Executive summary

Introduction

The MSU Campus and Community Climate Study Project (CCCSP) has produced an expansive amount of information (both data and verbal testimony) from which a rich set of findings has been obtained. Overall, there are many positive findings, along with a number of focal issues of concern for members of the MSU community to address.


Overview

The MSU Campus and Community Climate Study Project (CCCSP) began in June 2013 with the establishment of a steering committee of individuals from both campus and the community. The project consisted of the following:

  1. Climate survey instruments for both MSU students and employees
  2. Informal interviews of MSU administrators, faculty and staff
  3. Community interviews and discussion groups

As a result, the final report is three-dimension in order to represent accurately and thoroughly the wealth of information gleaned over 19 months.


What's the point of campus climate research?

The central goal of campus climate research is to obtain a sample that is "inclusive" (i.e., contains a substantial number of representatives from as many different stakeholder identity groups as possible), and to evaluate the patterns in the data and verbal testimony in order to inform our understanding of the perceptions and experiences of many different groups of people on campus (and in this case the community as well). Findings from the campus climate research can be used to inform important decisions regarding policies, procedures and resources related to diversity that can guide ongoing University-wide strategic planning.


Dimension 1 - Campus climate surveys: Number, findings and recommendations

Numbers

  • Email invitations sent to 20,816 faculty, students, staff and administrators
  • Some form of response received from 3,510 individuals; initial delivery rate of 16.9%
  • Total of 3,160 useable surveys; 15.2% overall response rate and 90% useable surveys (response rate is slightly higher than the typical one of 10-12% for surveys of this nature).

See Table 1

See Table 2

Despite concerted efforts to obtain sizeable numbers of participants from a variety of underrepresented and historically marginalized groups, sample sizes for race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability status remained relatively small.

Findings

  • A large majority of participants believed that efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at MSU are inclusive of racial-ethnic identity, and a majority also believed that MSU is inclusive regarding sex, disability status, sexual orientation, language differences and veteran status.
  • There were important differences between groups about efforts to improve diversity with regard to gender identity/expression, religious/spiritual values and political ideology.
  • Perceptions of the campus climate at MSU differ on the basis of minority and majority group membership (in most cases), which is a common finding for most campus climate research.
  • Although there were differences in perceptions based on racial-ethnic group membership (in which Whites tend to perceive the climate more positively and less negatively than people of color), it is noteworthy that both groups of participants believe that efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at MSU are inclusive of racial-ethnic identity (above 70% agreement for both groups).

  • The percentages of LGBTQ (40.9%), non-Christians (45.9%), politically liberal (42.9%) and politically conservative (47.2%) all fell below 50% agreement regarding perception that efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at MSU are inclusive of identities.
  • The largest percentages of Whites did not believe that people at MSU are treated differently on the basis of racial-ethnic identity, whereas the largest percentage of people of color believe differential treatment was common based on racial-ethnic identity. 
  • The majority (52.3%) of participants with disabilities indicated that they believed the overall campus environment is supportive of people with disabilities, yet large percentages also indicated that (a) they utilize accommodations only when absolutely necessary (64.9%), and (b) they are reluctant to disclose their disability to instructors or supervisors (48.5%). Furthermore, only 39.7% of students with disabilities reported their instructors use an inclusive curriculum/universal design so that their accommodation needs are minimized.
  • Although the overall percentage of experiences of discrimination, harassment, hostile environment and retaliation was low (10.1% for students and 11.1% for employees), members of minority groups were overrepresented, including cisgender women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, non-Christians and politically liberal students.
  • There were consistently significant differences between groups on the variables measuring micro-aggressions for students and employees of color, LGBTQ students and employees, students and employees with disabilities, non-Christian students and employees, politically liberal students and employees and non-native English speakers.
  • Two important findings emerged with respect to the Springfield community: (a) sizable percentages of participants believed that the Springfield community was less welcoming for LGBTQ individuals, people of color, non-Christian individuals, non-native English speakers and politically liberal individuals; and (b) almost two-thirds of LGBTQ individuals perceived MSU as a “safe haven” compared to the larger Springfield community.

Recommendations

  1. Enhance infrastructure for leadership, advocacy, and accountability.
  2. Develop rigorous and concerted recruitment and retention programs.
  3. Enhance multicultural training and address multicultural environment issues.
  4. Expand scope of multicultural research and other scholarly activities.
  5. Establish on-going campus climate assessments.
  6. Develop and advance a community-university partnership for diversity and inclusion.

Dimension 2 - Campus informal interviews: Responses, recommendations and next steps

Overview

To complement the quantitative research of the climate surveys, a series of informal interviews of MSU administrators, faculty and staff were conducted from February 2014 through October 2014. A total of 123 employees from 64 departments/areas participated in five days of interviews and provided responses and recommendations for two questions.

Responses to question 1

In response to the question about what MSU is doing effectively to create an inclusive climate for diverse students, faculty, administrators, and staff, there were 26 themes in the following categories of the total educational environment:

  • Curriculum/Pedagogy
  • Professional development of faculty, administrators and staff
  • Institutional leadership, commitment and governance
  • Workplace/organizational culture and climate
  • Academic/campus culture and climate
  • Co-curricular and support services, programs and activities
  • Community climate, culture and connections
  • Diverse hiring of faculty, administrators and staff
  • Mission: Cultural competence, public affairs, community engagement, ethical leadership

These themes corroborate one of the findings from the results of the campus surveys: a majority believe that efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion are succeeding. Here are a few of them:

  • Faculty are adding diversity experiences for their students into courses.
  • There is more support for diversity education and training for faculty and staff across campus.
  • More student programming on diversity has occurred across the entire campus.
  • LGBTQ benefits, protections, and a new resource center give MSU a more inclusive, progressive reputation.
  • President Smart’s recently announced 20% diverse hiring goal shows real leadership on diversity.
  • Diversity is much more visible across the entire campus.

In addition, interview participants cited 37 specific examples of programs, initiatives, curricula, services, strategies and policies that are working, like TRIO, tunnel of oppression, the disability resource center, the office of the vice president for diversity and inclusion, “from boots to books,” giving voice, international programs and services, etc.

Responses to question 2

In response to the question about what does MSU need to address, improve, change, invent, etc. in order to be more successful at inclusion for diverse students, administrators, faculty, and staff, there were 43 themes and 93 specific recommendations. Again, a number of the themes and recommendations corroborate findings from the climate surveys about micro-aggressions on campus and an unwelcoming Springfield community for people of color, LGBTQ individuals, non-Christian individuals, etc. Here are a few of them:

  • In some departments, there are perceptions of treatment differences and hostile climate for women faculty (i.e. subtle pressures, punishments, and bullying).
  • There are perceptions that LGBTQ and African American employees experience social isolation, rejection and exclusion.
  • African American faculty report feeling marginalized, isolated, and excluded from their departments and on campus.
  • Non-Christian religious groups (i.e., Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, etc.) report experiencing fear on campus and feeling vulnerable to becoming a victim of a hate crime or hate speech.
  • Students are reporting incidents of faculty and other students making racist, sexist, anti-semitic and homophobic comments in classrooms that are not addressed.
  • Minority students report that they have to act and talk “white” in order to be accepted in their classes and on campus.
  • Women students are also reporting a fear of speaking up in their classes; some male faculty members have insinuated that women students don’t have any ideas so they should be quiet.
  • Diverse students who graduate from MSU do not want to stay in the Springfield area.
  • There is a downtown Springfield “safety bubble” of housing for diverse students on the fringes of campus, but the further away students are living from campus, the less comfortable they are.

In making 93 specific recommendations, participants addressed all categories of the total educational environment. Some of the recommendations are minor adjustments to already existing programs and activities; others are advocating for policy changes, new committees, new programs, services and courses. And, to be sure, a number of the suggestions could already be in the works since the compilation of this report. Here are a few of them:

  • Establish a campus-wide committee on the status of women to address issues and concerns of women administrators, faculty and staff.
  • Every college and department should have its own diversity committee to address concerns and issues in their particular area (i.e., like the College of Natural and Applied Sciences and Department of Residence Life, Housing, and Dining Services).
  • Human Resources could take the lead in educating all employees about hostile workplace climate in order to create a more collegial, inclusive workplace for all employees.
  • Establish a cadre of faculty who will be trained to facilitate diversity education programs, workshops, and activities with their colleagues in order to create more inclusive classrooms.
  • More information needed for students on labeling gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • There should be a campus-wide policy for public academic offices to display diverse religious symbols during holidays not just Christian ones.
  • Strengthen our relationship with undergraduate institutions with significant percentages of diverse and minority students in order to bring in diverse graduate students.
  • Expand cross-campus opportunities for cross-cultural interaction among diverse students, faculty, and staff.

Next steps for a comprehensive diversity plan

  1. Develop strategies for providing access to the CCCSP report for the MSU campus and the greater Springfield community, including official news releases explaining what steps MSU will take to address issues, concerns, and problems covered in the report.
  2. After the campus has the opportunity to read and review the CCCSP, provide a one-month period for subsequent recommendations to be made by students, administrators, faculty, and staff. 
  3. President Smart should appoint a campus-wide committee of faculty, administrators, and staff to develop a strategic diversity action plan based on the CCCSP report. The committee could be coordinated through the office of the vice president for diversity and inclusion with input from the CCCSP steering committee on the size, composition, organization, and process of this new campus diversity planning committee (CDPC).
  4. Develop a coordinated communication campaign to publicize the objectives, activities, and results of the new campus diversity planning committee (CDPC) on campus and in the community as MSU’s official response to the CCCSP report.
  5. For comprehensive treatment and coherent organization, the campus diversity planning committee (CDPC) can use the CCCSP report categories of the total educational environment to classify existing and new recommendations (i.e. curriculum, workplace culture and climate, institutional leadership, etc.) 
  6. Set up “think tanks” for each category of the total educational environment comprised of MSU leaders with credentials and expertise in those areas to advise the campus diversity planning committee (CDPC) on actions that can be taken to fulfill recommendations. 
  7. For each recommendation, the campus diversity planning committee (CDPC) should suggest immediate actions (6 months), short-term actions (12-18 months), and long-term actions (24 months +). For those recommendations conducive to immediate remedies/actions, publicize what will be done so the campus community can see immediate progress.
  8. The final diversity plan should include the process for approval and implementation of each action proposed, resources needed to make them happen, personnel and groups who will be in charge and accountable, evaluation mechanisms to assess success, and connections to MSU’s overall strategic plan.
  9. Submit the final campus diversity plan to key personnel and core constituency groups to demonstrate how it responds point-by-point to the CCCSP report and to garner their comments, contributions, and approval (i.e. Administrative Council, Faculty Senate, Student Government, Staff Council, Board of Governors, others????? etc.).
  10. Publish, disseminate, and communicate the final campus diversity plan widely, including several official presentations in public forums on campus and in the community. 
  11. Ensure that the division for diversity and inclusion is properly equipped for its expanded responsibility in addressing recommendations from the CCCSP report. The infrastructure for implementation of the campus diversity plan should reflect an administrative model that is conducive to anticipated growth and demographic change at the university over the next 10-15 years.
  12. Issue regular status reports on the progress of the campus diversity plan (6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, etc.)

Dimension 3–Community interviews and discussions: Responses, themes, recommendations and next steps

Overview

To learn the perceptions and experiences of the community on diversity, Springfield, Missouri, and Missouri State University, informal interviews were conducted with 75 people. In addition, 65 people participated in extended cultural identity discussions for the following groups: Latino/Latina, women, people with disabilities, African American, LGBTQ, economically disadvantaged, and international.

Themes from informal community interviews

For the first question on the positive aspects of living in the Springfield, MO area, three themes emerged:

  • Quality of life (6 points)
  • Opportunities (5 points)
  • Organizations and services (6 points)

For questions two and three on their vision for the future of Springfield, MO, particularly how diversity factors into that vision for change, the following themes were expressed:

  • Poverty/income inequity (5 points) 
  • Infrastructure improvement (4 points)
  • Expanding job market and economy and more diverse business networks (9 points)
  • Changing attitudes, perspectives, and identities (25 points)
  • Civic, social service, education, and government organizations (11 points)
  • Representation and voice (5 points)

For the last question on assessing MSU’s contribution and role in making that vision for Springfield a reality, including specific recommendations for MSU, there were six themes:

  • Inclusive and diverse Springfield (7 points)
  • Intercultural campus community (13 points)
  • Cultural identity networks and partnerships (9 points)
  • Communications and public relations (6 points)
  • Community diversity education (5 points)
  • Minority contractors and businesses (3 points)

Findings

The majority of participants were quite proud to have MSU as a central resource for the greater Springfield community. Clearly they saw MSU’s leadership on diversity as crucial to any advances on diversity the community will make. As one person put it, “If MSU walks the talk of diversity and equity, Springfield is more likely to do the same.”

Themes from cultural identity discussion groups: Latino/Latina, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, African American, international, economically disadvantaged

Each group was asked to (1) assess the climate for their particular group in the Springfield community and on the MSU campus; and (2) to make recommendations for what both Springfield and MSU could do to be more inclusive of their group.

Latino/Latina: Perceptions, experiences, and recommendations

  • Characteristics of Latinos living in the Springfield area
  • How to motivate and support children of Latino families to go to college
  • 11 recommendations for Springfield schools, Hospitals/Medical, City of Springfield, and Missouri State University

Women: Perceptions, experiences, and recommendations

  • Women in leadership roles in city government, business, civic and social service organizations
  • The realities of women’s lives, including domestic abuse, rape, poverty, health care, children, etc.
  • 11 recommendations for Missouri State University, Springfield schools, and Springfield community

People with disabilities: Perceptions, experiences, and recommendations

  • Accessibility to housing, transportation, and employment
  • 18 recommendations for Missouri State University and City of Springfield

African American: Perceptions, experiences, and recommendations

  • The status of African Americans in the Springfield community in the past 10 years
  • Achievement and success of African American students in local schools and bridges to college education at MSU
  • 9 recommendations for Missouri State University and City of Springfield

LGBTQ: Perceptions, experiences, and recommendations

  • Harassment, invasion of privacy, and interrogation
  • Stereotypes, fear culture, and safe spaces
  • 8 recommendations for Missouri State University and City of Springfield

International: Perceptions, experiences, and recommendations

  • On the margins, like outsiders
  • Knowledge gaps and global future
  • 12 recommendations for Missouri State University, Springfield schools, and City of Springfield

Economically disadvantaged: Perceptions, experiences, and recommendations

  • Marginality/invisibility
  • Generational vs. situational poverty cultures
  • Proactive vs. reactive programs and strategies
  • 12 recommendations for Missouri State University, Springfield schools, and City of Springfield

Next Steps

An overwhelming theme that comes through again and again in the Community Climate Report is that so many in the Springfield community greatly appreciate MSU’s leadership role on diversity, especially in the past five years. Because of the reciprocal nature of the relationship between Springfield and MSU, neither can go it alone on tackling these complex and often emotionally-charged issues, so both need to be strategic partners for long-term success on diversity. Another theme that was articulated by so many is a sense of urgency to address diversity now for reasons like economic prosperity, quality of life, social and civic change, human rights, educational success, changing demographics, and new social, political, and global realities.

To move forward in an intentional, proactive way on these themes and capitalize on the existing momentum, the leaders of both Springfield and MSU could facilitate a series of strategic planning retreats through Good Community Springfield and the new MSU center for community engagement to convert recommendations into short-term actions and long-term objectives.

The rewards for investment of time, resources, and capital to this effort can be great because ultimately inclusion of diverse groups will reduce their alienation in the community and increase trust, participation, and engagement.