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A new Campus Climate Survey

March 10, 2011

Updating an informal campus survey last done at CSU in 1996, CSU's President's Commission on Women and Gender Equity (CWGE) found that overall satisfaction with campus safety and equity issues has improved.

Ongoing concerns and recommendations

The Commission also used these survey results to identify several areas of ongoing concern and recommended these to CSU President Tony Frank as issues on which CSU should continue to focus.

In spring 2010, CWGE conducted an informal straw poll (an unofficial, non-scientific survey of opinion) of campus community members regarding the climate for academic achievement and employment on the Fort Collins campus. Drawing on the structure of a survey last conducted in 1996, the Commission attempted to discover if circumstances had improved at CSU and what significant concerns should be addressed by the Commission in the coming years. Of the total 2,750 respondents, 47% were students (5% of the total student population), 15% were faculty (28% of total faculty), and 38% were staff (representing 23% of total administrative professional and state classified employees).

See the study’s complete findings.

 A lot of work left to do

“The Commission members and I agree that, even as an unscientific analysis, this survey provides some very interesting information about shifting perceptions of campus climate,” President Frank said. “Most of the news is good, but we fully recognize that we have a lot of work left to do—and these findings help provide some general direction for all of us who worry about these issues on a regular basis.”

Commission Chair Paola Malpezzi Price, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, said the team made an intentional effort this year to request information in a manner similar to the 1996 survey, so as to establish some baseline for comparison. Malpezzi Price noted that CWGE’s goal is to move forward in future years with an institutional campus climate survey that is scientific and conducted on a more routine basis and that could be part of a more comprehensive survey.

Some highlights of the 2010 findings include:

  • Dissatisfaction among faculty and staff with the number of women in positions of leadership at CSU declined from 56% in 1996 to 28% in 2010.
  • Dissatisfaction among students regarding CSU’s concern for their physical safety dropped from 34% in 1996 to 12%. Among faculty and staff, 11% expressed dissatisfaction in 2010. Students also expressed greater satisfaction with their awareness of and access to safety resources.
  • Overall dissatisfaction with the level of fairness in the treatment of men and women at CSU declined from 53% of faculty-staff respondents in 1996 to 26%.
  • Dissatisfaction among faculty and staff with the opportunities for advancement and professional development at CSU declined from 50% in 1996 to 36% today.
  • Dissatisfaction with CSU’s support for balancing family, work, and school commitments declined from 51% in 1996 to 32% in 2010 among faculty and staff. Among students, the level of dissatisfaction declined from 42% in 1996 to 24% today.
  • Dissatisfaction with access to child care declined from 38% in 1996 to 28%--with 10% of students dissatisfied on this issue.
  • Dissatisfaction with freedom to express opinions and concerns without fear of retaliation declined from 48% to 35% among faculty and staff. Among students, the percentage declined from 35% to 15%.
  • The percentage of faculty and staff dissatisfied with the equitable treatment of women and men in terms of salaries, pay increases, and grading declined from 41% of respondents to 38%. Only 6% of students expressed dissatisfaction in this regard.
  • Respondents reported a general decline in frequency of negative stereotyping of gender and culture within the campus community overall.
Areas of concern

While still showing overall improvement in satisfaction, those areas identified as the greatest concerns for the Commission included employee satisfaction with the equity of salary allocations; opportunities for employee advancement; and freedom, particularly among staff, to express opinions and concerns without fear of retaliation.

“As long as even one person doesn’t feel safe on our campus, we have an obligation to do better,” Frank said. “And as an academic community committed to the free and open exchange of ideas, no one should have to fear retaliation for speaking out and expressing an opinion. I agree with the Commission that these are issues we have to continue to take quite seriously.”

“We offer these results, incomplete though they might be, and will attempt to learn what we can from them and use them to help us make recommendations and guide our future work,” the Commission wrote in its introduction to the survey results.

Change in perception

The change in perception may be influenced by efforts in recent years to improve child-care options, monitor salary equity concerns, and better support faculty and staff with new benefits and discounts offered through the Commitment to Campus, Frank said. At the same time, the economic downturn has led to three years without faculty-staff pay increases, and many employees have seen their take-home pay decline because of changes to PERA benefits.

“It’s encouraging to see this level of improved response about campus climate at a time when we know that many members of our campus community have been struggling,” he said. “To me, it shows that people appreciate the efforts that have been made, even if there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The bottom line is that we need to continue to place high priority on becoming an exceptional employer capable of recruiting and retaining an outstanding faculty and staff-- that has a tremendous influence on the overall quality of education we offer our students.”

In forwarding the survey to President Frank, the Commission recommended that the university:

  • Investigate the reasons, real or perceived for the belief in unfair outcomes in salary allocation.
  • Continue to communicate broadly about the implementation of efforts to promote work/life balance.
  • Conduct a more formal survey of staff concerns related to freedom to express their opinions and concerns without retaliation.
  • Establish a regulated schedule of campus climate surveys that would update the data every three years and include specific analyses of concerns of targeted campus populations.

The President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity is charged by the CSU president to “assist in the creation of an environment at CSU that fosters relationships and interactions among people. Such an environment is one in which both women and men feel safe, freed from limitations and restrictions of culturally defined sex roles, and empowered and supported by the University in pursuing their dreams.”

Commission members are appointed by the President and work closely with the Vice President for Diversity. The Commission forwards its recommendations, concerns and program ideas to the president for further action or to initiate broader campus discussion.