For the first time in the institution’s history, Willamette is releasing a survey focused on problems of inclusiveness and equality on campus. The fully anonymous Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey will be sent to out students today, Feb. 6, and aims to gather stories and opinions from WU community members about their experiences at the University.
The initial concept of the survey arose several years ago as a conversation among members of the University Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The decision was made that a chief diversity officer was needed to facilitate such a survey, so when Jade Aguilar was appointed as the Vice President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the spring of 2017, planning took off.
According to the Task Force’s 2017 report, Aguilar’s position was added to ensure that equity and inclusion were prioritized by conducting research on campus climate and using the data to help foster a shared vision for the future of the campus. Now, a year and a half later, it’s Aguilar’s job to administer the survey and bring the results back to the WU community in meaningful ways.
Students, staff and faculty members will be able to access the survey through an email sent out by Aguilar. The survey itself takes no longer than 15 minutes and includes both multiple choice and short answer questions. Individuals will have the option to take the survey until it closes on Feb. 26 and will receive periodic reminder emails from Aguilar’s office until it is completed.
“We hope to gain a better understanding of if and where people are experiencing any kind of harassment or discrimination based on their identity,” said Aguilar. “Right now, all I have are anecdotal experiences that folks have, that maybe they’ve put in through the bias reporting system, but I don’t have any systematic way of knowing if we have a big problem on campus.”
The bias reporting system, which Aguilar reported receives about 60 submissions per year, asks individuals to complete a web form outlining the incident and those involved. “I always follow back up within 48 hours, and then meet with the person to figure out what to do next,” Aguilar explained.
The Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey is completely anonymous, so any incidents described in short answer responses won’t be followed up on, but the bias reporting form will be linked within.
To go a step further to ensure anonymity and precision, Willamette has brought in an external, non-profit organization to produce the survey and compile results. The Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) creates surveys that universities can use on their own campuses and allows for the exchange of confidential data among colleges. Along with the Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey, HEDS also offers surveys on research practices, sexual violence and career-related outcomes after graduation.
This survey comes about a year and a half after 1,200 WU community members participated in a WU-written Title IX Survey, also administered by Aguilar’s office. After compiling the survey’s results, Aguilar and her colleagues immediately began addressing students’ concerns. The Gender Resource & Advocacy Center was established last fall, Confidential Advocate Andrea Hugmeyer began creating more outreach activities and survey questions were rewritten to be more clear and relevant to the student body. The Title IX Survey will be sent out again in the fall of 2019, and the Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey will return every three years.
“We’re trying to create a cycle, to work towards a better environment,” explained Aguilar.
According to HEDS, results will take about eight weeks to be processed, which is right when the spring semester ends. However, Aguilar is eager to spend the summer analyzing results and then bring them back in the fall.
“I think there’s a perception among students on campus that we ask them all these questions and then we just take the results and put them in a binder somewhere, and I want them to know that we are really committed to taking them and using them,” she said. “We want to make meaningful change on campus. We want to hear about people’s experiences. This is the first time Willamette has ever done this, but I think it’s particularly important that we have good data to help shape our strategic plans for equity and inclusion on campus.”