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Concerns among female faculty influence campus-wide diversity survey

By Matthew Wojtechko

The Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey is currently open for students and school employees to complete, with results expected in time for next semester.

The decision to incorporate the survey was influenced by the strategic plan, which calls for the campus to be a “global environment,” and a survey from 2017, said Judith Maher, director of Human Resources.

“[The 2016 survey] indicated some issues with female faculty members not feeling as respected, and from that spawned a group,” Maher said. “There was a discussion on having some kind of survey.”

Along with a committee formed in 2015, Margaret Watkins, dean of the AHS school, lead the 2017 Climate and Retention Survey, which had a response rate of 64 percent of faculty, according to Dr. Tina Johnson, associate professor of history.

“The report showed that not a small number of people on campus felt like their voices weren’t being heard, and most of those people were woman,” Johnson said.

Also, around this time, a taskforce on campus climate and faculty retention was formed since there were “several instances where female faculty [had] left.”

In response to concerns from the 2017 survey, about 20 faculty, staff and administrators formed a group unofficially called the “Gender Collective.”

“We decided to try and address some of those issues to make Saint Vincent a better place than it already is,” she said.

The Gender Collective “agitated” for a similar survey to be administered again, which manifested as the survey that is currently open.

“It’s not exactly the kind of questions we would have asked, but it’s a good start, and it’s going to give us great data to compare with other institutions,” Johnson said, explaining that the survey focuses on diversity rather than gender.

“Gender and gender identity” is one of the ten categories of differences noted under the current survey’s definition of diversity.

Johnson, Maher, and assistant director of Multicultural Student Life, Ismael Solomon, said that the effects of the survey cannot be predicted until the data results are returned.

From his perspective, Solomon said that the campus makes efforts to support diversity and equity, which is evidenced by him returning to Saint Vincent to work as an alumna.

“The general consensus, from me talking to other students, is that it [could] be a little better,” he said, “And I’m sure that is the case, but that’s the case for almost everywhere.”

Solomon said that the students he has talked to seem excited about the survey and hope that others will fill it out and that the responses are carefully considered.

“Based on the questions they’re asking, this is a big deal.” Solomon said. “I think [students are] wishing for something positive to come out of the whole thing.”

Johnson said she has “only had on occasion students talk to [her] about things that have happened to them on campus that were unfriendly,” and that these students tend to be LBGT more so than of color.

Mary Collins, vice president of Student Affairs, also commented on the campus climate.

“I often hear our students say that Saint Vincent is like a big, welcoming family,” she said. “Like any family, we are not perfect, but we are always striving to do our best.”

If someone experiences discrimination, Collins encourages them to contact the Office of Student Affairs, a campus minister or faculty member, Public Safety, or a prefect.

“Everyone stands ready to help,” Collins said.

Both Solomon and Johnson explained how their concerns about equity influence their work on campus.

“I always make sure anything that I do is [inclusive]. I don’t have a set target group. I make sure [that for] anything I put together, everyone can get a sense of ‘I can be a part of this.’ I like to put that kind of control in the hands of the students,” Solomon said.

Johnson said she is “very anti-nationalistic” in class.

“We’re put on Earth to help other people, and nobody should be excluded from that help,” she said. “And understanding other cultures and other people and where they’re coming from and understanding their points of view – that’s what it’s about.”

Maher explained that the campus administration did not have input on the questions in the current survey, as the survey is being administered by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HED) which will process the data and compare it to other schools. Only after that will administration receive the results.

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