Emory Report

October 2, 2000

 Volume 53, No.6

LGBT survey will measure campus climate

By Eric Rangus

Diversifying a college campus is one thing. Having an open-minded university community that is accepting of diversity is something else entirely.

Later this month, 3,000 students, employees and faculty members will be sampled and given the Campus Diversity Climate Assessment, a survey designed to measure climate on college campuses for underrepresented populations (women, minorities, people with disabilities, non-native English speakers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, for example).

"Emory is very progressive," said Jennifer Gossett, chair of the President's Commission on LGBT. Ever since Emory was invited to participate in the survey last spring, LGBT has spearheaded the effort to plan and carry it out.

"We had a meeting with the [other] commissions last semester, and while everyone appreciated what Emory has to offer, it was noted that what's in policy is not necessary what is happening during day-to-day interactions on campus," Gossett said.

At that meeting, PCSW and PCSM pledged their full support for the effort, as did the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs. Not only are those groups helping pick up the tab, but they are also pitching in to promote the importance of the survey to their constituents.

Several other campus groups have pledged funds and assistance as well. They include the Office of LGBT Life, the International Student and Scholars Program, Employee Council, the Office of Multicul-rrtural Programs and the Women's Center.

On Sept. 21, Gossett, PSCW Chair Deb Floyd and PCSM Chair Brenda Seiton met with President Bill Chace, who pledged the University's full support and offered to cover the remainder of the survey's $5,000 administrative costs.

The survey includes anonymous background information, and questions to measure people's personal experiences on campus with diversity, attitudes and action concerning diversity, and opinions on how to improve the campus climate. The survey will be available on paper as well as on the web. People selected to participate will have a choice of which version to fill out, and the entire survey can be completed in about 10 minutes. Respondents identified as LGBT persons will fill out an additional survey related to their experiences.

"It will be important to have some baseline data," said Saralyn Chesnut, director of the Office of LGBT Life. "If we know where we are right now, then we can measure improvement by repeating a survey of this type five years from now or 10 years from now."

Since the survey, which is completely confidential, focuses on minority groups, identifying possible respondents is one of the project's most daunting challenges. In order to maximize response, planners will advertise through organizations such as Employee Council and send out notices though various listserv accounts. Providing incentives, like food or drink coupons, is not out of the question, either.

One of the most crucial responsibilities of the groups supporting the survey will be to convey the importance of completing the survey so that accurate data can be collected.

The survey was developed by Sue Rankin, coordinator of LGBT equity at Penn State, where it was pilot tested in 1999. Emory is one of 30 universities invited to participate and one of only two in the Southeast (Duke is the other).

Once complete, Emory will receive an institutional report that will include an executive summary, comprehensive written report and data tables. A national report will also be produced, but that report will not identify individual institutions. Those reports should be complete by next April.

"It's important just to know exactly where we stand and how people in different minority groups are experiencing their life at Emory," Chesnut said. "What is happening to them on a daily basis?"

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