Campus climate survey highlights strengths, areas for improvement
The results of a survey that invited faculty, staff and students at the University of Georgia to share their experiences and perspectives on a range of issues will now be used as one of several inputs to inform ongoing efforts to enhance the campus environment.
The Count Me In survey was conducted Oct. 20 to Nov. 20, 2015, by Rankin and Associates Consulting and was open to all faculty, staff and students to ensure that every member of the campus community had a chance to provide feedback. Several reminders were sent to encourage participation, and a 23 percent response rate was recorded. Rankin and Associates, which delivered the report last week, recommended caution in generalizing the findings for groups with a response rate below 30 percent.
"The Count Me In survey reflects the university's commitment to listening to the voices of our faculty, staff and students as we work together to ensure that the University of Georgia is a place where each and every individual can achieve their full potential," said Associate Provost for Institutional Diversity Michelle Garfield Cook, who chaired the 11-member committee that worked with Rankin and Associates to develop the survey.
Cook noted that several key themes emerged from the study:
Comfort with climate at UGA
Of the 23 percent who responded overall, 81 percent reported being comfortable or very comfortable with the climate at UGA, in line with findings from these types of surveys at similar institutions. The findings also indicated that students felt comfortable in the classroom environment and perceived faculty as role models.
Faculty/staff work-life issues
Virtually all of the faculty respondents agreed that research was valued by UGA. Faculty respondents also reported a clear understanding of the criteria for promotion and tenure. Similarly, the vast majority of staff respondents reported that their supervisors provided them with adequate resources to pursue professional development.
On the other hand, of the faculty and staff who responded to the survey, a majority noted that they had seriously considered leaving UGA in the past year, due primarily to low salaries.
In addition, some faculty and staff indicated a need for improvement in areas such as hiring practices, reclassification decisions and work-life balance.
Closing the salary gap between the university and its peer institutions, which grew in the wake of the Great Recession, has been a key institutional priority. For the past three years, the university has been able to offer merit-based raises to faculty and staff.
The recently expanded Office of Faculty Affairs has partnered with Human Resources to deliver training on best practices for recruiting and hiring, to strengthen existing supervisor training programs and to craft materials to help search committees maximize the diversity of hiring pools.
The office also offers workshops on faculty mentoring that include information on improving the retention of faculty in underrepresented groups.
In addition, the university launched a Women's Leadership Initiative in March 2015 to promote gender equity. As a result of the initiative, UGA has updated its hiring practices, introduced leadership development programming and made new resources available to faculty and staff.
Differing experiences by groups
Of the 23 percent who responded, 16 percent reported experiencing exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct, compared with 20 to 25 percent of respondents at similar institutions. The report noted that minorities and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender were more likely than others to report incidents of this nature.
The report reiterates UGA's position that "diversity and inclusion are crucial to the intellectual vitality of the campus community." The university has a number of programs that foster an inclusive campus environment, including a certificate program in diversity and inclusion for faculty and staff.
In addition, outreach programs such as the Georgia African American Male Experience, Georgia Daze and Movimiento Latino are helping create a more diverse student body. Key measures of student success are positive. As just one example, the university's six-year graduation rate is
85.3 percent overall and 87 percent for African-American students.
"The report underscores the need to create new opportunities for dialogue and raise awareness of the resources available to our faculty, staff and students," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. "Our priority now is to examine the effectiveness of our existing programs, fill in any gaps and better publicize the current resources UGA offers to enhance the living, learning and working environment on campus."
In response to the report, Whitten is charging a series of student, faculty and staff working groups representing Human Resources, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Institutional Diversity and the Office of Faculty Affairs to review the findings of the survey and explore opportunities to continue to enhance the living, learning and working environment at UGA. An additional action step is a campus-wide communications audit to determine levels of awareness regarding campus resources for faculty, staff and students. The audit findings will help the university identify strategies to better promote programs and services.
"I am grateful to the committee that oversaw this survey and to the faculty, staff and students who chose to share their views and experiences," said President Jere W. Morehead. "We will continue to work together to foster an open, positive and inclusive campus environment."
More information on the campus climate study is at http://diversity.uga.edu/index.php/programs/article/campus-climate.