Assessing Climate

Campus climate assessment in higher education measures the extent to which all students, faculty, staff, and visitors—regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability—feel welcomed, valued, and supported in their work, studies, or research.

A variety of climate surveys, methods, and other tools are available to institutions of higher education. The degree to which all students feel safe to express their opinions and pursue their interests lives at the core of a safe and supportive learning environment.

Climate assessment is more than diversity.

A student, faculty, and staff population that represents a diverse set of individual, social, sexual, religious, and other differences is important, but the demographic make-up of a campus is not enough to determine whether a campus climate is inclusive or hostile. Campuses must measure the real and perceived comfort, safety, and membership of students to assess the climate.

Look at systems that facilitate or hinder inclusion and equity.

Because climate is created by more than an attitude of acceptance, assessment must examine what systems, policies, practices, and procedures create unintended limits on student learning or safety, and whether these occur in the classroom, in student residences, or in formal and informal student organizations and groups.

Connect diversity and inclusiveness to campus safety.

Intolerance for differences may manifest itself in a variety of ways, making a campus feel unsafe for students of color; students with gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender orientation; or students with different learning styles. Large and small acts of hostility, harassment, or violence are important indicators of climate that should be assessed regularly for the fulfillment of the Clery Act as well as to improve the successful learning environment.

References

Bauer, K. (1998). Campus climate: Understanding the critical components of today's colleges and universities (New Directions for Institutional Research no. 98). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Boyer, E. (1990). Campus life: In search of community. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

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