Students report on FRC campus climate
Students at Feather River College overwhelmingly feel safe, included and fairly treated, according to a recent campus study.
Students in Dr. Katie Desmond’s Political Science 140 class, Multiethnic America, polled the FRC community about the campus climate this fall for the second time. Desmond’s 2009 class conducted the initial survey.
Desmond assigned the survey as a student project to reinforce course learning outcomes, including critical examination of the relationship of power and ethno-racial politics in the United States and application of theoretical perspectives to analyze ethnic relations. She also said FRC is one of the few community colleges to conduct such a survey.
In an email, Desmond explained the importance of survey research in social science methodology, which she identified as a key skill for students.
In fact, one student got a job helping on a nationwide survey to assess regional child care needs and credited the FRC political science class survey with getting her the job.
Eighteen students from the class divided into five teams, led by project managers Andrew Reed, Jacquie Davis and Julie Rees. The report’s introduction cites the survey as a mechanism to evaluate FRC’s progress toward meeting its strategic goals and mission.
The 2011 report’s executive summary defines campus climate as “the general atmosphere of the campus as a unique society; degree to which members … feel included, personally safe, listened to, valued and treated fairly with respect and without discrimination.”
In 2009, when students last conducted the survey, 279 out of 1,743 administrators, faculty and students responded (16 percent). In 2011, 270 of 1,590 responded (17 percent).
Desmond’s students asked members of the campus community for their opinions on how comfortable they are at FRC, as well as how comfortable they think other constituent groups are on campus.
Highlights in the opening Executive Summary included:
—Eighty-nine percent of respondents were comfortable on campus.
—More than 90 percent of minority and white respondents reported no “experience with discrimination on campus.”
—Sixty-one percent of student respondents reported that students are treated equally, but comments revealed “a perception of inequity in terms of favorable treatment toward student-athletes.”
In addition, the 2011 report reviewed the college’s progress toward the 2009 report’s recommendations, finding improvement in students’ program awareness, but little progress toward more diversity-themed classes in general education.
The survey asked respondents to identify various populations of the campus community that they perceived to be comfortable on campus (see the sidebar on perceived comfort).
Respondents were also asked to identify those campus populations they thought experienced discomfort on campus. The report divides respondents between faculty, staff and administrators as a group and students.
Both questions indicated perceptions that gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender members of the FRC community experienced the least comfort and most discomfort of any constituent group.
In nearly every category (see sidebar on perceived discomfort) faculty, staff and administrators perceived more discomfort among segments of the campus community than students did, sometimes by quite large margins.
For example, the faculty group reported perception of nearly three times the discomfort levels students perceived for blacks or African-Americans at FRC (17 percent to 6 percent).
However, 16 percent of students perceived students over the age of 30 to be uncomfortable, compared to the faculty group’s 14 percent.
In contrast, the sidebar on discrimination and harassment indicates very little experience or incidence of discrimination or harassment. Race, gender, age, disability and appearance were the factors most noted in instances of discrimination or harassment.
The report’s authors note: “These results show that again appearance is the most notable area of discrimination and harassment experiences, and this is joined by the variable of sex. Women were the majority of respondents who indicated some degree of discrimination or harassment by sex.”
The report concludes with three recommendations to FRC administrators and trustees:
—Conduct a campus climate survey biennially at least under the auspices of Institutional Research and Planning.
—Improve publicity of campus programs, services and resources.
—Strengthen the institution’s commitment to diversity.
The 2011 report coincides with the college’s accreditation self-study. The self-study report is a critical part of this spring’s accreditation team visit from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The self-study includes the 2009 campus climate report and references the 2011 report as evidence of its work to meet accreditation standards I, institutional mission, and II, instructional programs and services, respectively.
FRC has also included the 2009 and 2011 campus climate studies in its strategic and program planning processes.