Last spring, President Dave Wolk established the President’s Advisory Council on Inclusive Excellence, an important step toward deepening the University’s efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive campus community. This community would be one that authentically cultivates and values diversity and inclusion, where there are quality, respectful interactions among all members, where multiple perspectives are acknowledged and embraced, and where optimal learning occurs.
One of the first steps for this Council was to administer a campus climate survey.
During the fall semester, nearly 500 individuals participated in the survey constructed to measure perceptions of the quality of the climate, degree of commitment of the university to inclusion, personal experiences with discrimination, knowledge of others’ experiences, and attitudes toward various statements that some might find offensive.
Participants were also invited to share suggestions for ways to make Castleton even more inclusive.
“The campus climate survey took a snapshot of Castleton’s climate in 2014 and provided us with a baseline against which we will measure our future progress towards inclusive excellence on campus,” said Coordinator of International Student Services and President’s Advisory Council on Inclusive Excellence Co-Chair Debbie Singiser.
Recently, members of the advisory council held an open forum to share and discuss the results of the survey, drawing in a packed room of nearly 100 attendees.
Survey respondents, primarily European American, heterosexual students, agreed that the university's faculty and staff are committed to promoting respect and understanding of group differences, and that Castleton has a climate that fosters diversity. Many seemed to want more information about Castleton’s commitment to increasing the numbers of students and employees from underrepresented groups on campus.
While most of the respondents indicated that Castleton community members place strong emphasis on inclusion and respect, the survey also helped identify areas where more attention is needed. Respondents also indicated that Castleton is most welcoming to women and veterans and least welcoming to persons with disabilities and those of above average weight. Fourteen percent reported having experienced an act of discrimination on campus, most on the basis of gender, age, and weight.
The most common categories of discrimination concerned verbal comments, glances, and exclusion. Typical locations for this behavior were the classroom, residence halls, and dining areas and typical sources of the behavior were students and faculty.
Responses to an open-ended question revealed many different concrete suggestions for making Castleton a more inclusive environment, such as sensitivity training, Soundings events, faculty and staff development and opportunities for dialogue about diversity.
The event allowed students, faculty and staff a chance to learn more about the survey results, and engage in dialogue about a variety of different issues and concepts related to multiculturalism, diversity, internationalization, and inclusivity.
“As a campus, we value civility and respect, and we are intentional about ways we build and strengthen our sense of community,” said Dr. Ingrid Johnson-Robledo, Dean of Arts, Sciences and Community Engagement. “Our goal with this project, once completed is to use these results to identify additional steps we can take to make sure all members of our community feel valued and welcomed at Castleton.”
For more information on Inclusive Excellence at Castleton, visit castleton.edu/inclusiveexcellence.