Advocates Respond to Low ‘Diversity & Equity Campus Climate’ Survey Participation
Invitations for the Skidmore community to take the 2018-19 Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium Diversity & Equity Campus Climate survey have flooded inboxes, tables and hallways on campus this past month. The response, however, has come up short—as of early March, only about 25% of the total student population completed the survey.
President Glotzbach first asked for student participation with a campus-wide email sent out on Feb. 4. In accordance with the college’s Goal III of its current Strategic Plan, the anonymous responses will be used to “inform and improve support, policies and practices at Skidmore College.” Glotzbach also addressed the macro role of the survey in his email, stating that the other New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium colleges are administrating identical questions.
David Robakidze ‘20, chair of the Student Government Association (SGA) Committee on Inclusion and Outreach, clarified that the data comparison is to gather data on potentially diverging perspectives on diversity at Skidmore and on similar liberal arts campuses.
“Some people might think that diversity is not an issue on campus. After the results come out—if it is revealed most people have identified that it is an issue on campus—then maybe they will be convinced that it is not just their opinion, that some see this issue in a different light,” Robakidze explained.
Eli Bliss ‘20, vice president of SGA, emphasized how the survey aims to reveal perceptions about diversity as opposed to taking a flat census of LGBT+ students, students of color, women and lower income students flaunted in college pamphlets.
“[Administrators] can say how many students are in each different group: international students, domestic students of color, domestic students not in the ‘just outside of Boston’ or ‘just outside of New York City’ areas, but then what’s the point if they’re going to transfer two years later because they don’t see Skidmore as a place that actually helps foster [diversity],” Bliss explained.
The survey differs from previous measures of diversity by using expressed opinion to catalyze concrete results. Working with the Center for Leadership, Teaching, and Learning, Sofia Mirtz ’19 noted the potential actions that will be taken after data analysis is conducted: developing inclusive spaces, increasing funds for the Office of Student Diversity Programs and/or supporting a prospective Social Justice Center.
With Skidmore’s current Strategic Plan up for renewal in 2020, the questionnaire comes at a key time for shaping future decisions, but the college will need to coax the necessary amount of participation today.
Robakidze, Bliss and Mirtz blame the slim survey involvement on how easily invitation emails can get lost in student inboxes and a culture of apathy toward club activities. Mirtz also points out that students who have not had a discriminatory experience may feel less inclined to participate, though she stresses that these demographics’ perceptions are still relevant to understanding the social climate of Skidmore.
For Brigid Ferris ‘19, the concern centers around a lack of information. Ferris has yet to complete the survey because “I’m not sure to what purpose it’s being used for. Is it to really address student concerns? Or for another purpose? Or in short, are they just collecting data or are they planning on taking action?” Ferris was also concerned about what the committee will look like, asking “Does the committee involve students, specifically students of color and other marginalized people?”
Committed to the mission, advocates remain optimistic about the last stretch of the survey’s run. SGA is introducing pins, collaboration videos and other campaigns to raise awareness of the survey and boost the limited student participation. Spring break sits as the hard deadline for responses.
Asking students to carve time out of their hectic schedule to complete the survey is a tall order, but Bliss emphasizes that the survey likely will not take as long as the marketed fifteen minutes to sponsor a generation of difference: “We owe it to the next generation of Skidmore students and faculty to pay it forward and help shape a community that we want to be proud of as alumni.”