Survey results provide map for campus climate improvements

Results from a campus climate survey conducted last fall were shared at two public forums May 9. The survey measured perceptions of the learning, living and working environments at Iowa State.

"I'd like us to have the most welcoming and inclusive environment of any land-grant university," President Wendy Wintersteen said in her opening remarks. "The first step in going forward and to reach that goal is to assess the current campus climate -- to determine our strengths, to understand our weaknesses, to uncover challenges and inconsistencies, and to identify programs and policies that are effective and can be enhanced and further expanded."

Survey summary

An executive summary of results provides an overview of the responses from 7,326 people who completed the 113-question survey -- a 17 percent response rate from all students, faculty and staff. Forty percent of staff and 33 percent of faculty participated.

The consultants identified general findings similar to other universities and colleges. Nearly 80 percent of respondents chose a positive indicator of the climate at Iowa State. The majority of faculty and staff responded with positive attitudes about their work, and a high percentage of students had favorable academic experiences.

Some specific results for Iowa State faculty and staff:

  • Faculty (70 percent) and staff (74 percent) both would recommend ISU as a good place to work
  • Faculty agree that research is valued at Iowa State (87 and 84 percent of tenured/tenure-track and term faculty, respectively)
  • Faculty feel valued by students in the classroom (80 percent) and agree that health insurance benefits are competitive (85 percent)
  • Staff feel valued by coworkers (82 percent)
  • Staff get adequate supervisor support of a work/life balance (76 percent) and training/professional development opportunities (71 percent)
  • Staff agree that vacation time (87 percent), health insurance (88 percent) and retirement benefits (78 percent) are competitive
  • Fifty percent of staff and 54 percent of faculty "seriously considered" leaving ISU in the past year, citing low pay and increased workload among the reasons
  • Just 23 percent of both faculty and staff agree that child care benefits are competitive
  • Employees (113) experienced unwanted sexual conduct, such as relationship violence, stalking, sexual harassment and sexual assault

Full report available May 10

A full report of survey results was posted today on the campus climate website and a printed copy is available at the Parks Library circulation desk. Dan Merson, a senior research associate at the Rankin and Associates consulting firm, encouraged people to read the comments respondents provided for the survey's open-ended questions.

"We had thousands of qualitative comments that we went through," he said. "They really help to illustrate a lot of the quantitative results."

Room for improvement

The summary report outlined six areas for improvement at Iowa State:

  • Exclusionary, intimidating, offensive or hostile conduct based on position, gender or racial identity
  • Comfort with campus, workplace and classroom climate for select groups
  • Issues for faculty and staff who consider leaving ISU
  • Work/life challenges for staff
  • Work/life challenges for faculty
  • Incidents of unwanted sexual conduct

Next steps

Wintersteen announced her plan for ISU's next steps, which includes four implementation teams charged with discussing, developing and prioritizing action items. The teams, led by top administrators, will use the survey results to address:

  • The undergraduate experience (led by senior vice president for student affairs Martino Harmon)
  • The graduate student and post-doc experience (led by Graduate College dean Bill Graves)
  • The faculty experience (led by senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert)
  • The merit and professional and scientific staff experience (led by vice president for diversity and inclusion Reg Stewart)

"I'm very committed to having a university that provides a welcoming and inclusive environment to our students, faculty and staff," Wintersteen said. "These are important findings that we will take seriously as we move forward with these implementation teams."

Wintersteen said the teams will begin their work this summer. Teams will hold forums and provide other feedback opportunities during the fall semester.

"We will continue to keep the campus community informed and engaged in our goal of fostering a safe and supportive campus environment as we raise the level of excellence here at Iowa State University," she said.

Conducted for an estimated $115,000, the results will provide a baseline to build upon. It will help guide work related to goal four of the university's 2017-22 strategic plan: "Continue to enhance and cultivate the ISU Experience where faculty, staff, students and visitors are safe and feel welcomed, supported, included and valued by the university and each other."


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