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Letter: Responding to on-campus tension

Elizabeth Ortiz

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DePaul students have been open about sharing with me their views about their experiences on campus. Whether they are excited about a new program or suggesting ways we can improve, I appreciate every piece of feedback that I have received. 

Soon, thousands more students will have an opportunity to provide feedback and give administrators their honest —and anonymous — assessment of the campus climate at DePaul. On Feb. 23, DePaul launched the Diverse Learning Environments Survey, one of the most comprehensive ways the  university can collect information about its campus climate and student sentiments.

If you received a survey, it is important that you take the time to complete it and share your thoughts. Search your inboxes for Diverse Learning Environments (DLE)and follow the survey link. By telling us about your student experience, you will make your voice heard.

The information collected in the climate survey is more important than ever. Developed by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, the survey captures student perceptions about their experiences with discrimination, interracial interactions, validation and sense of belonging. The survey also assesses the pervasiveness of sexual assault.

In the last two years, issues of race and diversity have risen to the forefront at campuses across the country, including our own. DePaul will use the aggregated DLE Survey results on these topics to take action around issues of respect, social diversity and cultural inclusion on campus. The survey will also help create programming, resource allocation and other decisions. The results related to sexual assault will be vital to our prevention and response efforts.

Because other universities across the country also conduct the DLE Survey, we will be able to see how we measure up others in a comparison group.

DePaul first fielded the survey early last spring. We sent it to 8,000 randomly selected students, the same number who will receive it this year. (Whenever the university fields a survey, we randomly select a sample group of students; this prevents your inboxes from overflowing with survey after survey.)

While we are still analyzing the data from 2016, here are some highlights of what we learned from the students who responded:

Two-thirds of students with diverse characteristics reported feeling more likely to experience issues related to their race or difference versus students without diverse characteristics who reported experiencing these incidents seldom or sometimes. This data supports the anecdotal information gathered by the president’s diversity council in meetings with students in the 2015-16 academic year where students expressed concerns about micro-aggressions in and outside the classroom. The university’s “Action Plan on Race and Speech” worked on actively addressing these issues. In addition, DePaul has a number of resources and programs available on campus (i.e., the Center for Identity, Inclusion and Social Change, the Office of Multicultural Student Success, the president’s speaker series) to assist students in learning more regarding these issues.

More than half of the respondents feel positive about the extent to which faculty actions in class reflect concern for their academic success. On this measure, DePaul did better than the universities in our comparison group.  This finding is a testament to DePaul’s faculty who demonstrate daily that they are invested and engaged in students’ learning and success.

Students said they are much more likely to tell a friend about a sexual assault than to report it to campus authorities. Based on survey results, we are changing the way we educate the DePaul campus community about sexual assault. We are creating new ways to help our community learn to support a friend, including encouraging bystander intervention training.

While the results of last year’s survey provided the university a good starting point, we want to hear from more of you this year. We are giving students more than two months to complete the survey – and we will send reminders — in hopes that many respond.

As an added bonus, those who complete the survey have the chance to enter a raffle to win an iPad mini 2 or a gift certificate from Whole Foods.

Please search your inbox for Diverse Learning Environments or DLE Survey. If you see the survey, please complete it. The best way for DePaul to improve the student experience — for you and all of your fellow classmates — is to hear from you.

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Letter: Responding to on-campus tension