Campus Climate Study results reveal problems amidst overall satisfaction

Photo credit: Gettysburg College

Photo credit: Gettysburg College

By Annika Jensen, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Sue Rankin, a consultant for Rankin and Associates, presented the results of the Gettysburg College Climate Study on Thursday, Sept. 8 before an audience of students, staff, administration and faculty. The study had a 45 percent response rate, the highest of any institution for which Rankin had conducted such surveys last academic year, and the results revealed that members of the college community are generally happy at Gettysburg, though there are a number of problems with regards to race, gender and sexual orientation. Rankin said that 84 percent of responders felt comfortable in a classroom setting, which is greater than most other colleges.

However, some statistics indicated discomfort and disapproval along the lines of gender, ethnicity, political views, position, racial ideology, and socioeconomic status. It was found that 20 percent–319 responders–experienced conduct that interfered with their lives, a result of microaggressions such as disrespect, exclusion, isolation, intimidation and bullying. Rankin described these actions as a feeling similar to “a slap across the face.”

The majority of the college community who experienced this kind of conduct were women, people of the transpectrum, people of color and multiracial backgrounds and support staff. Furthermore, such incidents mostly occurred in public spaces; 16.6 percent occurred within fraternities.

In response to these incidents 49 percent of people told a friend, 40 percent avoided the person or venue that made them uncomfortable and only 21 percent reported the incident. However, those who did report generally found that their situations were not handled well, and they did not receive much help. Rankin urged the audience to take a role in stopping these incidents, saying, “You know what? You have got to help. You can no longer say you don’t know.”

The survey results also revealed that 156 people, or ten percent of respondents, had experienced some form of sexual assault, most of whom were female and transpectrum students. “This is a pandemic,” Rankin said. “We have to talk about it. We know it occurs. This is your responsibility to take care of.” Furthermore, the study revealed that, while most sexual assaults occurred during the first semester of students’ first years, there was a bump in assaults occurring during students’ junior years because many were turning 21. “Alcohol is part of this mix,” Rankin responded.

Most victims of sexual assault on campus did not seek help, but some told friends or family members or avoided their assailants. Of those who did report, however, 44 percent believed their situations were handled well. Rankin suggested that many students were disinclined to report their assaults because they feared that it was not worth it, that they would be blamed because there was alcohol involved or that there would be no follow-up.

“The Clery act messed everything up,” Rankin said in regard to the lack of reporting, given that so many figures on campus are mandatory reporters and students do not know to whom they can speak. The Counseling Center is the only campus facility that offers confidential reporting.

Another finding revealed the number of college community members who had thought about leaving Gettysburg: 39 percent of students, 41 percent of support staff, 47 percent of faculty and 44 percent of administration. The most prevalent reason that students gave was they did not felt they belonged at Gettysburg, and students who considered leaving were more likely to be students of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Overall, students felt that they were getting at good education at Gettysburg and that they were valued by faculty, staff and their peers; likewise, employees of the college felt valued at Gettysburg. Both groups, however, often felt that they were pre-judged by their peers, students and employees alike.

In regards to employee issues, 60 percent felt they did work that was not compensated. 21 percent of staff, 23 percent of faculty and 13 percent of administration felt that the college had unfair hiring policies.

Rankin stressed that, contrary to popular belief, the Gettysburg College community is not a bubble; outside factors influence how students and employees work. “You have racism, sexism, ableism, genderism. You’ve got to call it what it is,” Rankin stated.

Istvan Urcuyo, Associate Professor of Biology and Climate Study co-chair, spoke about the next steps: “It’s a lot to process,” he said, but stressed that there were “a lot of opportunities to overcome these challenges.” Urcuyo said that copies of the study would be available in the library and online at gettysburg.edu/climate on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. and encouraged students, staff and faculty to read through it. He also mentioned that members of the college community would be able to submit anonymous input until Oct. 13, saying, “The committee’s job is to get your input and put it together in a plan.”

When asked why the results were password protected, Arnold said, “We did this study for our community, we had to find out for ourselves.” She specified that it is the role of the campus community to come together and work on improving the climate; the information is available for Gettysburg College students, faculty and staff to make improvements and is intended to serve as motivation.

By Nov. 19 there will be sub-group forums to discuss the findings, and by the end of the semester the committee will present its top three actions, or achievable goals, to the college’s senior leadership. However, Urcuyo appealed to the audience members by saying, “It’s not us that’s going to fix this. It’s your voice, your actions. [This is] just the beginning of the process.”

Jeanne Arnold, Chief Diversity Officer and Climate Study co-chair, concluded the presentation by discussing the steps the college has already taken to make its community members feel more comfortable and included, mentioning the implementation of a Title IX officer to educate students about sexual assault, an upcoming event with the Cornell Interactive Theater on Sept. 20 and 21 and book discussions.

Arnold emphasized the importance of finally knowing concrete results; “It’s not just a story here or a story there,” she said.

Inclusion action plans will be constructed by the end of the semester.

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