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Task force submits ideas for improving campus climate based on student survey results

November 15, 2022 By Doug Erickson

A task force that spent several months analyzing the results of a student survey on campus climate has completed its work and submitted a set of recommendations to LaVar J. Charleston, vice provost and chief diversity officer, and Lori Reesor, vice chancellor for student affairs.

The recommendations presented by the Campus Climate Survey Task Force have now been forwarded to university leaders, who will review them to assess possible implementation strategies.

“I want to first thank all of the students who responded to the survey last fall,” says Charleston, the Elzie Higginbottom director of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA). “More than 13,400 of you took the time to share your experiences, and your feedback is immensely valuable. Dr. Reesor and I are grateful to the members of the task force, whose commitment to this work will help us take new steps toward making campus more inclusive and welcoming.”

The survey was administered by the UW Survey Center on behalf of the DDEEA and provided critical insight on the experiences of a broad representation of students at UW.

“The survey data provide us a more accurate picture of how our students experience the campus on a daily basis,” Reesor says. “We know that a student’s sense of belonging is tied to their academic success, and this information helps focus our efforts to ensure a true sense of belonging for every student in our UW community.”

The task force was co-chaired by Gabe Javier, an associate vice chancellor for student affairs, and Anju Reejhsinghani, who until recently was assistant vice provost for strategic diversity, equity and inclusion administration in the DDEEA. Members of the task force represented faculty, staff, current students and recent alumni.

In its report, the task force offers dozens of varied recommendations that fall into six broad categories:

  • Ensure an inclusive learning environment
  • Increase campus safety for all members of the UW–Madison community
  • Improve institutional responses to incidents of hate and bias that promptly communicate a clear commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Increase the number of faculty, staff and students from underrepresented groups
  • Promote our shared values of diversity and inclusion
  • Increase capacity of students, faculty and staff to respond effectively to hostile, harassing or intimidating behavior.

The task force’s work follows a release last spring of preliminary survey results. The full technical report is now available on DDEEA’s climate survey website.

The survey found that most students from nearly all backgrounds find the University of Wisconsin–Madison to be a safe, welcoming and respectful place where they feel they belong. However, gaps in the campus experience persist. Even though most students from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups reported an overall positive experience on campus, they rated the campus climate less highly than their peers.

This was the second survey of its kind in the university’s history. The first was offered in the fall of 2016. The two sets of findings were generally comparable. Information about a similar staff survey is now being shared and the results of a faculty survey will be released in the future.