||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
UW-Eau Claire Students Report
Improved Campus Climate
MAILED: Aug. 31, 1999|
The campus social climate at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has improved in the past three years, a student survey indicates.
Fewer students report having experienced incidents of discrimination or harassment; more students report being more comfortable with staff members who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, or who are non-native English speakers; and fewer women and minorities say they have feared for their safety because of their race or sex. More students also report that they have become more accepting of others since coming to UW-Eau Claire.
"The changes do signal a change for the better in campus social relationships," said Dr. James Williams, associate professor emeritus of sociology and anthropology, who collected and analyzed survey data in 1995 and again in 1998 at the request of UW-Eau Claire's Office of Affirmative Action.
"These surveys are self-initiated they're really our report card on ourselves," Chancellor Donald Mash said. "We want a great campus climate so we're always trying to identify ways to improve it. I'm encouraged by the responses in this most recent survey it tells me we're going in the right direction."
Mash said he was particularly encouraged that many students reported being more accepting and understanding of people different than themselves after spending time on UW-Eau Claire's campus.
"This tells us that we are accomplishing one of the university's goals helping prepare students for the world beyond UW-Eau Claire," Mash said. "We're preparing students for a diverse work world that is very different than what they find in the immediate area."
In the spring of 1995, UW-Eau Claire did its first comprehensive survey of the experiences and attitudes of UW-Eau Claire students toward harassment and diversity issues. A second survey was completed in the spring of 1998 to measure changes in indicators of campus climate, said Barbara Stevens, assistant to the chancellor for Affirmative Action. The survey sample consisted of 776 students. Since 96 percent of UW-Eau Claire students are white, students of color were oversampled in the survey. Slightly more than 35 percent, or 276 students, returned the survey.
Survey findings included:
Almost 80 percent of white students and 70 percent of minority students feel like they are part of the campus community. In this survey, the percentage of white students reporting they did not feel connected to campus, or only to a small degree, was much smaller than in the previous survey, indicating that the sense of community is stronger now than three years ago.
Seventy-eight percent of white students and 69 percent of minority students reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with their university experience. "This suggests that the university is meeting the needs of its diverse population," Williams said.
On campus, minority students report feeling welcome in academic settings that relate to coursework, advising and counseling. They also are comfortable in social settings where students gather. However, minority students report feeling less at ease at audience events such as plays, films, concerts or sporting events than majority students do. Majority students are less comfortable at ethnic or cultural events. "What this suggests is that when it comes to cultural activities, majority and minority students live in two different worlds," Williams said.
Off campus, minority students report feeling significantly less welcome at restaurants, bars and stores than majority students do. The responses in 1998 were similar to those in 1995, indicating that no improvement has occurred in making students of color feel more welcome in the local community, Williams said.
More than 50 percent of the respondents reported at least one incident of rude or disrespectful behavior when off campus, slightly lower than in 1995. Twelve percent of the students of color reported that they had been refused service in a store, bar or restaurant a sharp decline from 1995 when 38 percent of students of color reported being refused service in an off-campus setting.
A staff person's ethnic background and gender create no barriers for students seeking help. But if a staff member is not a native English speaker, or is gay or lesbian, it causes problems for a sizable minority of students. Eighteen percent said they would feel uncomfortable interacting with a staff member who was gay, lesbian or bisexual, while 14 percent said they'd be uncomfortable with an employee who is not a native English speaker. "While these numbers are disturbing, they are smaller than they were three years ago, indicating perhaps that there has been a slight change toward greater acceptance of persons with these characteristics," Williams said.
For students reporting a change in attitude toward groups of people, including those noted above, an overwhelming majority reported that they were more accepting than they had been when they came to the university. "The data do suggest that the college experience is having the result of increasing tolerance and acceptance among Eau Claire students," Williams said.
Students do not see university faculty and other employees as using language that is offensive. Comparing the 1998 survey to the 1995 survey, the proportion of students who report having heard an employee make disparaging remarks about racial or ethnic minorities is significantly lower than it was previously.
Nineteen percent of survey respondents said they had never experienced discriminating behavior or harassment on campus, a significant increase from the 11 percent reporting no such experiences in 1995. "The campus climate has shown a definite improvement," Williams said. "This pattern holds true for males, females, whites and students of color. In all cases, reports of behavior the student considered offensive have declined."
In the 1998 survey, 11 percent of students of color said they had feared for their safety because of their race, down from the 23 percent of minority students who reported such fears in 1995. Also, in the 1998 survey 27 percent of the women respondents reported fearing for their safety because of their sex, down from the 47 percent who reported such fears in 1995.
"Taking all the data together, it appears that the campus and off campus climate has shown some improvement in the three years since the last survey," Williams said. "There are fewer reports of offensive behavior, both on and off campus, and students are less fearful."
The Student Campus Climate Survey will be distributed to departments and units on campus. It also will be available for review on the Office of Affirmative Action web page at www.uwec.edu/Admin/Affirm. Additional copies are available in the Affirmative Action Office in 217 Schofield Hall.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Aug. 31, 1999