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Survey looks at inclusion and equity at GVSU

Committees find 'there is still progress to be made'


The Campus Climate Implementation Committee held a town hall meeting Tuesday to discuss the results of the myGVSU survey that was conducted at Grand Valley State University in 2011. The survey asked students, faculty and staff specifically about their perceptions of inclusion and equity at GVSU.

The committee analyzed several questions, including, “Have you ever seriously considered leaving GVSU because of the climate?” The survey found that 14 percent of the more than 7,500 respondents answered yes.

The group also looked at personal experiences with harassment or exclusion on campus. According to the survey, 859 of the respondents, or 11 percent, indicated that they had personally experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct that interfered with their ability to work or learn at GVSU.” Most of these occurrences happened in class.

Despite this, most respondents felt that GVSU was committed to diversity and inclusion on campus. In 2005, 61 percent of students supported that opinion. In 2010, the number rose to 88 percent.

“It was our intention to use the information to determine things that we can do to further improve our campus climate,” said Dwight Hamilton, associate vice president for Affirmative Action. “Now that we have access to that information, we can process that.”

Hamilton said three subcommittees were created to analyze the data, identify challenges the university is still facing today and form action plans.

Marlene Kowalski-Braun, assistant vice provost for student affairs, was the chair for the student subcommittee.

“Our first task was to listen closely to the voices of students without judgment,” Kowalski-Braun said. “Our aim was to provide direction based on what our students told us.”

She said the committee found nine themes and made many recommendations based on them. The themes included classroom climate, harassment, diversity, religious inclusion and financial hardships that students face. One of Kowalski-Braun’s recommendations was to foster conversation between all students, regardless of their background, to create cross-cultural learning and dialogue, which she believes will lead to a better campus climate.

The study, she said, is the first step in the right direction.

“The campus climate affects everyone, not just those that are underrepresented,” she said. “Diversity is something that cannot be implemented without changing the underlying structure of the institution and the day-to-day practices.”

Sean Huddleston, assistant vice president for Strategic Implementation, presented the findings and recommendations for the staff subcommittee.

“The staff committee really took a look at those issues that were related to staff opportunities for creating a more inclusive climate to ensure that diversity education was embedded and promoted in the climate culture at Grand Valley State University,” Huddleston said.

He said the four key areas it identified were: salary, diversity education, climate and staff retention, and supervisor training and evaluations. Overall, he recommended more communication and training opportunities, along with implementation of strategies to protect leadership integrity at GVSU.

Hamilton added that there is still progress to be made at GVSU, despite these positive improvements and recommendations.

Though 84 percent of GVSU employees said they were “highly satisfied” or “satisfied” with their jobs, 61 percent said they were “highly satisfied” or “satisfied” with the way their careers have progressed at the university.

“There are many things that still need to be done,” he said. “This was always intended to be a continuing process, and the survey itself has evolved since its initial focus on women’s experiences here.”

For more information on the results of the 2011 campus climate survey, visit www.gvsu.edu/mygvsu.

sbrzezinski@lanthorn.com



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