Lehigh to Launch Year Three of Campus Climate Survey

The third phase of the Lehigh Survey – a comprehensive effort to assess the progress being made on campus around diversity, equity and inclusion issues – will launch this Friday, October 13th. The opportunity to participate in the survey will continue until November 10th.

Lehigh faculty, staff and students will receive an email invitation to complete the 2017 survey online. Each email will include a unique link to access the survey, which is completely confidential. The Lehigh Survey will collect individual opinions and first-hand experiences of the members of the campus community in order to assess the current climate and track progress over the course of several years.

Karen Salvemini, the University’s Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator, said that the survey helps the university “better understand the complexity of an increasingly diverse campus climate and to work toward effective ways of addressing issues and concerns.”

Donald Outing, Lehigh’s first vice president for equity and community, said that the survey responses can help the university develop programs and resources related to diversity, inclusion and equity.

“The survey responses will serve as a window into the Lehigh culture and serve as a baseline once we begin to assess the effectiveness of our strategic plan to create and sustain a campus culture that values diversity and fosters inclusivity,” said Outing, whose role at Lehigh was an outgrowth of earlier survey results and the CEC recommendations that followed.

The impetus for the survey was the September 2014 Voluntary Resolution Agreement that Lehigh entered into with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education. The agreement was the resolution of a Title VI complaint regarding the defacement of UMOJA House that included racist comments. Among the Voluntary Resolution Agreement’s requirements is a provision that Lehigh conduct a climate survey annually for at least three years (2015-2017).

As in previous years, the data collected will be analyzed by a research team that is comprised of the Lehigh faculty who created the one-of-a-kind survey to specifically unearth unique characteristics of the university climate. The research team – which included Associate Professor of Psychology Dominic Packer, Associate Professor of Psychology Christopher Burke, Psychology Department Chair Gordon Moskowitz and College of Education Associate Professor Christopher Liang -- drew on their collective expertise in the areas of unconscious stereotyping, group processes and the impact of racism on mental health and social support.

The team worked in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics and Jennifer Jensen, deputy provost for Academic Affairs.

At the time it was created, Burke and Liang said the survey was ambitious in its scope, and took a much broader focus than was required by the OCR agreement.

“At the outset, we thought we might face resistance in trying to ‘go big’ with the survey rather than simply meeting the narrow requirements of the OCR agreement,” they wrote on the CEC blog. “However, we felt supported and encouraged at all levels in broadening the scope of the survey. In fact, the biggest limiting factor was keeping the survey to a manageable length in order to achieve a high rate of completion across all segments of the campus community – including students, staff, and faculty.”

The team specifically designed the survey to meet a number of objectives, including the identification of positive elements of the campus climate in addition to existing challenges, and the ability to provide a roadmap for future efforts to improve the campus climate.

“It is not meant to be done and filed away on a shelf to be forgotten,” they wrote.

The results from earlier surveys were shared with the campus community, and with the Council for Equity and Community (CEC), which helped develop a list of recommended actions that were shared with both the OCR and the campus. Survey results were used to help guide the subject matter of the Tackling Tough Topics Together series that brought together students, faculty and staff in a series of meetings that began last fall. This past summer, the CEC also hosted three workshops in which the Lehigh community discussed and sought solutions for issues identified in the initial survey.

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