By Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
The University of Missouri System hosted several town hall events this week to discuss the results of climate surveys conducted by Rankin & Associates Consulting last October and November. Monday’s town hall was at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, Tuesday and Wednesday it was at the UM System campus and the University of Missouri-Columbia campus, Thursday at the Missouri Science and Technology campus, and Friday was at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
The 196 slide presentation and executive summary was available on the climate survey website after the town hall. The full report and UM System report will be available September 18.
UM System President Mun Choi sent out a system-wide email on September 11. His email stated, “While some of the findings will be very positive and encouraging, some of them will indicate what we can do as a community to improve our environments. This assessment provides us an opportunity to be forthcoming and transparent; build upon our strengths; develop a deeper awareness of those challenges; and inform our institutional policies and practices to ensure each member of our community is respected, valued, safe and a vital part of a positive culture.”
Rankin and Associates Consulting presented their UMSL findings at 10:30 a.m. in the J.C. Penney Summit Lounge. At UMSL, 11 percent of the total population participated in the survey. That means there were 1,495 students, faculty, and staff who went through the 120 questions based on their status and clicked the submit button in one sitting. The participant had to click submit with at least 50 percent completed for Rankin and Associates Consulting to count their responses. Participants could participate online or with a paper-based survey, to make sure a respondent’s identity was protected as well as providing a way for those without computer access to complete the survey. A climate survey was also conducted by UMSL and Missouri S&T in 2012 by the same company. UMSL had the same 11 percent participation rate then as now.
President Choi’s statement continued, “Every voice in our University community is important, and your input matters to us. For that reason, I am encouraged by the progress we have made as a community. I am proud that our University community publicly renewed our commitment to free expression. The ability to freely express our opinions and discuss our ideas is fundamental to a free and open society, and will continue to serve as a strong foundation for our campuses to promote learning, research, and engagement.”
Total respondents were broken down as 34 percent (515 surveys) from undergraduate students, 19 percent (279) from graduate, professional students, and postdoctoral scholars, fellows, and residents, 21 percent (310) from faculty members, including administrators with faculty rank, and 26 percent (391) from staff, including administrators without faculty rank. Overall, 75 percent of students felt comfortable or very comfortable with the climate on campus. And 84 percent were comfortable or very comfortable with the classroom climate.
“That’s high,” Rankin Senior Executive Associate Emil Cunningham. “That’s higher than what we find nationally, so something is going on in the classroom that works for students and faculty.”
Cunningham continued, “The challenging part is to think about here is what is it like for those over 25% overall.”
The study showed that 18 percent or 272 respondents indicated that they had personally experienced exclusionary (e.g., shunned, ignored), intimidating, offensive and/or hostile (bullied, harassed). Cunningham defined this as harassment and most harassment has been based on the position of where they sit at the university (student, faculty, staff). From the student perspective, the harassment was broken down between graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff hourly and salary. For the most part, the survey found that harassment came from those within the same group. That is to say harassment would come from an undergraduate student against another undergraduate student. However, the graduate students had harassment issues coming from faculty more than other students. Cunningham explained that is a problem since graduate students are usually working with faculty on research and continuing education career opportunities. Cunningham noted the graduate student population poll was small so it might be an anomaly that if more had filled out the survey then it might be like the other divisions.
Cunningham noted that there has only been two documented pieces of literature in higher education that has been published to draw comparisons to for the surveys the group facilitates. He pointed out that staff are the first people that interact with students on campus through financial aid, campus life, residential life, and more and if they are unhappy they might not be the best to recruit and retain students. Many staff concerns were related to being overworked and underpaid as many positions at UMSL were diminishing and consolidating under stricter budget allocations.
There were 262 respondents or 37 percent of employees who experienced financial hardship. Some of the concerning areas were affording housing, food, and professional development. The executive summary noted two challenges concerning the faculty. The summary stated, “One was the lack of ‘significant’ compensation in terms of salary for both Tenured/Tenure-Track and Non-Tenure-Track Faculty respondents. Faculty respondents were also concerned about the lack of professional development and advancement opportunities. They feared that budget cuts prevented them from being able to pursue the professional development opportunities that they felt that they needed in order to advance in their career.”
The survey found that 57 percent or 177 of Faculty respondents and 63 percent or 244 of Staff respondents have seriously considered leaving UMSL. The main reasons stated were the pay and compensation rate, institution support, and higher workload.
Chancellor Thomas George tried to explain during the question and answer portion of the town hall, following the presentation, that UMSL is the only campus out of the UM System that will have a merit pay system for this next year to accommodate pay raises.
All information gathered will be the property of the UM System and each campus. Chancellor George said that the Chancellor’s Cultural Diversity Council (CCDC) was charged with creating a task force to find solutions to challenges found in the last survey and they will be charged with the same task. The CCDC is a committee that is made up of students, faculty, and staff that focuses on fostering a campus and regional culture of inclusion where diversity of all types is embraced and recognized as the strength of the communities, state, nation, and world we live, work, and learn in. The committee was created in September 2004 on campus.
UMSL Daily provided information on some steps that are already underway or planned: Reorganization of offices of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Human Resources with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion concentrating on office promotion, training, consulting, and UM System initiatives like the Inclusive Excellence Framework project and UMSL has hired an LGBTQ coordinator with Gender Studies, and HR handles complaints and investigations related to discrimination, harassment, and Title IX. UMSL has also had a more balanced budget to have merit salary increases determined by new HR-driven formula factoring performance review and distance to position’s mid point. UMSL had $2.5 million set aside for the compensation increases and HR visited with each unit to calibrate performance reviews to enhance consistency and fairness across campus. There is also “One Love,” a film-based workshop that focuses on eliminating relationship abuse by educating students about healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors.
President Choi’s campus-wide statement ended, “Together, we can accomplish our goal of a stronger university system.”
Campus Climate Survey Results: http://www.umsl.edu/climate/
UMSL Daily Climate Survey story: http://blogs.umsl.edu/news/2017/09/15/climate-survey-2016/