Data gained from the survey will help inform trainers who will conduct cultural competency training for students, staff, and faculty beginning later this month, says Bonnie Walker, director of multicultural affairs. This data will assist in tailoring the training to focus on areas of opportunity and provide tools for effecting change in our community.
“We want WPI to be a comfortable, safe community for everyone in it,” she says. “This survey will inform us as to how comfortable it is to date, and inform us how we can make it better.”
Both the climate survey and cultural training are two items promised by Leshin during the November Conversation on Race, which drew nearly 200 students, faculty, and staff to Alden Memorial for the first of a series of conversations on race, diversity, and inclusion on campus.
“Our goal with these efforts is to be proactive and address issues before they arise.” – Bonnie Walker, director of multicultural affairs
Walker says the survey is being conducted because the university has never polled the community on issues of bias and privilege, and the administration is looking to obtain a baseline for how members of the WPI community feel. The results will help the university employ best practices and the information gained will be key in developing future training initiatives. It will also serve to improve and bolster current practices, such as recruiting, employee engagement, and retention.
“Once the survey is completed, there will be a data pull, looking at different pockets of the community; staff, faculty, gender, students, and we’ll see where we need to improve, where might there be some challenges, deficiencies in support and other things,” Walker says.
To assess this data, WPI is also working with a consultant who will help the university build a framework for a strategic diversity plan, she adds.
“With changing demographics across the nation, and changing demographics in higher education, we’re going to see more and more diversity on this campus, and we have to figure out how to accommodate everybody and how to build a community of pluralism and support for everybody,” she says. “How do we build a place where we can all play nice in the sandbox?”
Walker cites the recent protests on campuses across the nation by students of color and other underrepresented populations who are dissatisfied and frustrated at how many college and university administrations have dealt with racial problems.
“No college is immune to those issues,” she says. “There haven’t been many overt, highly public acts of discrimination or protesting on campus and there haven’t been any major protests of frustration or anger or lashing out at the administration on this campus—but it doesn’t’ mean we’re immune to it in our community. Our goal with these efforts is to be proactive and address issues before they arise.”