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Lehigh University develops survey to promote campus diversity

Lehigh University will soon ask its students, faculty, staff and administrators to complete a “Campus Climate Survey,” the latest step forward in the university’s ongoing efforts to improve its living, learning and working environment for everyone on campus.

“I believe it is important for Lehigh to have an environment that welcomes people from different backgrounds, interests and world views,” says Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. “Our educational and life experiences are built on our interactions with other people, and we can learn the most from people who are not like us. We have an opportunity with this climate survey to help Lehigh improve its environment for everybody’s benefit.”

In mid-October, a link to a confidential on-line survey will be e-mailed to members of the campus community. The survey will consider such issues as age, disability, gender, national or ethnic origins, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background.

The survey was recommended by the University Diversity Leadership Committee, acting on behalf of the president and provost as part of the mission of the Diversity Initiative to promote an inclusive community that values, affirms, and advances the diverse backgrounds, interests, experiences, and aspirations of all its members.

Provost Mohamed El-Aasser stresses that the focus on diversity at Lehigh is not a new concept and that many community members have dedicated themselves to this issue for years. He strongly urges the more than 8,000 Lehigh participants to complete the climate survey so everyone at Lehigh has an opportunity to describe their personal experiences and observations, and to offer ideas for improvements.

“We have considerable information about personal experiences and perceptions of the institutional climate and action here at Lehigh, but this information has been anecdotal,” El-Aasser says. “We believe this survey and our comprehensive study of diversity will give us the hard facts we need to focus on areas of greatest concern and impact.”

Using input from a number of campus groups, the survey will be conducted by Rankin and Associates, a nationally recognized consulting group that has worked with 60 other colleges and universities, and has now tailored the Lehigh survey to measure its specific campus climate.

“This climate survey reflects the work of many people who have sought a way for everyone at Lehigh to report their experience in the strictest confidence, and to openly share their ideas on ways to improve the learning and work environment,” says Jean Soderlund, co-chair of the University Diversity Leadership Committee.

The comprehensive survey data will involve participants’ personal experiences at Lehigh; perceptions of the institutional climate; perceptions of institutional actions regarding diversity; and input into recommendations to improve the campus climate.

Based on these survey results, Rankin and Associates will provide Lehigh with recommendations next spring based on current research, benchmarks from previous studies, and best practices in education.

Soderlund notes the important work already accomplished and underway by Student Affairs, the four colleges, The Movement, the University Diversity Leadership Committee and its task forces, the ad hoc faculty/staff group, LGBTQA Steering Committee, Women’s Studies Community, Disability Advisory Committee, and a wide range of organizations and offices.

More information on Lehigh’s diversity effort may be found online. Information on the survey process will be updated throughout the year.

--Bette Phelan

Posted on Monday, September 18, 2006

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