Utah State University has released the results of its first diversity climate survey, and the findings are being used to address and improve diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by the university.
“Utah State University has consistently used data to make our decisions,” USU President Noelle E. Cockett said. “We are committed to creating a community where everyone feels that they belong, and the results of this survey will help us target our efforts.”
In fall 2019, Utah State University partnered with Campus Climate Surveys, LLC, to conduct a comprehensive diversity and inclusion survey for the university community. The Viewfinder® Campus Climate Surveys are designed to help colleges and universities measure and assess both their strengths and weaknesses around diversity and inclusion efforts. The surveys provide insight into what shapes the experiences and perceptions of diverse individuals on campus to help institutions create an environment where everyone feels safe, welcome, valued and respected.
The survey included questions about belonging and inclusion specifically aimed at minoritized groups including: people with disabilities, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, religious minorities, veterans and international members of the USU community. Surveys were tailored for students, faculty, staff and administrators to assess differences in perspectives and experiences.
Out of the 28,292 individuals across USU’s statewide system who received the survey, 5,176 participated, an overall participation rate of 18%. The university had hoped to release the results of the survey soon after it was completed, but resources were tied up in pandemic response efforts during spring and fall 2020 semesters.
The survey findings included the following:
Students with any minoritized identity status experienced USU’s campus climate as less satisfying and reported less of a sense of belonging on campus.
Students with a disability, LGBTQIA+ students, students of color and international students reported feeling significantly less safe in the classroom and found USU to be less welcoming.
A majority of USU members believed promoting diversity and inclusion is very important or somewhat important to the campus leadership. However, less than 26% of faculty and staff believed there is adequate financial support to drive campus diversity efforts.
Detailed findings for the student, staff and faculty surveys are available online at www.diversity.usu.edu.
“We appreciate every person who participated in this survey and shared their experiences and perceptions,” said Eri Bentley, co-chair of USU’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. “The survey is being used by the task force in outlining strategic objectives for diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Campus Climate Surveys, LLC, also provided a survey report comparing questions that USU had in common with Arkansas State, Kansas State and University of North Texas. The comparison report is also available online.
Campus climate data about interfaith diversity and experiences is available through USU’s participation in the IDEALS survey. This survey includes more than 120 other colleges and universities around the United States and is implemented on campus through the USU Interfaith Initiative. In 2014 the university created the USU Interfaith Initiative in an effort to provide greater connectedness on campus. This initiative has since evolved into an academic interfaith leadership certificate program that combines classroom-based learning and community-based application of the vision, knowledge and skills needed to navigate a religiously diverse world.
Since becoming president in January 2017, Cockett has prioritized diversity and inclusion and led USU in efforts to create the Latinx Cultural Center; develop the annual Inclusive Excellence Symposium; expand staffing, funds and gathering space for the USU Inclusion Center; create the Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research; provide additional space and resources to the Veterans Resource Center; double the staffing of the Office of Equity, facilitate a new community-campus partnership in the annual Community Diversity Dinner; and expand the impact of the Aggies Think Care Act Initiative.
In 2020, the Utah Women & Leadership Project moved to USU, and Susan Madsen was hired as the inaugural Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, with a segment of her role designated for working with Extension. The Utah Women & Leadership Project works to strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women.
Cockett created the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in spring 2019 to guide the university’s efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive university system. The task force includes faculty and staff across USU campuses, with several working groups examining student recruitment and success; employee hiring, retention and success; training, research and instruction; and the acknowledgement of Native lands.
USU also provides multiples resources for getting involved in inclusion efforts and for reporting and seeking help for incidents of bias, including reporting illegal discrimination to the Office of Equity.