FSU faculty and staff feel subject to ‘unchecked’ ‘microaggressions’ from white counterparts, campus climate survey results suggest

A line graph demonstrating the disparity between the comfort levels of minority-identified students and white students on campus. (Framingham State University)

According to the results of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement’s campus climate survey, FSU faculty, staff, and students report feelings of dissatisfaction with campus culture and attitudes toward diversity. 

The survey results, titled “Campus Climate Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment 2018,” were released February 2019. Conducted using Qualtrics software, the survey was made available to students during April 2018 and was promoted through “email blasts” for “four weeks straight,” according to Millie Gonzalez, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement.

According to a March 8 email from Gonzalez, 175 students, 97 faculty and librarians, and 80 staff answered the survey. This amounts to approximately 3 percent of the student body and 20 percent of faculty and staff.

“Because the response rate was so low, we’d like to use this as a conversation-starter to spark discussion,” Gonzalez said. 

Following the string of hate crimes during the 2017-18 academic year, Gonzalez hired graduate studies professor and consultant Barbara Holland to create and lead three focus groups for community members of color – one for students, faculty, and staff, respectively. Each focus group was comprised of 10-11 members.

According to the report, each focus group spoke of different trends that have affected them during their time at Framingham State.

Students spoke of their “experience[s] of recent racist incidents causing feelings of anger, uncertainty, and discomfort” and “not feeling safe” on campus. They also reported feeling a “lack of investment” and “some lack of trust in leadership.”

One student wrote, “FSU tends to promote student leaders who are quite homogeneous. There are very few students of color who are peer mentors, tutors, [or] Black & Gold leaders. The representation of student leaders should be representative of our student demographics, and we’re not even close.”

Another wrote, “When discussing issues of hate crimes that occur on campus, it is not the time to push that dumb ‘FRAMily’ tagline.”

The faculty and staff groups reported feelings of bias in terms of their treatment by white faculty and staff members and in the different standards to which they are held. 

Staff of color “believed that they are held to different work performance standards than their white colleagues, and faculty of color “described a campus environment where white privilege is pervasive, creating a permissive atmosphere that allows microaggressions based on race to go unchecked.”

One respondent wrote: “In terms of campus climate, the survey seems mostly concerned with issues of racial and ethnic identity. However, it has become clear in recent years that administrators do not value the role of faculty in general, nor the role of the humanities in particular. 

“FSU does an abysmal job of communicating about all manner of policies and priorities, often creating problems where none would otherwise exist with the underlying question.”

Another stated: “All other academic departments – outside of sociology – need intensive training regarding culturally inclusive practices.”

A comment by a faculty member, written in response to possible ways the University could help them feel more welcome, was: “A signed contract. I do not feel as if the administration REALLY appreciates all the hard work we do with minimal resources. Actions speak louder than words.”

The report further states, “Overall, they [faculty and staff] are not satisfied with the institutional response, which was described as ‘tone deaf.’”

According to Gonzalez, her office commissioned Michael Greenstein, psychology professor, to analyze both the qualitative and quantitative results of the survey.

Greenstein used an analysis of variance “to examine how demographic factors affected four key campus climate survey dependent measures,” he wrote in the report. 

Demographic factors of the survey included race, sex, and sexual orientation, while the four key measures were “the single-response variable of whether the people felt safe” and “the multi-item measures of welcoming environment, diverse relationships, and inclusive delivery.”

Gonzalez and Greenstein followed the structure set forth by Bridgewater State University (BSU) for its own survey. BSU, Gonzalez said, has conducted this survey on its own campus for many years.

According to Greenstein’s analysis, “notable results” included: “Women, racial minorities, and LGBT+ students feel less safe on this campus than men, white people, and heterosexual people. Those of minority religions and people with disabilities do not feel as positive about the school’s delivering content in an inclusive manner.”

In Greenstein’s “Qualitative Analysis” section, his report states, “Broadly, the responses that will be seen can be summarized with a simple sentence: ‘This campus is improving, but there is a long way to go.’

“This is a hopeful message.”

Gonzalez said she hopes that the next time the survey is conducted, there will be more participation across the board as a result of these surveys being incorporated into the “campus culture.

“One of the challenges was the low response rate, and seeing comments like, ‘This probably isn’t going to be taken seriously’ – when we do, in fact, take all these responses seriously,” she said. 

Gonzalez said another challenge is the high cost associated with conducting these surveys, saying costs totaled $40,000 to $50,000 for consultation, analysis, and survey software. 

“Because of that, we can only conduct these surveys every two years,” Gonzalez said. Her office analyzes the surveys during the off-year.

In the March 8 email, Gonzalez also wrote that the link to the survey results is available to all campus community members through myFramingham in the “Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement” tab on the homepage.

“One of purposes of a campus climate survey is to measure how the various populations of the university feel welcomed and valued,” Gonzalez wrote in the email. 

She added in an interview, “We genuinely want to hear what they [the community] are saying.”

Gonzalez also wrote in the email, “I urge you to use this data as a starting point to have discussions with each other and within your departments.”

Gonzalez and Greenstein are planning to schedule an open forum to discuss the results of this survey, but said previous dates have been cancelled due to inclement weather and the most recent hate crime on campus.

In the email, Gonzalez wrote the forum will be scheduled “shortly.”

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