Andrew Szeri

Have you heard about the recent release of  findings from a system­wide survey of students, faculty and staff? The UC Campus Climate Survey has been a major undertaking — believed to be the largest study of institutional climate ever conducted. About one-quarter (26%) of Berkeley graduate students participated in the survey.

Numerous studies show that how students experience their campus environment influences learning and academic outcomes. Quite simply, students thrive in healthy environments, free of the negativity of discrimination, where inclusion and respect is the daily norm.

In many cases, the results of the survey are quite positive at Berkeley and similar to the ranges for such surveys at other universities. 79% of graduate student respondents were satisfied with their academic experience at UC Berkeley and 77% were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the climate in their classes, while 5% were “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable.”

The survey findings point to some areas in which we can work together to improve the campus climate, so that all members of our community feel fully engaged and respected.  I believe there is value in each of us examining our own approach to dealing with others to ensure we contribute to a positive campus climate.

Exclusionary behavior was one focus of the survey; this means behavior that leaves a person feeling stigmatized, shunned, or ignored. In general, members of groups underrepresented in higher education, and members of other groups frequently stigmatized in society at large reported higher rates of exclusionary behavior on our campus. I asked our campus experts to look more deeply into the survey data specific to Berkeley and learned the following:

Of the 2,625 Berkeley graduate students who reported experiencing exclusionary conduct, 55% reported the conduct taking place in classes/labs/clinics — and 52% reported that other students (either undergraduate or graduates) were the source of the behavior. Of the 1,325 undergraduates who reported experiencing exclusionary behavior, 42% reported the conduct taking place in classes/labs/clinics — and 10% reported that a graduate student was the source of the exclusionary conduct.

Whether these numbers seem to you large or small, let’s take seriously that each of us has an impact on one another, whether in structured academic or informal social settings.  I hope each of you will be watchful to remedy any ways in which your fellow students might feel disrespected or excluded.

The Berkeley campus community has long been concerned with creating a safe, caring and humane environment for all its members. A framework called  Principles of Community was developed collaboratively by students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and affirmed by the Chancellor. It’s a strong and clear statement of values and set of guidelines for what we can do to make the campus ­­ and our society ­­ better for all.

The Campus Climate report gives many more detailed findings, which make for interesting reading. The Graduate Assembly will be working with the campus administration to include graduate students in the ongoing discussion on campus climate. You’re encouraged to direct your questions or input to GA officers or your local GA delegate.

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Categories: April 2014, eGrad Feature, Featured in eGrad, Headlines, Message from the Dean

About Andy Sohn

Andy is the Assistant Director of Communications and Events for the Berkeley Graduate Division.