Tag Archive for: inclusion

Campus climate survey a mixed bag

“Campus Climate” put to the test at SOU

Southern Oregon University’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion conducted a campus-wide “Climate Survey” last May to assess the attitudes, perceptions and experiences of students, faculty and staff related to EDI programming and initiatives.

The survey findings revealed that respondents generally felt more satisfied than not with SOU’s overall climate of equity, diversity and inclusion. But students, faculty and staff at the same time gave low ratings to campus diversity and the level of resources committed to diversity efforts.

The results are being used to inform efforts already underway by the EDI office to address concerns and circumstances that may disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), transgender/non-binary and other specific demographic groups on campus.

The survey – designed by SoundRocket, a Michigan-based survey research organization that specializes in higher education consultation – was initiated to measure experiences, beliefs and opinions about diversity, equity and inclusion at SOU. This year’s survey will serve as a baseline to compare against future survey results and gauge SOU’s progress.

“The EDI office is glad to have the findings, and excited to bring even greater data-driven focus to our efforts to improve both the experiences and perceptions of all members of our campus community,” said SOU Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Toya Cooper.

While an overall majority of respondents expressed satisfaction with the university’s climate for equity, diversity and inclusion – and said they had never personally been discriminated against at SOU – the results show key differences in the responses of those from specific racial, ethnic and gender demographics. For instance, 84.4 percent of students, 80.8 percent of staff and 75 percent of faculty said they have never personally felt or experienced discrimination at SOU; but nearly half of the students who said they have experienced discrimination were either BIPOC (23.2 percent) or transgender/non-binary (22.8 percent). Among staff members, 27.5 percent of those who reported experiencing discrimination identified as BIPOC.

Even satisfaction with SOU’s overall climate for equity, diversity and inclusion was a mixed bag, with 57.9 percent of students and 58.8 percent of staff members – but just 40 percent of faculty members – saying they were either satisfied or very satisfied. Among students, 61.2 percent of women and 61 percent who  identified as White said they are satisfied or very satisfied, while 49.7 percent who identified as BIPOC answered the same way.

Perceptions of safety on campus vary significantly among demographic segments, with 53.1 percent of students saying they are never concerned for their physical safety, 43.3 percent saying they are sometimes concerned and 3.6 percent saying they are often concerned. The differences arise when responses are sorted by gender identity – 71.3 percent of transgender/non-binary students say they are sometimes concerned for their safety, compared to 26.4 percent of men and 44.6 percent of women.

Among Ashland residents – who make up 63 percent of the survey respondents – 77 percent overall and 63 percent who identify as BIPOC said they feel welcome.

The overall response rate for the survey was 26.23 percent – including 53.1 percent among staff members, 50 percent for faculty and 26 percent for students. SoundRocket indicated that the average nationwide response rate for this type of survey ranged from 15 to 30 percent.

SOU’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion already has begun addressing some of the areas in which the survey revealed differences for racial-, ethnic- and gender-specific demographic groups, including a sense of belonging to one or more campus communities, discriminatory experiences, feelings of safety and perceptions of fairness in compensation.

The EDI office is partnering with Human Resources to re-establish and expand faculty and staff gatherings that were previously known as BIPOC Luncheons, and also established three summer work groups from SOU’s Committee for Equity and Diversity to develop the “Inclusive Guide for Living and Working in the Rogue Valley” – an online handbook intended to ease newcomers’ transition into the region and assist in developing a sense of belonging and community.

Cooper held a series of meetings this summer with SOU’s academic division directors, and a plan is in the works to increase diversity in their program areas, beginning with diversity in their networks. The EDI office has also begun discussions with the offices of Outreach and Engagement, and Admissions, to help with tracking and maintaining relationships with participants from the university’s pipeline programs, with the goal of improving access to higher education among historically underrepresented students.

Developing the data is key and the Office for EDI is working on creating opportunities for those who are interested to give additional feedback on the findings. Look for additional information in the weeks to come.

SOU-Ashland-inclusion-pride parade

SOU president draws line on side of inclusion

SOU President Linda Schott reassured the campus community today that the university will not waver in its commitment to inclusion, equal rights and opportunities for all, despite recent discussions at the federal level regarding the definition of gender.

“We will always welcome, value, support and protect all students and prospective students – regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, immigration status, nationality, religious affiliation or political persuasion,” the president said. “That includes all who identify as transgender or non-binary.”

Recent news reports indicate that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is leading an effort to establish a legal definition of gender under Title IX – the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions receiving federal funding. The department is pushing for a gender definition based narrowly on biological traits, reversing protections established over the past several years by courts and administrative rule-making.

Separately, the Department of Justice argued in a brief submitted this week to the U.S. Supreme Court that civil rights laws banning sex discrimination in the workplace do not extend to transgender people – again, based on the definition of “sex.”

President Schott said in a message to campus on Friday that inclusion and diversity are vital elements of the SOU identity, and the current debates “will not change who we are or the values that define us.”

“Our university steadfastly supports the rights of each member of our campus community – and the estimated 1.4 million Americans who recognize themselves as a gender other than the one that their biology indicates – to be valued as individuals with their own particular characteristics,” Schott said.

The standards of equity, inclusion and diversity are mentioned prominently throughout SOU’s new Vision, Mission and Values. One of the seven strategic directions that were identified in the university’s recent strategic planning process outlines the goals of replacing systemic barriers with equitable processes, establishing pathways that support the success of those from underrepresented backgrounds and preparing all learners – regardless of background, identity and position – to thrive in a diverse world.

“Whatever the eventual outcome may be at the federal level, I assure you that equity and inclusion will remain unassailable principles at SOU,” the president said. “Under any definition of gender, equal protection and equal rights will always apply to every student, prospective student and employee at this university.”

Diversity Shenethia

Interim diversity and inclusion director named at SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — Shenethia Manuel, a respected higher education administrator, has accepted an offer to serve as Southern Oregon University’s interim Director of Diversity and Inclusion from July through December as the university launches its search for a permanent director.

Marjorie Trueblood Gamble, who has served in the SOU position for the past seven years, will leave June 29 to become Dean of Multicultural Life at Macalester College in Minnesota.

Manuel will work remotely through July, then will be on the Ashland campus from August through the end of the year. The university will launch a nationwide search for its permanent Director of Diversity and Inclusion in August.

“Shenethia is well-respected in higher education and highly qualified to step right in to help SOU maintain its positive momentum in diversity and Title IX matters,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “Strong leadership in those areas is critical as we begin implementing various components of our new strategic plan.”

Manuel served as vice president for human resources, equity and inclusion at Missouri University of Science and Technology from 2008 until last September, when she took emerita status and began her own consulting firm in Norman, Oklahoma. She worked previously as director of personnel and affirmative action officer at Rose State College in Midwest City, Oklahoma.

SOU worked with a search firm to identify Manuel as a candidate for the interim SOU position, and she was offered the job following an interview process that included members of the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Title IX team and Cabinet.

She received her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma, her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and her master of arts in ministry and culture degree from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma.