Survey: Berkeley’s campus-climate is good, but marginalized feel excluded

My Experience Survey 2019 data highlights campus perceptions, interactions and proposes recommendations to improve campus climate. (UC Berkeley photo)

Results of a campus-climate survey show that while a majority of students, faculty and staff feel comfortable working, studying and researching at UC Berkeley, marginalized and underrepresented Berkeleyans continue to face issues that make them feel like they don’t belong.

by Berkeley’s Division of Equity and Inclusion showed data from the My Experience Survey which was conducted from March to May 2019. The survey was a follow up to a 2013 campus climate survey that was overseen by the University of California. The 2019 survey included responses from 22% of the campus community - over 12,100 Berkeley students, staff and faculty.

"To become a more equitable and inclusive campus, we need to prioritize and address the needs of people on campus who have been marginalized and excluded,” Chancellor Carol Christ said. "The work of equity and inclusion is a critically important campuswide effort. We will continue to uplift the importance of diversity and strive to build a true sense of belonging for our entire campus community."

The 500-question survey measured respondents’ campus climate experiences through 4-point and 6-point scales that assessed a person’s satisfaction, comfort and agreement across a range of experiences on campus.

A majority of survey respondents - 82% -- reported being "comfortable" with the campus climate at Berkeley and with their experiences related to characteristics such as race, gender, sexuality, disability and class.

But 18% still reported they had personally felt discomfort with regard to Berkeley’s campus climate. Similar to 2013, in this group were higher percentages of marginalized and underrepresented minorities, including people of color, women, LGBTQ, disabled and low-income respondents, cross-cutting among students, staff and faculty.

Oscar Dubón Jr. has led efforts to improve Berkeley’s campus climate since he began serving as Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion in July 2017, and he said that, although a majority of respondents were satisfied with their experiences at Berkeley, there is still a lot of work to be done.

"The survey showed there is near-universal agreement regarding the importance of upholding the values of equity and inclusion on campus," said Dubón. "But I remain deeply concerned that minoritized and marginalized communities report a markedly more negative campus climate, and that experiences worsen as the number of dimensions of marginalizations that a respondent holds increases."

The assessment focused on campus issues that were previously not examined in detail, said Andrew Eppig, who has served as a policy and research analyst at Berkeley for more than 10 years and was part of the team that formulated the survey and analyzed the results.

Among the findings at Berkeley:

Belonging

  • Almost all respondents (97%) agreed that diversity, equity and inclusion were important to them, while (87%) agreed that diversity, equity and inclusion are values promoted at Berkeley.
  • Marginalized and underrepresented groups had lower agreement that those values were promoted at Berkeley. African American/Black respondents had notably lower agreement that diversity, equity and inclusion were promoted at Berkeley (64%).
  • Much lower feelings of respect for their groups were reported by African American/Black (43%), Central American (62%), Native American/Alaska Native (64%), transgender/gender non-conforming (61%), and Pacific Islander (71%) respondents.
  • One in four respondents regularly experienced exclusionary behaviors. Undergraduate students reported the highest experiences of exclusionary behaviors (34%). African American/Black undergraduates reported the highest rates of any affinity group (68%) - an increase from 53% in 2013.

Basic Needs

  • Roughly one in four respondents were food insecure, 41% were housing insecure and 5% were homeless.
  • Undergraduates had the highest levels of food insecurity at 39%, and postdocs had the highest levels of housing insecurity at 54%.
  • Undergraduates with dependents had the highest levels of housing insecurity (71%).

Mental Health

  • Almost half of respondents experienced symptoms of depression.
  • Undergraduates with disabilities had the highest symptoms of depression (77%) and anxiety (83%).
  • Overall, most respondents (84%) rated their general health as good, very good or excellent.

Leadership Opportunities

  • About two in three postdocs, staff and faculty respondents wanted more mentoring for leadership positions. Over 75% were interested in leadership training programs in the future.
  • Almost all postdocs were interested in becoming or continuing to be a leader in new research areas (94%). Four in five were interested in leadership around undergraduate teaching. Marginalized communities tended to report higher interest in leadership areas.
  • Most employee respondents (86%) reported being satisfied with their job overall. The areas with the highest staff satisfaction were benefits (92%). The areas with the lowest staff satisfaction were the promotion and advancement process (44%) and additional compensation (37%).
  • Staff from marginalized communities had lower levels of job satisfaction. Most notably salary (62%) and support for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their unit (76%).

Institutional Trust

  • Respondents rated faculty as most trustworthy, followed by campus police and then campus leadership.
  • Undergraduates expressed the least trust for campus leadership (ranging from 61% to 77% for the four questions about campus leadership) and police (71% to 81%).
  • Undergraduate African American and transgender/gender non-conforming students reported the least trust for the campus police, the lowest of any institutional group with only one-third rating them trustworthy.
  • Four in five undergraduate students reported having faculty role models and feeling valued by faculty in the classroom.


"Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but this data can inform us on how to create new ways of making the campus more reflective of our mission as a public institution," said Eppig.

Berkeley’s Division of Equity and Inclusion plans to conduct another campus climate survey in 2023.

While the 2019 survey results do not reflect the impact and trauma the past year has had on the campus community - from the COVID-19 pandemic to the reckoning of racial injustice and violence that many have experienced - Dubón said the report helps to identify what campus resources should be prioritized.

Continued funding and collaboration around campuswide initiatives will also help move the needle forward, he said.

Those efforts include:

  • African American Initiative
  • Becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI)
  • Addressing community safety beyond policing
  • Strengthening our leadership in support of the disabled community
  • Seeking counsel from advisory bodies, such as the Asian American Pacific Islander Standing Committee (AAPISC)
  • Advancing faculty diversity and being proactive about equitable practices in faculty and staff hiring, particularly into leadership positions


"The responses in the areas of basic needs and mental health, including anxiety and depression, point to the university’s continued need to secure and invest resources in these areas," Dubón said. "As a campus, we are pursuing these and other efforts, and we must press forward and build transparent accountability into our positive intentions. ... Change has happened very slowly, and we need to continue to move with greater urgency."

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