Feather River College students speak: ‘We are happy’
The history of Feather River College is built upon outreach, student support and diversity. FRC originally started as a campus of the Peralta Community College District, which serves northern Alameda County, including the cities of Oakland and Berkeley. A diverse student body was established the very first day that FRC opened its doors in 1968.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that while the Political Science 140: Multiethnic America class was working on the 2013 Campus Climate Report, the students wanted to know if the diverse campus was “happy.”
Dr. Katie Desmond cringed at the statement, “Let’s see if FRC students are happy.” A professor of political science and sociology, Desmond teaches scientific inquiry and fact-based research, even in applied sociological studies. How does one measure happiness? As it turns out, there is a World Happiness Index and the political science students gleaned survey questions from this study while they conducted the latest edition of the FRC Campus Climate Report.
The report shows that FRC students are indeed happy! Every two years, Political Science 140: Multiethnic America students learn about demographics, survey methodology and data analysis through this survey and class project. Even the latest Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) accreditation site visit noted the student project as an important part of the campus participatory decision-making process.
The class set out to measure campus climate. Through the greater than 20 percent response rate from all students on campus, they found that 90 percent of the respondents report being “very” or “rather” happy at FRC. Overall, 95 percent felt that “being part of the FRC campus community is a positive experience” and campus comfort levels in terms of equality, nondiscrimination and respect were positively rated from 88 to 93 percent, respectively.
Some of the findings that warrant further study include statements showing women may experience the campus environment differently than men as well as the relatively low 54 percent comfort level and feeling of inclusiveness from nontraditional-aged students. While more than 80 percent of people reported a campus climate of equality and respect, FRC has some work to do as there was low overall awareness and participation in diversity activities designed to support students ranging from clubs, specific success programs, guest lectures and presentations.
Overall, the FRC campus climate is very positive. Campus climate refers to the general atmosphere experienced by the students, faculty, staff and administration of FRC, primarily in terms of their overall comfort, their sense of safety and belonging, and whether they feel valued and treated fairly with respect and without discrimination.
FRC recognizes the importance of diversity, inclusion and providing a safe learning and working environment for all students and employees. This is especially important in light of the college history and outreach efforts to bring a diverse student body onto campus.
California community colleges are the vehicle for social change, enrolling almost 75 percent of Latino and 66 percent of black students in higher education statewide. In contrast, only 20 percent of these underrepresented students transfer to a four-institution. According to the UCLA Civil Rights Project, “It may be that creating a sense of family (belonging) for these students is more important …” FRC scores high in student success and graduation rates compared to peer institutions.
As the FRC superintendent/president, I am proud of the work of our entire institution from the students who produced this report to the policy-level decision-makers on the board of trustees to every faculty, staff and administrator whose supportive environment makes students feel welcome and happy that they attend our college in Quincy. A comfortable learning environment lays the groundwork for classroom success, graduation, gainful employment and social mobility for all of our students. FRC is “happy” to report on its positive campus climate.