GV prepares for 2021 campus climate survey


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Sara Collins, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University is conducting its 2021 climate survey, giving students, staff and faculty an opportunity to anonymously make their voices heard. The survey will be open Nov. 17 through Dec. 1 and will encourage the community to share their experiences and perceptions of what it’s like to be a Laker. 

In previous years, the survey was conducted in-house. As a commitment to ensuring the university is making progress, this year’s survey will use an outside vendor, Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS), a group of liberal art colleges and universities that share data for benchmark and comparison purposes. 

Jesse Bernal, the Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, said the survey will prioritize three main factors: experiences, perceptions and institutional actions.

Bernal said the experiences portion will explore topics like identity, giving respondents a chance to share times where they had negative or biased experiences connected to their identity.

The perceptions section is designed to give GVSU a better understanding of how community members perceive their environment. Specifically, taking a look at how welcoming and inclusive the university is towards their own community, as well as other communities they may not identify with, Bernal said.

The questions regarding institutional actions will determine to what extent the respondent believes the university is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Respondents that do believe the university is committed to these goals will be given a space to point out where they have seen this at GVSU, Bernal explained.

Respondents can share their identities, if desired, in a section dedicated to demographics. This will allow GVSU to grasp a better understanding of the communities on campus and create change as a result. 

“The whole point of climate research is to find whether some diverse communities are having different experiences than others,” Bernal said. “When we find those gaps or the differences, how can the university respond to eliminating those gaps and create a healthier and more positive environment for those who may be experiencing or perceiving our campus differently?”

GVSU has shown significant change as a result of the data the survey collected in years prior. 

The 1995 climate survey focused on gender equity and equality. The data found those in the Laker community who identified as women were having different experiences than those who identified as men. 

“Following that 1995 study, the women’s commission was created to help the university to think more holistically about the engagement and support of women on campus,” Bernal said.

That is not the only instance where the climate survey spurred some degree of institutional action.

“Similarly, previous studies have shown that LGBTQ students and staff and faculty experience the campus differently,” Bernal said. “That helped with some of the case statements for the founding of the LGBT center.” 

The survey holds a few tuition incentives for students to push for 100 percent participation. In addition, faculty and staff have an opportunity to receive professional development funding.

“It’s about ensuring that we are caring for students, faculty and staff on an ongoing basis so we can enhance any of the services or resources that we have on campus to then ensure that everyone can thrive at GVSU,” Bernal said.

This survey has the potential to be a great opportunity for students, faculty and staff to share their experiences and possibly see change as a result. The more participation, the easier that will be to determine.

“Grand Valley has had longtime commitments to inclusiveness and community,” Bernal said. “We’re undergoing a strategic planning process right now that has a heavy focus on educational equity. This is a top priority for the president and our senior leadership team; making our campus more inclusive for everyone.”