experiences.

• The option of 360-degree evaluations should be provided for units and departments, providing staff the opportunities to evaluate their managers.

Survey findings

More than 5,700 students, faculty and staff responded to the survey, which was designed to gather information to inform and improve the University's commitment to an educational community that is intellectually, culturally and socially inclusive and one that is enriched by diversity. Respondents represented 17 percent of students, 50 percent of faculty and 52 percent of staff.

Nearly three quarters of the students, faculty and staff who responded to the survey indicated that they were comfortable or very comfortable with the current climate on campus. Nearly 90 percent said they had experienced behavior meant to include, assist, support and show respect; and more than 80 percent said they experienced positive behavior somewhat or very often.

Other findings include:

• Most student respondents find the University to be friendly, concerned about people like them, cooperative, improving, welcoming, respectful, equitable to people of all groups, physically accessible and supportive of people with family responsibilities. 

• Half the faculty indicated a strong sense of belonging and community at UD, with most faculty saying they generally feel respected, mentored, welcomed and equitable.

• A majority of staff respondents feel valued, respected and mentored.

On the other hand, when the survey responses of people of color and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) individuals are isolated, a number of areas needing improvement are revealed. 

Areas for improvement include:

• A majority of students (54 percent) said they were unaware of where to get help if someone they know is discriminated against because of race, and more than half (58 percent) do not understand UD 's formal procedures for addressing complaints of racial discrimination.

• Some 40 percent of faculty of color indicated that racial discrimination is a problem at UD, and 43 percent of faculty of color felt uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with the climate in their department. 

• Significantly more white staff (60 percent) indicated that they felt a sense of belonging and community at UD than did staff of color (45 percent). 

• More than 30 percent of LGBT staff reported experiencing exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct that interfered with their ability to work and learn at UD.

The Diversity and Equity Commission report, as well as complete survey results and an executive summary, is available online at the Path to Prominence website and the Diversity and Equity Commission website.

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