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TODAY'S NEWS

Racial climate survey reveals positive student perceptions
and opportunities for enhancing climate

By the Inclusive Excellence Research Team of the Institute for Teaching and Learning

University of Akron students perceive the racial climate on campus to be relatively positive, says the Inclusive Excellence Research Team from the Institute for Teaching and Learning, referring to the preliminary results of its racial climate survey that were released last month. While overall favorable, the survey results revealed a number of opportunities for improvement and further study.

Findings include:

  • Students perceive that the University is committed to diversity. Students’ responses fell on the positive side of the response continuum for most items including perceiving that: (1) the University is committed to increasing diversity; (2) their college staff is helpful; and (3) the faculty are sensitive to issues of ethnic/racial minority students.
  • Compared to European American students, African American students do not feel as engaged at the University. African American respondents reported weaker connections to the campus community and more social isolation than did European American respondents.
  • Racial harassment affects enrollment. Racial harassment is a strong predictor of students’ consideration of leaving UA for all students. This was especially true for African American students.
  • Some factors that undermine student engagement were identified. As noted above, students’ generally feel that the University is committed to increasing diversity. However students in general feel less engaged with the University when they perceive that: (1) the University is not committed to diversity; (2) their college staff is not helpful; or (3) faculty members are not sensitive to issues concerning racial or ethnic minority students.
  • Overall, UA is endorsed. All respondent groups were willing to recommend UA to family and friends.

From these findings, the team made these preliminary recommendations:

  • The process should continue. We believe there should be continued examination of the racial climate here at UA.
  • Eliminate instances of racial harassment. As the data indicates that racial-harassment experiences may adversely impact the persistence of students, especially African American students, the University should continue to take steps to help eliminate or minimize the occurrence of these events.
  • The curriculum should reflect our students' diversity. The General Education curriculum should be informed by these climate data, so that all students are able to see themselves in their curriculum while being exposed to diverse persons, ideas and ways of knowing.
  • Continue to talk. All levels of the UA community should be involved in discussions of these data as a way to develop our understanding of our racial climate and its implications for our mission.
  • Encourage diversity at all levels. The team noted that the people students have contact with at UA clearly matter, which therefore suggests that compositional diversity at all levels and in all areas of UA should be a priority. This is consistent with the literature concerning Inclusive Excellence, which indicates that diversity can stimulate engagement, learning, and social responsibility among all students and better prepare them for their roles as citizens.

The full survey is here, and the report summary and recommendations are here. The Web-based survey was conducted in April and May of 2006 and drew 984 responses; the demographics of these respondents to a great extent reflected the composition of the UA student body. However, only African American and European American respondents were included in the analyses, as the number of respondents representing other racial groups was too small to be of statistical significance.

Members of the Inclusive Excellence Research Team are:

  • Charles Stephens (leader), Coordinator of Advising for Minority Students; Academic Advisor, Department of Academic Advisement.
  • David Baker, Director, Archives of the History of American Psychology; Professor, Psychology.
  • Cynthia Capers, Coordinator, Academic Leadership Programs; Professor, Nursing.
  • Kara Kaelber, ITL Graduate Assistant; Graduate Student, College of Education .
  • John Queener, Associate Professor, Education; Department of Counseling.
  • Rex Ramsier, Director, Institute for Teaching and Learning; Professor, Physics and Chemistry
  • Linda Subich, Associate Chair, Department of Psychology; Professor, Psychology.
  • Jeffrey Wallace, Professor, Social Science; Department of Associate Studies.

"Perspectives from the Provost" is distributed every week during the fall and spring semesters. We welcome your comments. Send them to perspectives@uakron.edu.


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Items will be accepted for publication only when the University is directly involved in the activity through participation, sponsorship or partnership with one of its recognized organizations, colleges or departments. The University reserves the right to edit or to refuse to run any submission for any reason. The Digest is not, nor is it intended to be, a public forum or a limited public forum. Questions about the policy or any other Digest matter may be directed to Bob Kropff at ext. 7048 or at digest@uakron.edu.

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