PROFESSORS ARE PEOPLE, TOO

Campus Climate results show more outreach is needed for faculty, staff

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 2/28/16 10:37pm

editorial


On Feb. 26, Grand Valley State University's myGVSU Campus Climate Survey data began to be analyzed by the Division of Inclusion and Equity. The study collected student, faculty and staff feelings and thoughts about a range of topics, including how welcome they felt on campus and how happy they are to be part of the Laker community.

Thought the results are still preliminary, there were some immediately notable changes from the last Campus Climate Survey conducted in 2011. Overall, GVSU student comfort levels increased, but students of color and transgender students felt less comfortable with the campus climate. In addition, faculty and staff comfort levels decreased across the board.

It's easy to see that GVSU has many visible resources for students, such as the Women's Center and Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center. These offices are centrally located and involved with events and sponsoring activities on campus, proving many opportunities to enhance the campus environment for students. On the surface, opportunities for faculty and staff do not seem to be as present.

According to the recent survey results, the percentages of faculty and staff who felt the campus climate was comfortable saw a 4 percent decrease for faculty since 2011, going from 80 percent to 76 percent this year. For staff, that number decreased 3 percent, from 83 percent to 80 percent.

These survey results show a dangerous trend, which must be addressed moving forward. GVSU should be striving to replicate the model it follows to ensure student success and apply a version of that model to its faculty and staff. Though there are some support systems already in place for faculty and staff, the level of this engagement and community building should be amplified. Faculty and staff are vital to the Laker environment and the community owes it to them to make sure they feel welcome in their workplace.

Students at GVSU have reported in the past that they often identify with faculty and staff of the same background, and the university should take this into consideration. When students are looking for support from someone who does not have an ample support system themselves, the blind begin to lead the blind.

Professors' attitude and perceived levels of support can also make the difference between a good class and a bad class for students. A happy professor is enthusiastic about their teaching material, cares about whether their students learn and put effort into their job. An unhappy faculty member can make going to class a chore and the learning process very difficult. GVSU needs to find a way to make sure that our faculty and staff grow more comfortable on campus, rather than the current trend that was presented in the Campus Climate Survey results. If not, the university risks losing valued members of the Laker community.

Offering support services, stress relief programming and community building events for faculty and staff would be beneficial not only for morale, but for overall attitude as well. If GVSU has a comfortable, satisfied faculty and staff, that will radiate positively through their positions and have a lasting impact on the community.

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