Pittsburg State University is conducting a diversity climate survey of students, faculty and staff as part of the university’s long-term strategic diversity plan. The survey opened online on Monday, Oct. 5 and will remain open until Nov. 6. The series of questions are intended to gauge how comfortable, safe and respected students, staff, and faculty feel the university.
“I don’t think we’ve ever done a survey that’s more important than this one,” said PSU President Steve Scott. “I think it’s an extremely important moment in the history of Pittsburg State University.”
The survey comes during a time where issues of race and equality are front and center in the nation, which Scott believes “represents a moment to take action.”
“It’s clear we need to take action in my mind,” Scott said. “I think if you think about a university, it’s always a reflection of what’s going on outside of the university, so what’s going on in the nation and what’s going on in the world. And certainly, over the last number months we’ve seen some pretty tragic events surrounding diversity, surrounding race. And campuses tend to be more diverse, we’re a more diverse campus than the community is diverse… and that’s a good thing but even with that I believe we can do better, and we need to do better.”
Additionally, Scott said that even while dealing with the pandemic, diversity is an issue that must be addressed immediately.
“…We have a huge challenge in front of us with the pandemic,” Scott said. “We cannot say ‘Well, when we’re done with that, we’re (going to) take on diversity’. To me they’re right there together, we’ve got to address both, and we ought to have the resources to able to do so.”
Scott said the university believes the survey is important as they seek to have an environment where people from all backgrounds feel comfortable.
“We want students to come here, study here, feel comfortable here, feel respected, included and all those things,” Scott said. “And if they’re not, we’re not doing our jobs.”
The university has contracted outside vendor Viewfinder Campus Climate Surveys, LLC, to
administer the survey. Deatrea Rose, director of Student Diversity Programs, said PSU chose Viewfinder LLC as it specifically focuses on the development of campus climate surveys and has had success working with other universities.
“They were created by the only trusted source for diversity and inclusion information in higher education, INSIGHT into Diversity magazine,” Rose said. “Additionally, other schools in Kansas, such as Kansas State University used this company and had great success.”
The survey questions were drafted based off Viewfinder LLC’s previous experience and was reviewed and revised by Pitt State’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council who then added PSU specific questions.
The survey results, which will remain anonymous, will help PSU to identify areas related to diversity, equity and inclusion that have the opportunity for improvement as well as where the university’s strengths are, which is why Scott says it is important that everyone takes the survey.
“But when you really think about trying to make a plan to improve in this area, wouldn’t it be great to have a real solid understanding of where we are right now,” Scott said. “That’s why we really want students, faculty, and staff to take 15 or 20 minutes… it doesn’t take very long, to click on that button, be very honest and reflect on their experiences and help us understand what they’re seeing.”
Rose said the survey was not launched as a result of feeling like PSU “isn’t a great place to learn and grow.”
“This survey will validate and solidify those thoughts, but it may also help us identify cracks in our foundation that need our attention,” Rose said. “Every voice matters, and we want to hear from not only our student body, but also our faculty, staff and administrators.”
Scott said the survey is important to gain a better understanding of people’s experiences at PSU and will help to make changes going forward.
“We don’t all see the same things, we don’t all have the same experiences, so we really need for our students to provide this and what my commitment is to do something with the results,” Scott said. “The results will help us build a plan for going forward. This is not something we’re just going to collect the data, draw some nice charts and move on. That is not the point of this…”
Once the survey closes, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council led by Rose will review the findings and begin discussing future plans.
“Once the survey closes, the consultants to sort and analyze the data for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council to review,” Rose said. “At that time, we will begin processing the findings and work on developing strategic initiatives for the campus.”
The plans will then be presented to the President’s Council.
“Then they’ll be building a plan for the whole campus as to how do we approach the doing better and they’ll be bringing that to the president’s council and I have no doubt we’ll be very eager to take their recommendations and implement them,” Scott said.
Kirstin Coleman, sophomore in business management and treasurer of Black Student Association (BSA) and student worker for the Office of Student Diversity (OSD), said she hopes students will take part in the survey to have their voices heard.
“Every student has a voice and it’s important to express how you feel, may that be you disagree with one person or you agree,” Coleman said. “As long as you say how you feel and you’re honest with the survey, your voice will be heard and it’s not time consuming at all.”
Coleman said she thinks the survey is a positive step the university is taking towards diversity.
“I think it’s positive because they’re not just doing it off of… a specific group. It’s of the student body as a whole-you a have Black students, Muslims, Asians, Mexicans, everybody has a voice so I’m really glad they put out that survey,” Coleman said. “I feel like the university will take active measures, just because with everything that has been going on in the world lately, it’s really important to see what everybody thinks.”
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to take part in the survey, and email reminders to complete it will continue to go out until November when it closes.