Administration looks to measure diversity climate

Photo by Sarah King
Photo by Sarah King
Photo by Sarah King

Andrew Crider
Online News Editor

The VCU administration is asking students to assess VCU’s diversity climate in a new online survey which began on April 11 and concludes on April 29.

Students completing the survey will be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift cards, or one of two grand prizes of a free semester of on-campus parking.

In an email sent to students and faculty, President Michael Rao introduced the survey and encouraged students to participare. Rao cited the initiative’s potential “tremendous dividends for all VCU students.”

“We are committed to creating and sustaining a welcoming climate for diversity, where individuals of differing perspectives, life experiences and cultural backgrounds are welcomed, valued and supported,” Rao said in the email. “Because your voice is an important part of that commitment, we are announcing two opportunities for you to help shape the next Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Action Plan for VCU.”

Vice president of the division for inclusive excellence, Wanda Mitchell said after the response window is closed, the survey will go through thorough analysis before conclusions can be found.

“We will be looking at the data and we will probably follow up the data in the fall with focus groups,” Mitchell said. “The focus groups will let us better understand the why, where the survey lets us understand the what.”

VCU conducted a similar survey in 2013 which only collected staff members’ input. Mitchell said the new survey was designed to be inclusive to students as well.

“We want to expand that now to have a broader view of our climate because students are so important to us and their success here at the university,” Mitchell said. “It relates to what goes on for students inside the classroom and the campus community how they engage across differences and experiences at the university.”

Mitchell said that VCU is looking to make sure students feel they matter in order to improve the chances they will succeed on campus.

“The survey is designed to measure specifically the climate for diversity, including experiences with discrimination, cross-racial interactions and a sense of belonging here,” Mitchell said. “And we know based on various student development theories that if people matter they tend to be successful.”

According to Mitchell, VCU has done well to include students of a diverse socio-economic background, but there is still work to be done due to the ever changing nature of diversity.

“We see that we still have work to do, there have been addressed around African American faculty, the need to improve those numbers here at VCU,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said even if the survey indicated the highest degrees of satisfaction, VCU would continue to work to address community engagement and inclusion outside the classroom and stressed that before the division can determine what areas of diversity and inclusion need to be addressed, input is necessary from students.

“We want to know their perception, we want their voice to count — but it can’t count unless they express it,”Mitchell said.

In November, Rao hosted a diversity forum that overflowed the Salons ballroom in the University Student Commons.

The week before the forum, a group of student activists shared a list of demands with  Rao pertaining to the number of tenured black faculty, safe spaces and counseling services for black students and cultural competency training for students and staff.


Online News Editor, Andrew Crider

Andrew Crider, photo by Brooke MarshAndrew is a junior economics major who has written for student newspapers since he was in high school. Andrew is interested in political history, aviation, photography and running. He has a tendency to refer to his peers, coworkers and bosses as “ma’am” or “sir,” but is getting better about referring to his friends at the CT by their first names instead. // Facebook

crideraa@commonwealthtimes.org

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