A Missouri University of Science and Technology campus climate survey taken in Fall of 2016 showed the academic and work environment is perceived as “comfortable” or “very comfortable” by 75 percent of respondents. But 18 percent of survey respondents report that they had experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct” during the previous year.

A Missouri University of Science and Technology campus climate survey taken in Fall of 2016 showed the academic and work environment is perceived as “comfortable” or “very comfortable” by 75 percent of respondents. But 18 percent of survey respondents report that they had experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct” during the previous year.

A university-led town hall was held at Havener Center on the Missouri S&T campus on Thursday to explain the numbers concerning the campus social climate. The firm that conducted the survey, Rankin and Associates, was on hand to present the information.

According to town hall opening remarks by University of Missouri System President Mun Choi (via teleconference), the survey is a tool to help understand the depth of student, faculty and staff inclusivity and well-being on campuses within the University of Missouri System. He stated, as learning institutions, “we must lead society.”
Interim-chancellor Christopher Maples said the social climate on campus was important because the university is like a family community.
“Climate is reflective on our values and how they are implemented on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “It is a reflection of our highest aims [as a society].”

Senior Research Associate Emil Cunningham of Rankin and Associates said the survey involved faculty and support staff, as well as student input, because faculty attitudes have a huge impact on students and the resulting university experience. He said the truth is—30 percent of undergraduate and graduate students consider leaving school before they obtain their degrees. 43 percent of those want to leave within the first semester of stepping foot on campus, with the two biggest reasons being “a lack of belonging” and “coursework too difficult.” The survey showed 19 percent consider leaving in the third year and 10 percent in fourth year. “This is something we have to consider,” noted Cunningham.
He addressed the “lack of belonging” perception. 23 percent are seeing exclusionary behavior, but the challenge, he said, is that only 23 percent are actually hearing or perceiving it, inferring it is probably more prevalent than recorded in the survey. Most of this behavior was noted as audible remarks, made within a sexual identity and gender expression context, but Cunningham noted that people have seen “micro-aggressions,” as well. He prefaced the survey was taken during the national election, which could have increased the sensitivity of perceived aggressions towards gender, ethnicity and religious beliefs.

According to the survey, the top reason why faculty consider leaving is low salary or lack of pay raises.
“Based on conversations we’ve had across the state, the [University of] Missouri System is one of the lowest paying around the country,” said Cunningham.
He also pointed out that the survey showed faculty had a lack of institutional support, i.e. not having the resources to do the job and increased work loads without additional compensation. But the survey also pointed out that enough of the faculty feel they are being supported in other ways, such as life-work balance. Enough of the staff feel salaries are “competitive,” and there are clear procedures established for how they can advance at S&T. The majority of staff and faculty also felt supported by supervisors.

“It’s important to show the connections—the way people are feeling,” said Cunningham. “It’s not just one question, but all of these, so you’re starting to see trends.”

Of the 1,522 students, faculty and staff who completed the survey, aside from the majority feeling “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the academic and work environment, 70 percent of the students also said they felt valued by faculty in the classroom.

“The findings were consistent with those found in higher education institutions across the country,” Rankin & Associates said in its survey report. “A slightly smaller percentage of respondents (than the national average) indicated that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct.”

Interim-chancellor Maples said this is a chance to study the survey information, learn from it and build upon values such as respect and integrity to build a better university system.

An executive summary of the report and slides from Rankin & Associates are available online at climatesurvey.mst.edu. The full report is to be posted on that website on Monday, September 18.