After the 2019 fall semester ended in a racially charged incident, it is unsurprising that campus climate was the first topic addressed by Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado at the All-College Gathering on Jan. 28.
As Collado spoke, it was clear that addressing the campus climate is a top priority for her. She said the Campus Climate Action Group is working toward addressing issues. She also referenced the email La Jerne Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, sent to the entire campus community in the aftermath of the theater incident.
However, the language Collado used was vague, with mentions of meetings and conversations that happen behind closed doors and more promises of change without concrete plans.
If the college wants to fully understand the current issues impacting students, it is time to conduct another campus climate survey.
The last time a campus climate survey was properly conducted was four years ago in Fall 2016. The survey’s results were collected and released when the members of the current senior class were freshmen. The data lacks the majority of the current student population, which renders it obsolete.
Not to mention, the last campus climate survey occurred before Collado was in office. The data from the most recent campus climate survey ended its collection in October 2016 when former college president Tom Rochon was still in office. The survey was also conducted approximately a year after the massive POC at IC protest that resulted in Rochon’s resignation. One of the inciting reasons for the POC at IC protest was the rampant occurrence of microaggressions on campus, a problem that is very similar to the issues happening now.
This provides all the more reason for a new campus climate survey to be conducted. Collado has made strides during her time as president, including the establishment of a campus chapter of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network and the addition of administrative positions focused on students’ needs. The efforts the president has put forward are fundamental for creating change, but it is also fundamental that students are given a chance to voice their concerns.
Cornish sent out two campus-wide emails that mentioned the Campus Climate Action Group and its role in the strategic plan. In these emails, there have been promises of policy reviews and a revision of the college’s diversity statement. How can the statement be revised without data that accurately defines the current campus climate? For the revisions to have lasting impacts, the data used must reflect the current student population — not one from four years past.