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May 9: DLE campus forum

Forum to consider findings of Diverse Learning Environments climate survey

The University of Delaware Center for the Study of Diversity invites members of the campus community to a public forum Tuesday to discuss the findings of the Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) climate survey of undergraduate students’ diversity experiences at UD.

The public forum will be held tomorrow (May 9) from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Trabant Theater. A second forum is also planned for the fall semester, with a date to be announced later.

“What this report does is highlight areas where experiences have consequences for our students,” said James M. Jones, professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity. “By elevating a sense of belonging, you elevate a sense of success.”

The DLE survey, developed by the Higher Education Research Institute, was distributed to all 17,575 undergraduate students registered on the Newark campus of UD in spring 2016. Of those, 3,696 students responded. About 70 percent of those who responded were white, 20 percent were underrepresented minorities and 10 percent were Asian. The survey report is also recapped in a five-page executive summary.

Vice Provost for Diversity Carol Henderson said the report “allows us to think more purposefully about how to create a more inclusive campus environment.”

She said the recommendations in the report will “add depth to the University’s ongoing, holistic efforts related to inclusive excellence and help to make educated, intentional interventions for student success.”

Among the survey’s main findings:

• Underrepresented minority and Asian-American students have more negative experiences of the campus climate than white students. They also feel more excluded and less welcome on campus than do white students.

• Positive cross-racial interactions and conversations across differences are related to sense of belonging for all students.

• Students who feel academically validated are more likely to succeed academically.

• Diversity experiences and curriculum strengthen all students’ desire to work with diverse people and engage in civic-oriented activities.

• Students who perceive that the institution is committed to diversity also feel a sense of belonging.

A few of UD’s accomplishments in improving campus diversity include: hiring a director of Student Diversity and Inclusion in the Division of Student Life and a senior associate director in the Office of Equity and Inclusion who is responsible for strengthening the implementing non-discrimination practices and protocols; recertification of the multicultural requirement; and the Blue Hen Success Collaborative, which is focused on student success.

The report includes six key recommendations:

• Conduct campus climate surveys of students (graduate and undergraduate) every three years, and conduct a campus climate survey for faculty and staff every five years at all UD campuses.

• Develop focused strategies for affirming students’ sense of academic capability, particularly for underrepresented minority students.

• Examine spaces and places where negative cross-racial interactions take place and develop strategies to reduce their occurrence.

• Increase opportunities for students to have positive cross-racial interactions and discussions across differences.

• Expand the multicultural requirement and co-curricular opportunities to increase knowledge and exposure to diversity, and assess both student participation and outcomes through exit surveys.

• Engage students more directly in diversity-inspired activities.

“We hope that this report will serve as a working tool to help develop interventions for student success and for promoting aspects of campus life that affirm students individually and collectively,” the report summary said.

“The goal should be to make significant strides in creating an equitable campus community in which students thrive, in which diversity is considered as foundational to promoting excellence, in which students learn how to productively engage with and learn from differences, in which mutual respect is a cornerstone principle and all students can reach their full potential.”

The survey also measured other diversity-related experiences, such as gender, classification, LGBTQ and other social statuses, but those findings will be addressed in subsequent reports.


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