Campus Climate Study Executive Summary - April 2018


Rankin & Associates, Consulting

Executive Summary

History of the Project

Rockhurst University affirms that diversity and inclusion are crucial to the intellectual vitality of the campus community and that they engender academic engagement where teaching, working, learning, and living take place in pluralistic communities of mutual respect. Free exchange of different ideas and viewpoints in supportive environments encourages students, faculty, and staff to develop the critical thinking and citizenship skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Rockhurst University also is committed to fostering a caring community that provides leadership for constructive participation in a diverse, multicultural world. As noted in Rockhurst’s mission statement, “Rockhurst is a comprehensive university and a supportive community that forms lifelong learners in the Catholic, Jesuit, liberal arts tradition who engage with the complexities of our world and serve others as compassionate, thoughtful leaders.”1 To better understand the campus climate, the senior administration at Rockhurst recognized the need for a comprehensive tool that would provide campus climate metrics for the experiences and perceptions of its students, faculty, and staff. During the fall 2017 semester, Rockhurst conducted a comprehensive survey of students, faculty, and staff to develop a better understanding of the learning, living, and working environment on campus.

In spring 2017, the Climate Study Work Group (CSWG) was formed and was composed of faculty, staff, students, and administrators. Ultimately, Rockhurst contracted with Rankin & Associates Consulting (R&A) to conduct a campus-wide study entitled, “Rockhurst University Campus Climate Study.” Data gathered via reviews of relevant Rockhurst literature, campus focus groups, and a campus-wide survey addressing the experiences and perceptions of various constituent groups will be presented at community forums during summer 2018, which will develop and complete two or three action items.

1https://ww2.rockhurst.edu/about/mission-ministry/university-mission

Project Design and Campus Involvement

The conceptual model used as the foundation for Rockhurst’s assessment of campus climate was developed by Smith et al. (1997) and modified by Rankin (2003). A power and privilege perspective informs the model, one grounded in critical theory, which establishes that power differentials, both earned and unearned, are central to all human interactions (Brookfield, 2005). Unearned power and privilege are associated with membership in dominant social groups (A. Johnson, 2005) and influence systems of differentiation that reproduce unequal outcomes. Rockhurst’s assessment was the result of a comprehensive process to identify the strengths and challenges of campus climate, with a specific focus on the distribution of power and privilege among differing social groups. This report provides an overview of the results of the campus- wide survey.

The Climate Study Work Group (CSWG) collaborated with R&A to develop the survey instrument. Together, they implemented participatory and community-based processes to review tested survey questions from the R&A question bank and developed a survey instrument for Rockhurst that would reveal the various dimensions of power and privilege that shape the campus experience. In the first phase, R&A conducted 15 focus groups, which were composed of 119 participants (55 students; 64 faculty and staff). In the second phase, the CSWG and R&A used data from the focus groups to co-construct questions for the campus-wide survey. The final Rockhurst survey queried various campus constituent groups about their experiences and perceptions regarding the academic environment for students, the workplace environment for faculty and staff, employee benefits, sexual harassment and sexual violence, racial and ethnic identity, gender identity and gender expression, sexual identity, accessibility and disability services, and other topics.

One thousand one hundred ninety-three (1,193) people completed the survey. In the end, the assessment was the result of a comprehensive process to identify the strengths and challenges of the campus climate, with a specific focus on the distribution of power and privilege among differing social groups at Rockhurst.

Rockhurst Participants

Rockhurst community members completed 1,193 surveys for an overall response rate of 39%. Only surveys that were at least 50% completed were included in the final data set for analyses.2 Sixty percent (n = 718) of the sample were Undergraduate Students, 14% (n = 164) were Graduate Students, 12% (n = 140) were Faculty (including Administrators with Faculty Rank), and 14% (n = 171) were Staff (including Administrators without Faculty Rank). Table 1 provides a summary of selected demographic characteristics of survey respondents. The percentages offered in Table 1 are based on the numbers of respondents in the sample (n) for each demographic characteristic.3

2Five surveys were removed because the respondents did not complete at least 50% of the survey, and one duplicate submission was removed. No surveys were removed from the data file because the respondent did not provide consent. Any additional responses were removed because they were judged to have been problematic (i.e., the respondent did not complete the survey in good faith).
3The total for each demographic characteristic may differ as a result of missing data.


Table 1. Rockhurst University Sample Demographics

Characteristic Subgroup n % of Sample
Position status Undergraduate Student 718 60.2
Graduate Student 164 13.7
Faculty/Administrator with Faculty Rank 140 11.7
Staff/Administrator without Faculty Rank 171 14.3
Gender identity Woman 786 65.9
Man 386 32.4
Transspectrum 11 0.9
Missing 10 0.8
Racial/ethnic identity Black African American 59 5.2
Hispanic/Latin@/Chican@ 49 4.3
Additional People of Color 42 3.7
White 914 80.2
Multiracial 76 6.7
Other/Unknown 53 4.4
Sexual Identity LGBQ 83 7.0
Heterosexual 1,060 88.9
Missing 50 4.2
Citizenship status U.S. Citizen 1,076 90.2
Non-U.S./Naturalized Citizen 94 7.9
Missing 23 1.9
Disability status Single Disability 77 6.5
No Disability 1,076 90.2
Multiple Disabilities 33 2.8
Missing 7 0.6
Religious affiliation Catholic/Roman Catholic 585 49.0
Additional Christian Affiliation 319 26.7
Additional Faith-Based Affiliation 24 2.0
No Affiliation 205 17.2
Multiple Affiliations 30 2.5
Missing 30 2.5


Key Findings – Areas of Strength

1. High levels of comfort with the climate at Rockhurst

Climate is defined as the “current attitudes, behaviors, and standard of faculty, staff, administrators, and students – as well as the campus environment and university policies – that influence the level of respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential.”4 The level of comfort experienced by faculty, staff, and students is one indicator of campus climate.

  • 85% (n = 1,012) of survey respondents were “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the climate at Rockhurst.
  • 80% (n = 248) of Faculty and Staff respondents were “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the climate in their departments/work units.
  • 91% (n = 921) of Student and Faculty respondents were “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the climate in their classes.

4Rankin & Reason (2008)

2. Faculty Respondents – Positive attitudes about faculty work

Tenured and Tenure-Track

  • 89% (n = 78) of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that teaching was valued by Rockhurst.
  • 66% (n = 58) of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that the criteria for tenure were clear.
  • 74% (n = 65) of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they had opportunities to participate in substantive committee assignments.

Non-Tenure-Track

  • 79% (n = 34) of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that expectations of their responsibilities were clear.
  • 98% (n = 42) of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that teaching was valued by Rockhurst.

All Faculty

  • 65% (n = 88) of Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that their colleagues included them in opportunities that would help their career as much as they do others in their position.
  • 75% (n = 103) of Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they would recommend Rockhurst University as a good place to work.

3. Staff Respondents –Positive attitudes about staff work

  • 72% (n = 123) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they had supervisors who gave them job/career advice or guidance when they needed it.
  • 79% (n = 134) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that their supervisors provided adequate support for them to manage work-life balance.
  • 81% (n = 136) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they were given a reasonable time frame to complete assigned responsibilities.

4. Student Respondents – Positive attitudes about academic experiences

The way students perceive and experience their campus climate influences their performance and success in college.5 Research also supports the pedagogical value of a diverse student body and faculty for improving learning outcomes.6 Attitudes toward academic pursuits are one indicator of campus climate.

  • 92% (n = 802) of Student respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they felt valued by Rockhurst faculty.
  • 80% (n = 700) of Student respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they felt valued by other students in the classroom.
  • 71% (n = 623) of Student respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that the campus climate at Rockhurst encouraged free and open discussion of difficult topics.
  • 80% (n = 698) of Student respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they had faculty whom they perceived as role models.

5Pascarella & Terenzini (2005)
6Hale (2004); Harper & Hurtado (2007); Harper & Quaye (2004)

5. Student Respondents Perceived Academic Success

A confirmatory factor analysis was conducted on the scale, Perceived Academic Success, derived from Question 11 on the survey. Analyses using this scale revealed:

  • A significant difference existed in the overall test for means for Student respondents by racial identity, disability status, and first-generation status on Perceived Academic Success.

Examples of Findings

  • Black/African American Undergraduate Student respondents, Hispanic/Latin@/Chican@ Undergraduate Student respondents, and Multiracial Undergraduate Student respondents had less Perceived Academic Success than did White Undergraduate Student respondents.
  • Undergraduate Student Respondents with Multiple Disabilities had less Perceived Academic Success than both Undergraduate Student Respondents with a Single Disability and Undergraduate Student Respondents with No Disability.
  • Undergraduate Student respondents with first-generation-student status had less Perceived Academic Success than Undergraduate Student respondents who do not have first-generation-student status.

Key Findings – Opportunities for Improvement

1. Members of several constituent groups indicated that they experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct.

Several empirical studies reinforce the importance of the perception of non-discriminatory environments for positive learning and developmental outcomes.7 Research also underscores the relationship between workplace discrimination and subsequent productivity.8 The survey requested information on experiences of exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct.

  • 13% (n = 149) of respondents indicated that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct.9
    • 22% (n = 32) noted that the conduct was based on their ethnicity, 20% (n = 29) on their gender/gender identity, and 17% (n = 26) on their political views.

7Aguirre & Messineo (1997); Flowers & Pascarella (1999); Pascarella & Terenzini (2005); Whitt, Edison, Pascarella, Terenzini, & Nora (2011)
8Silverschanz, Cortina, Konik, & Magley (2008); Waldo (1998)
9The literature on microaggressions is clear that this type of conduct has a negative influence on people who experience the conduct, even if they feel at the time that it had no impact (Sue, 2010; Yosso et al., 2009).

Differences Based on Position Status, Gender Identity, and Racial Identity

  • By position status, a higher percentage of Staff respondents (21%, n = 36) than Undergraduate Student respondents (12%, n = 84) and Graduate Student respondents (6%, n = 9) noted that they believed that they had experienced this conduct.
  • By gender identity, a higher percentage of Women respondents (14%, n = 108) than Men respondents (10%, n = 37) indicated that they had experienced this conduct.
  • By racial identity, a higher percentage of Respondents of Color (18%, n = 27) than White respondents (11%, n = 99) indicated that they had experienced this conduct.
    • Higher percentages of Respondents of Color (74%, n = 20) and Multiracial respondents (50%, n = 5) than White respondents (5%, n = 99) who had experienced this conduct indicated that the conduct was based on their ethnicity.

Respondents were offered the opportunity to elaborate on their experiences of exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct at Rockhurst. Seventy-six respondents elaborated on experiences with this conduct. Four themes emerged from Student respondents: being belittled/disrespected, feeling isolated, diversity/inclusion, and political/religious views. Two themes emerged from Staff respondents: being belittled/disrespected and political/religious views. Student respondents described feeling isolated but also felt that other members of the Rockhurst community were disrespectful and belittling. Student respondents also shared feeling excluded because of their sexual orientation or because of their political/religious views. Staff respondents also remarked feeling excluded because of their political/religious views; they also felt that they experienced being belittled or disrespected by others.

Several constituent groups indicated that they were less comfortable with the overall campus climate, workplace climate, and classroom climate.

Prior research on campus climate has focused on the experiences of faculty, staff, and students associated with historically underserved social/community/affinity groups (e.g., women, People of Color, people with disabilities, first-generation students, and veterans).10 Several groups at Rockhurst indicated that they were less comfortable than their majority counterparts with the climates of the campus, workplace, and classroom.

10Harper & Hurtado (2007); Hart & Fellabaum (2008); Rankin (2003); Rankin & Reason (2005); Worthington, Navarro, Loewy, & Hart (2008)

Examples of Findings for Overall Climate at Rockhurst

  • 26% (n = 44) of Staff respondents and 29% (n = 40) of Faculty respondents compared with 50% (n = 82) of Graduate Student respondents and 43% (n = 307) of Undergraduate Student respondents felt “very comfortable” with the overall climate.
  • 31% (n = 46) of Respondents of Color and 26% (n = 20) of Multiracial respondents compared with 43% (n = 397) of White respondents were “very comfortable” with the overall climate.
  • 29% (n = 24) of LGBQ respondents compared with 41% (n = 438) of Heterosexual respondents felt “very comfortable” with the overall climate.

Examples of Findings for Department/Program and Work Unit Climate

  • While not statistically significant, 43% (n = 60) of Faculty respondents compared with 38% (n = 65) of Staff respondents felt “very comfortable” with the climate in their department/program or work unit.

Examples of Findings for Classroom Climate

  • While not statistically significant, 44% (n = 298) of Women Faculty and Student respondents compared with 49% (n = 159) of Men Faculty and Student respondents felt “very comfortable” in their classes.
  • A higher percentage of Not-First-Generation respondents (48%, n = 360) than First-Generation respondents (38%, n = 101) felt “very comfortable” with the climate in their classes.

2. Faculty and Staff Respondents – Seriously Considered Leaving Rockhurst

  • 42% (n = 58) of Faculty respondents and 50% (n = 85) of Staff respondents had seriously considered leaving Rockhurst in the past year.
    • 76% (n = 44) of those Faculty respondents who seriously considered leaving did so because of low salary/pay rate and 38% (n = 22) did so because of lack of institutional support (e.g., tech support, lab space/equipment).
    • 61% (n = 52) of those Staff respondents who seriously considered leaving did so because of low salary/pay rate and 51% (n = 43) did so because of limited opportunities for advancement.

Eight-six Faculty and Staff respondents elaborated on why they had seriously considered leaving Rockhurst. Three themes emerged from the responses. Both Faculty and Staff respondents felt that their low salaries were why they seriously considered leaving. In addition, Staff respondents felt overworked.

3. Staff Respondents – Challenges with work-life issues

  • 41% (n = 70) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that their workload increased without additional compensation as a result of other staff departures.
  • 21% (n = 35) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they were burdened by work responsibilities beyond those of their colleagues with similar performance expectations.
  • 31% (n = 52) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they performed more work than colleagues with similar performance expectations.
  • 54% (n = 90) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that a hierarchy existed within staff positions that allowed some voices to be valued more than others.
  • 15% (n = 25) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that staff salaries were competitive.
  • 17% (n = 27) of Staff respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that child care benefits were competitive.

Staff respondents elaborated on their perceptions of the work-place climate at Rockhurst. Several themes emerged from the responses including lack of work-life balance, lack of professional development and benefits, and poor communication of performance expectations. Overall, Staff respondents felt that they were overworked and that compensation and benefits did not match the amount of work that they were doing.

4. Faculty Respondents – Challenges with faculty work

  • 13% (n = 18) of Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that salaries for tenure-track faculty positions were competitive.
  • 10% (n = 13) of Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that salaries for adjunct professors were competitive.
  • 16% (n = 22) of Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that Rockhurst provided adequate resources to help them manage work-life balance (e.g., child care, wellness services, elder care, housing location assistance, transportation).
  • 25% (n = 22) of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that faculty who qualified for delaying their tenure-clock felt empowered to do so.
  • 21% (n = 18) of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they were pressured to change their research/scholarship agenda to achieve tenure/promotion.
  • 49% (n = 43) of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they were burdened by service responsibilities (e.g., committee memberships, departmental/program work assignments) beyond those of their colleagues with similar performance expectations.
  • 51% (n = 22) of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty respondents “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed” that their opinions were taken seriously by senior administrators.

Faculty respondents elaborated on statements regarding their perceptions of work-life balance at Rockhurst. Various themes emerged including low compensation, lack of professional development/support, and lack of knowledge of employee benefits. Similar to Staff respondents, Faculty respondents felt that they were not being properly compensated (with both salary and professional development).

5. A small, but meaningful, percentage of respondents experienced unwanted sexual conduct.

In 2014, Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault indicated that sexual assault is a substantial issue for colleges and universities nationwide, affecting the physical health, mental health, and academic success of students. The report highlights that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. One section of the Rockhurst survey requested information regarding sexual assault.

  • 7% (n = 84) of respondents indicated that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact/conduct while at Rockhurst.
    • Less than 1% (n = 7) experienced relationship violence (e.g., ridiculed, controlling, hitting).
    • Less than 1% (n = 11) experienced stalking (e.g., following me, on social media, texting, phone calls).
    • 4% (n = 44) experienced sexual interaction (e.g., cat-calling, repeated sexual advances, sexual harassment).
    • 2% (n = 22) experienced unwanted sexual contact (e.g. fondling, rape, sexual assault, penetration without consent).
  • Respondents identified Rockhurst students, current or former dating/intimate partners, acquaintances/friends, and strangers as sources of unwanted sexual contact/conduct.
  • The majority of respondents did not report the unwanted sexual contact/conduct.

Respondents were offered the opportunity to elaborate on why they did not report unwanted sexual contact/conduct. The primary rationale cited for not reporting these incidents was that the incidents did not feel serious enough to report. Other rationales included respondents did not want to get the person in trouble, it happens all the time, respondents handled it themselves, and feeling that nothing would be done.

Conclusion

Rockhurst climate findings11 were consistent with those found in higher education institutions across the country, based on the work of R&A Consulting.12 For example, 70% to 80% of respondents in similar reports found the campus climate to be “very comfortable” or “comfortable.” A slightly higher percentage (85%) of Rockhurst respondents indicated that they were “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the climate at Rockhurst. Twenty to 25% of respondents in similar reports indicated that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct. At Rockhurst, a slightly lower percentage of respondents (13%) indicated that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct. The results also paralleled the findings of other climate studies of specific constituent groups offered in the literature.13

Rockhurst's climate assessment report provides baseline data on diversity and inclusion, and addresses Rockhurst's mission and goals. While the findings may guide decision-making in regard to policies and practices at Rockhurst, it is important to note that the cultural fabric of any institution and unique aspects of each campus’s environment must be taken into consideration when deliberating additional action items based on these findings. The climate assessment findings provide the Rockhurst community with an opportunity to build upon its strengths and to develop a deeper awareness of the challenges ahead. Rockhurst, with support from senior administrators and collaborative leadership, is in a prime position to actualize its commitment to promote an inclusive campus and to institute organizational structures that respond to the needs of its dynamic campus community.

11Additional findings disaggregated by position status and other selected demographic characteristics are provided in the full report.
12Rankin & Associates Consulting (2016)
13Guiffrida, Gouveia, Wall, & Seward (2002); Harper & Hurtado (2007); Harper & Quaye (2004); Hurtado & Ponjuan (2005); Rankin & Reason (2005); Sears (2002); Settles, Cortina, Malley, & Stewart (2006); Silverschanz et al.(2008); Yosso et al. (2009)

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