Frequently Asked Questions


What is campus climate?
Dr. Susan Rankin, the lead consultant on UMSL’s Climate Survey, defines campus climate as “the current attitudes, behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential.”

“Respect” is one of the most critical words in this description. It's not just the experience of individuals and groups on a campus; it’s also the quality and extent of the interaction among those various groups and individuals that determines a healthy campus climate. Diversity and inclusion are extremely important aspects of a positive campus climate as well.


How does campus climate affect students?
Numerous studies have concluded that how students experience their campus environment influences both learning and developmental outcomes and that discriminatory environments have a negative effect on student learning. Research supports the value of a diverse student body and faculty on enhancing learning outcomes. Quite simply, students thrive in healthy environments, free of the negativity of discrimination, where inclusion and respect for diversity is the daily norm.


How does campus climate affect faculty and staff?
Faculty members, administrators and staff members are significantly impacted by campus climate. According to workplace studies, the personal and professional development of professionals is greatly enhanced through a healthy working environment. Research suggests that faculty members who consider their campus climate healthy and inclusive are more likely to feel personally and professionally supported. Research also indicates that there is a direct relationship between workplace discrimination and negative job and career attitudes. In addition, faculty and staff who have encountered prejudice directly attribute its negative effects to decreased health and wellbeing. Creating a healthy campus climate is as important for faculty and staff as it is for students.


How were the questions developed?
The consultant has administered climate assessments to more than 150 institutions across the nation and developed a repository of tested questions. Teams from the four campuses of the University of Missouri System worked with the consultant to customize questions best suited to each campus – which are also administering similar surveys this fall. Members of the Chancellor’s Council on Diversity are the primary contacts with the consultants from UMSL.


Why do some demographic questions contain a very large number of response options?
It is important in campus climate research for survey participants to see themselves in response choices to prevent “othering” an individual or an individual’s characteristics. Some researchers maintain that assigning someone to the status of “other” is a form of marginalization and should be minimized, particularly in campus climate research, which has an intended purpose of inclusiveness. Along these lines, survey respondents will see a long list of possible choices for many demographic questions. It is impossible to include every possible choice to every question, but the goal is to reduce the number of respondents who must choose “other."


How is a respondent’s confidentiality protected?
Confidentiality is vital to the success of campus climate research, particularly as sensitive and personal topics are discussed. While the survey cannot guarantee complete confidentiality because of the nature of multiple demographic questions, the consultant will take multiple precautionary measures to enhance individual confidentiality and the de-identification of data. No data already protected through regulation or policy (e.g., Social Security number, campus identification number, medical information) is obtained through the survey. In the event of any publication or presentation resulting from the assessment, no personally identifiable information will be shared.

Confidentiality in participating will be maintained to the highest degree permitted by the technology used (e.g., IP addresses will be stripped when the survey is submitted). No guarantees can be made regarding the interception of data sent via the Internet by any third parties; however, to avoid interception of data, the survey is run on a firewalled web server operated by Rankin with forced 256-bit SSL security. In addition, the consultant and university will not report any group data for groups of fewer than five individuals, because those cell sizes may be small enough to compromise confidentiality. Instead, the consultant and university will combine the groups or take other measures to eliminate any potential for demographic information to be identifiable. Additionally, any comments submitted in response to the survey will be separated at the time of submission to the consultant so they are not attributed to any individual demographic characteristics. Identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments will be redacted, and the university will only receive these redacted comments.

Participation in the survey is completely voluntary, and participants do not have to answer any question — except the first positioning question (student, faculty, staff) — and can skip any other questions they consider to be uncomfortable.

Information in the introductory section of the survey will describe the manner in which confidentiality will be guaranteed, and additional communication to participants will provide expanded information on the nature of confidentiality, possible threats to confidentiality and procedures developed to ensure de-identification of data.


What is the timeline?
This initiative involved survey development (spring/summer 2016); survey implementation, which will seek input from all students, faculty and staff (fall 2016); and reporting of results (fall 2017).


What will be included in the final summary reports?
The consultant will provide a final report that will include: an executive summary; a report narrative of the findings based on cross-tabulations selected by the consultant; frequencies, percentages, means and standard deviations of quantitative data; and content analysis of the textual data. The reports provide high-level summaries of the findings and will identify themes found in the data. Generalizations for populations are limited to those groups or subgroups with response rates of at least 30 percent. The committee will review draft reports and provide feedback to the consultant prior to public release. In any survey of this type, some comments may use or incorporate hurtful epithets. We do not wish to repeat those terms, so the university has redacted from the Rankin & Associates reports portions of comments using such language. In these instances, only the hurtful language has been redacted; the substance of the comment has been retained. The university will consider the entirety of the report and all the underlying data and comments as we build on our efforts to foster an outstanding and welcoming climate for work and learning. 


Who do I contact at UMSL with questions?
UMSL’s chief diversity office, Deborah Burris, is the primary lead for this project. Her phone number is 314-516-5695. Her email is dburris@umsl.edu.


 

Post Town Hall FAQs

UMSL leadership committed to addressing, on this website, questions that were not answered due to time constraints during the Town Hall Q&A.  Those questions are included below. Questions considered to be personally identifiable are not included. For specific questions related to you as an individual UMSL community member, please contact the Office of Human Resources to best address the specifics of your question.


If a staff or faculty member experiences harassment such as bullying – what recourse do they have besides filing a grievance? What should students do?

The first step in dealing with harassment or bullying is to confront the bully/harasser – to tell them that you are not ok with their behavior and ask that they stop. If the behavior continues then you should report the behavior to your supervisor and, if they are the problem, their supervisor.  If you are not comfortable with either of those options, then you should contact HR or Title IX staff. Additional information is available at:

Were student athletes, specifically intercollegiate athletes, addressed in any way or treated as a subpopulation within the scope of the survey?

No, participants were not asked to identify based on student athlete status.


How will UMSL leadership educate faculty, staff and student about problems and issues involving the transgender population on campus? Ask & Honor – Pronouns.

The UMSL community is encouraged to participate in the UMSL Save Zone program which provides training to faculty, staff and students to be aware of, sensitive to and advocate for the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex persons. Participants agreed to serve as supportive points of contact for those who are seeking information or assistance with LGBT-related issues. Learn more by visiting the UMSL Safety Zone website.


How do you plan to move forward improving climate and culture and prioritizing it? As the survey shows people are overworked and feel undervalued. Fixing climate will take time and resources. Will you guide campus leadership to prioritize this work and allocate resources to it or will this just be more work added to overworked faculty and staff?

We plan to use the survey results as a starting point for a deeper conversations into the workplace themes that the survey identified (Diversity in Hiring, Performance Appraisal, Career Progression and Workload).  One example was announced in the HR Update on July 14: UMSL HR will begin recruiting a cross-functional team in October to review the latest thinking and best practices around employee recognition.  Based on that understanding we will create a vision and guiding principles for effective recognition, with tools for leaders at UMSL to create effective and meaningful approaches for recognizing their people.  We will use a similar approach to address the Workplace themes identified in the survey.


Will all positive and negative comments from the survey be posted online in final reports?

Yes. All qualitative comments, both those considered positive and negative, were included in the final report. However, to maintain respondent confidentiality, identifiable information submitted in qualitative comments was redacted. In any survey of this type, some comments may use or incorporate hurtful epithets, so the university has redacted from the Rankin & Associates reports portions of comments using such language. In these instances, only the hurtful language has been redacted; the substance of the comment has been retained.


This report coincides with two opportunities to take the results and develop them into a meaningful action: strategic planning and inclusive excellence plans. But the extremely short time frames on those processes run the risk of losing voices and not setting thoughtful and clear goals. How are you hoping to make these meaningful processes in light of this report?

The Office of the Provost is working to integrate these two initiatives to ensure that each includes meaningful engagement and thoughtful outcomes. For example, the inclusive excellence framework is being integrated into the university’s strategic planning process as the 5th compact. Each initiative includes a diverse working group where ideas and actions are taken out to the broader campus community for input.