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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Ithaca College plans second campus climate survey release

Ithaca College has set a date range for administering its second campus-climate survey, which will assess how the community feels about living and learning at the institution. Since the results of the last campus-climate survey were delayed for almost two years before being released, campus leaders are working to reaffirm promises of transparency and timeliness.

From Sept. 27 through Oct. 28, students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to respond to survey questions about how issues of gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity are addressed at the college. The survey will be conducted by Rankin & Associates Consulting, which is responsible for the implementation, development and interpretation of the survey.

Roger Richardson, associate provost of diversity, inclusion and engagement, interim chief diversity officer and also a member of the Climate Study Working Group (CSWG) that is overseeing the survey, said the questions will assess the experiences of different identity groups at the college. The link to the survey will be sent to faculty, staff and students via email, Richardson said. The survey questions will be specialized for each group.

Rankin & Associates declined to comment about what kinds of questions people can expect to see on the survey.

The last campus-climate survey was conducted internally in 2012. However, the administration delayed the release of the results without explanation for more than two years, finally releasing them in February 2015. Resulting criticism from students and faculty prompted CSWG to employ an outside firm to conduct this survey, Richardson said.

Richardson said he does not expect any delays this time and that he thinks the outside firm will promptly deliver the results. The outcome of the survey will be analyzed over winter break and presented to the campus community during the Spring 2017 semester. At the end of the academic year, Rankin & Associates will present the college with two to three recommendations based on the results on the survey. The next president will be tasked with deciding how to move forward.

Thomas Swensen, professor and chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences and chair of the Faculty Council, said the action plans are important to lay the groundwork for the incoming president. However, he questions whether the action plans from Rankin & Associates will be useful to the college, given its state of flux with many administrators leaving over the summer.

“I don’t know if we’ll be in a position … in the spring semester, as an institution, to nail down a complete action plan,” Swensen said, “We have a new president coming on board, we have an interim provost, we’re doing a search for a chief diversity officer — so there are a lot of moving parts right now.”

The previous survey found perception gaps among constituencies regarding how the college addressed issues of diversity and inclusion. About 60 percent of white students and faculty thought the administration placed importance on diversity and inclusion, compared to less than 30 percent of ALANA students and faculty who agreed with the statement.

The Student Government Association will be promoting the survey to students at events, on social media and through personal interactions, SGA President Marieme Foote said.

“Overall for us, it is extremely important that we reaffirm students, while creating an understanding that their voice is worth hearing, and that we can really make an impact on our campus community,” Foote said.

Foote said SGA will also be working closely with administrators to make sure the results are presented to the campus community in a timely manner, given that the last campus climate survey results were delayed by three years.

Last semester, Rankin & Associates representatives directed focus groups to understand how different people perceive their experiences at the college. Junior Candice Tan participated in an Asian-American focus group. She said the representative was considerate and asked questions about what makes them feel uncomfortable about living at the college and what holds them back.

Tan said she hopes the campus-climate survey helps the college move forward on diversity initiatives, but that she’s worried that not much can be changed.

“I also understand that there’s been many dialogues in the past but not a lot of progress,” Tan said.

The survey will be published on the college’s website under the campus-climate survey page. Participants will be entered into a raffle to win more than 30 prizes, which include sweatshirts, a parking pass and gift certificates to businesses in Ithaca.

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: It was incorrectly stated that the Rankin & Associates consulting firm will develop three action plans and that the college’s next president will choose one plan to implement. Roger Richardson, interim chief diversity officer, actually said the firm will make two or three recommendations, and the next president will decide how to move forward in consideration of those recommendations, under no obligation to implement them.

Grace Elletson can be reached at gelletson@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @graceelletson