2022 Climate Study Results: Assessment of Climate for Learning, Living, and Working
By Gracie Meisner, Assistant News Editor
On Sept. 20, Dr. Sue Rankin, consultant of Rankin and Associates, presented the results of the 2022 Climate Study to students, staff, administration, and faculty. The study measured the climate through the current attitudes and behaviors of faculty, staff, administrators, and students, as well as opinions regarding institutional policies and procedures, which influence the level of respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential. The response rate at 23 percent (727 respondents) was on the lower end, according to Rankin. It was composed of 14 percent of all students, 42 percent of all faculty, and 49 percent of all staff.
On the positive end, students and faculty were overall comfortable with the climate in their classes. Students felt valued by faculty and expressed positive views about their academic experiences. Faculty expressed positive views about their work; they felt valued by students and generally supported by Gettysburg College with resources for professional development. Staff also expressed positive views about their work; they generally felt supported in their work and felt they had colleagues and coworkers who could give them career advice and guidance.
The data revealed significant areas of improvement. When broken down, comfort with climate varied based on identity group. Faculty were less comfortable than students; women were less comfortable than men; LGBTQ+ community members were less comfortable than heterosexual community members; first-generation students were less comfortable than non-first-generation students; and faculty and staff employed more than six years were less comfortable than faculty and staff employed less than six years.
Nearly a quarter of respondents—24 percent—noted experiences of exclusionary conduct, with 34 percent of these respondents experiencing the conduct five or more times in the past year. For students, these experiences tended to be on the basis of gender identity, racial identity, ethnicity, and mental health. For staff, the exclusionary conduct tended to be on the basis of gender identity, racial identity, and job position.
Rankin then addressed unwanted sexual experiences, which 12 percent reported experiencing. These experiences included relationship violence, stalking, unwanted sexual interaction, and unwanted sexual contact.
While faculty generally had positive teaching and classroom experiences, tenured and tenure-track faculty responses reveal work-life challenges: 57 percent were expected to do extra work that was uncompensated; 47 percent felt Gettysburg College valued their service; and only 34 percent felt senior administrators take faculty opinions seriously.
Staff also reported work-life challenges. Only 18 percent of staff felt there were clear procedures on how they could advance at Gettysburg College; 61 percent felt a hierarchy existed within staff positions that allowed some voices to be valued more than others; and 37 percent felt pressured by departmental work requirements that occurred outside of normally scheduled hours.
28 percent of students felt that faculty pre-judged their abilities based on perceptions of their identity and background—students with disabilities were significantly more likely than students with no disability to feel this, and students of color were significantly more likely to feel this than white students. Ultimately, nearly half—49 percent—of students surveyed indicated that they seriously considered leaving Gettysburg. The most common reasons included lacking a sense of belonging (54 percent), wanting to transfer to another institution (46 percent), and lacking social life outside of Greek life (39 percent).
Many staff indicated similar thoughts about leaving Gettysburg. 64 percent of staff and 55 percent of faculty seriously considered leaving. Faculty cited their interest in a position at another institution (43 percent), low salary/pay rate (38 percent), lack of sense of belonging (37 percent), tension with coworkers (36 percent), unwelcoming campus climate (33 percent), and increased workload (32 percent) as reasons. Staff cited similar reasons but included limited advancement opportunities (53 percent) and lack of professional development opportunities (29 percent), as well.
Ultimately, positive experiences are not consistent across the board: respondents associated with historically underserved social, community, and affinity groups (people of color, women, people with lower income statuses, and people with disabilities) cited less positive experiences. In addition, faculty and staff felt overwhelmingly left out of decision-making and/or undervalued.
Chief Diversity Officer Eloísa Gordon-Mora explained that Gettysburg College is committed to using the results from the Climate Survey to develop practical steps that address these concerns. A critical beginning to this process is giving community members an opportunity to reflect on the results in a safe space. Gordon-Mora explains that follow-up discussions have been available for all members of the campus community, including affinity-group specific options, to digest the results.
“We have been hosting a series of follow-up discussions. It is important to have that more intimate moment where all comments are confidential and give folks the opportunity to react to the climate survey,” said Gordon-Mora. “What we are attempting to do is first understand the reactions of the climate survey and establish certain themes. From there, we can understand what the priorities are.”
The follow-up discussions are just the beginning, Gordon-Mora noted. Collaboration among the college’s leadership will follow to develop actionable steps for the improvement of the campus climate for individuals of all identities.
“What we’re attempting to do from this office is work closely at the level of the president’s council and other top senior leadership and create an actionable structure to direct short and long term responses,” said Gordon-Mora. “Part of my objective is creating an action plan to have a sense of accountability, effort, and forward movement.
Prior to the 2022 Climate Study, the college conducted a similar study in 2016. Gordon-Mara noted that the context surrounding the time of the current climate study is critical to understanding its results.
“The second round had the very important impacts of COVID-19, the ongoing national moment of racial and social reckoning,” said Gordon-Mora. “Internally, the college had important transitions in leadership, beginning with the president. So there are many additional variables that may have impacted the results of the Climate Study.”
Student Senate Inclusion Officer Allie Acero ’23 reflected similar sentiments to Gordon-Mara.
“The administration is trying to work through post-COVID changes, and it has been affecting how people feel about our campus. There are more events on campus and the change back to normalcy has a few bumps that are causing students to feel unsafe,” said Acero. “There are campus organizations that have failed to foster an open and accepting campus.”
As Inclusion Officer, Acero helps bridge the gap between students and the administration.
“I try to make the campus a safer space by reaching out to community leaders. More so, I try my best to impute a student perspective when it comes to diversity and inclusion by meeting with the Chief Diversity Officer. By having direct connections with the administration, I am able to voice concerns directly and figure out tangible solutions,” said Acero.
Gettysburg College President Bob Iuliano emphasizes the ways in which the Climate Study will play a role in shaping real and meaningful institutional change going forward.
“We did this because it matters, and because of the commitment we make here as an institution. It is going to help us gain a better understanding about how we can improve our organizational structures and allow all of our community members—students, staff, faculty alike—to experience a more authentic sense of inclusion and engagement and culture of belonging,” said Iuliano.
This article originally appeared on pages 4-5 of the October 2022 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.