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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Underrepresented communities less likely to feel comfortable at Quinnipiac, campus climate survey shows

Underrepresented+communities+less+likely+to+feel+comfortable+at+Quinnipiac%2C+campus+climate+survey+shows
Peyton McKenzie

A climate assessment conducted last fall indicates that less than a quarter of the Quinnipiac University community is uncomfortable with the campus environment. But the survey data are clear: members of marginalized identity groups are more likely to perceive the campus climate negatively and less likely to feel a strong sense of belonging at Quinnipiac.

As part of a yearlong effort to evaluate Quinnipiac’s campus environment, the university partnered with external climate assessment firm Rankin Climate to develop and conduct Quinnipiac’s first-ever campus climate survey. 

“This project launched with three primary goals: identify successful initiatives, uncover any challenges facing members of our community and develop strategies and initiatives to build on the successes and address the challenges,” Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett said during a March 25 presentation of the survey results, calling the initiative “quite the undertaking by the institution.”

The 115-question survey, administered between September and October 2023, analyzed attitudes toward the campus climate through the lens of different identities: racial identity, gender identity, sexual identity, political identity, income status and first-generation status.

Quinnipiac collected more than 3,100 survey responses from students, faculty and staff — a 29% average overall response rate. This figure surpasses many comparable institutions, which have an 18% average overall response rate.

More than three-quarters of all respondents said they were either “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the overall climate at Quinnipiac. Only 7% — roughly 219 respondents — said they were “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with the climate, and the rest said they were “neither comfortable nor uncomfortable.”

Here is what the data show, broken down by the three most statistically significant demographics:

BY RACIAL IDENTITY:

The university’s climate assessment identified a measurable relationship between racial identity and perceptions of Quinnipiac’s campus environment.

More than 80% of white respondents — who accounted for half of the survey sample — said they were either “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the overall campus environment.

But less than 70% of all non-white respondents said the same.

Black respondents, in particular, were more likely than members of other marginalized racial groups to have a negative perception of the campus culture. Only two-thirds of the 137 Black respondents rated the overall climate positively, with 24% rating it neutrally and the remaining 9% rating it negatively. 

Other non-white respondents felt similarly: only 69% of Latino respondents and 70% of Asian and Pacific Islander respondents perceived Quinnipiac’s campus climate positively.

Classroom climate comfort levels were consistently higher across all racial groups, with 88% of white respondents, 79% of multiracial respondents and 75% of Black respondents perceiving the in-class climate positively.

However, the survey data also link racial identity with feelings of community acceptance and social connectedness, revealing that white students and staff tended to feel a greater sense of belonging at Quinnipiac than respondents of color.

The results further correlate racial identity and perceived academic success. Case in point, white undergraduate students were more likely than their Latino and Asian and Pacific Islander peers to perceive their academic performance positively. Among graduate students, white and Latino respondents were more likely than other students of color to perceive their academic performance positively.

More than 30 undergraduate students reported experiencing racially motivated exclusionary conduct, making racial identity the second-most reported driver of bias incidents among this demographic.

BY GENDER IDENTITY:

Quinnipiac’s climate survey also found that attitudes toward the campus environment were tied directly to respondents’ gender and sexual identities.

The data showed few discrepancies between the attitudes of men and women respondents: 80% of each group said they were either “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with Quinnipiac’s overall campus environment, with only 5% of women and 6% of men expressing discomfort or extreme discomfort.

Just 57% of nonbinary and transgender respondents expressed the same level of comfort with the university’s climate, though. 

In the classroom, 86% of men respondents and 85% of women respondents perceived the climate positively. By contrast, only 59% of nonbinary and transgender respondents reported feeling comfortable with the in-class climate.

The data show that trans-spectrum respondents were between three and three-and-a-half times more likely than men and women to be uncomfortable with the campus culture. They were also considerably more likely than cisgender men and women respondents to seriously consider leaving Quinnipiac. 

Nonbinary and transgender graduate students felt a significantly weaker sense of belonging than their men and women counterparts. The survey data also show that gender-based bias incidents accounted for a fifth of all incidents of exclusionary conduct reported by graduate students and about a sixth of those reported by staff. 

BY SEXUAL IDENTITY:

The survey data reveal a similar correlation between sexual identity and comfort. 

While 80% of heterosexual respondents reported perceiving Quinnipiac’s climate positively, less than 70% of “queer-spectrum” respondents — those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or otherwise not heterosexual — reported the same. 

The campus climate assessment further showed that queer-spectrum undergraduates felt a weaker sense of belonging than their heterosexual peers.

Per the survey data, undergraduate students reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of their sexual identity more than any other type of discrimination.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The survey data draw a clear connection between negative climate perceptions and marginalization.

But Gabriel Reif, vice president of Rankin Climate, pointed out during the March 25 presentation that this is more reflective of societal issues than of Quinnipiac ones.

“These are things that are commonly seen in our society, because of institutions that exist that often lead to more challenging experiences for people from underrepresented backgrounds,” he said. 

Reif further emphasized that the climate survey results are not meant to be viewed as “beating down Quinnipiac.”

“This is about identifying the opportunities and making it so that we can make data-driven decisions for where the community can invest resources to help make Quinnipiac a more equitable place,” he said.

Ellett said Quinnipiac’s inaugural climate assessment is meant to provide the university a “baseline” moving forward. A newly formed “Next Steps” working group, Ellett said, will be using this baseline to develop and implement an action plan designed to address the weaknesses that survey respondents identified in the university’s climate.

“If you don’t have a baseline … next time around, you really don’t know where you started,” Ellett said. “And you need some time when you start to put some interventions in place to be able to then measure whether or not what you put your time and energy into made the most difference.”

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Cat Murphy, News Editor
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director

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