Campus Climate Survey Shows MU Community Isn't as Comfortable as National Average

Sep 13, 2017

Only two-thirds of the MU community feel comfortable on campus.

Those are the results of a fall 2016 campus climate survey conducted by Rankin & Associates Consulting, which presented the findings during a town hall forum Tuesday afternoon in Jesse Auditorium.

Credit Sara Shahriari / KBIA

  About 10,000 students, faculty and staff were surveyed to measure the climate at the four UM System schools, and 66 percent at MU said they were comfortable or very comfortable.

“That’s much lower than what we find across the country,” said Emil Cunningham of Rankin & Associates. The national average, he said, is 70 to 80 percent.

Rankin & Associates defined campus climate as “the current attitudes, behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential,” according to information on MU’s website.

“Racism happens across the country,” Cunningham said. “And it’s happening here.”

All things considered, he said, the survey did show the overall campus climate at MU isn’t much worse than society’s in general or those of other universities in the United States.

UM System President Mun Choi said it’s MU’s place to be a leader, not just in society but for other peer institutions across the country.

Sue Rankin, CEO of Rankin & Associates, cautioned against expectations for rapid change.

“You can measure change in higher education with a sundial,” Rankin said. “We don’t change quickly.”

Cunningham said the first step to tackle problems of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination is recognizing there’s a problem. He said there’s no hiding from these issues, and it’s very important to call them what they are, even if it’s uncomfortable.

MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright agreed.

“Honest, open and direct feedback is the only way we can work together to build a better Mizzou,” Cartwright said. “We want to be a place where everyone who is here — faculty, staff, students, guests — feel safe and experience a welcoming environment to work, live and learn.”

When students feel unwelcome or discriminated against, they have a behavioral response, Cunningham said. This means when students don’t feel comfortable at MU, they constantly consider leaving — they’re not thriving, just surviving.

By doing this, students are missing out on their full academic potential. Every student, faculty and staff member on campus wants the same thing, Cunningham said, and that’s to be talked with, made to feel valued and encouraged that their voice is heard.

Of students in their first or second years at MU, 40 and 44 percent seriously considered leaving. Their two biggest reasons for doing so were “lack of a sense of belonging” and “climate was not welcoming.”

Exacerbating the problem, Cunningham said, is ignorance of the resources on campus — such as the five social justice centers — dedicated to helping them.

“People here aren’t speaking up, aren’t reaching out to find that level of support,” Cunningham said.

Cartwright said discrimination on campus is particularly damaging because “Mizzou is primarily a human institution made up of people from different backgrounds.”

The way forward, multiple MU and UM System leaders said, is a sense of accountability.

“Policies alone aren’t going to move the needle,” Choi said.

For the most part, discrimination, bullying or intimidation are occurring within peer groups at MU, according to the presentation; students are discriminating against students, and faculty are discriminating against faculty.

Because of this, Choi said, the way forward is for everyone to be educated on the problems and empowered to personally ask themselves how they can do better.

Members of campus leadership aren’t the ones discriminating against students, Choi said, so while they’ll do their job by initiating policies to make everyone feel welcome, ultimately it’s going to be a team effort.

The entire campus community was asked to take the 120-question survey in fall 2016. MU has conducted several campus climate surveys since 2001, and the 2016 survey expanded to include all four UM System campuses and system administration offices.

The campus climate results for University of Missouri-Kansas City was announced Monday, with 4,650 surveys returning an overall response rate of 25 percent.

According to the report on the results, 79 percent of the survey respondents were “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the climate at UMKC. However, slightly more than half of faculty respondents and staff respondents, 53 percent and 54 percent respectively, had seriously considered leaving UMKC in the past year due to a low salary/pay rate or limited opportunities for advancement.

MU’s results were similar, with 52 percent of staff and 60 percent of faculty seriously considering leaving MU. Among those respondents, the most popular responses were:

Feeling they weren’t earning an adequate salary

Feeling there wasn’t enough potential for advancement

Feeling a hierarchy is in place where some are valued more than others.

Choi, Cartwright, MU Provost Garnett Stokes and others spoke repeatedly of the need for faculty pay increases. They said it is a priority and merit-based salary increases are coming in the near future. Stokes, Cartwright and Choi each said the issue is of such vital importance they will find the resources to make it happen however they can.

The second town hall of the campus climate survey will be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday in Jesse Auditorium. Missouri University of Science and Technology will announce final findings and recommendations at a campus town hall meeting on Thursday and University of Missouri-St. Louis will announce its findings on Friday.

The full report on the results of the 2016 MU campus climate survey, which is hundreds of pages long, will be posted Monday. Rankin & Associates employees repeatedly emphasized the need for as many people as possible to read the entire report. Only by doing so, they said, will a meaningful understanding be obtained.

Supervising editors are Elizabeth Brixey and Tyler Wornell:brixeye@missouri.edu, 882-2632.