UCSB surpasses all other UC campuses in terms of comfort and general attitude

UCSB received the highest ratings for overall comfort levels in the 2012-2013 University of California Campus Climate Survey, which had its results released late last month, revealing how students, faculty and other members of the campus community feel about general attitudes at all ten campuses of the UC system.

The purpose of the survey was to give students, staff, faculty, post-doctoral scholars and trainees the opportunity to provide feedback to the University regarding living and working environments. Former UC President Mark Yudof commissioned the system-wide climate study in 2012 and the UC Office of the President contracted Rankin and Associates Consulting to develop the survey.

Chancellor Henry T. Yang said he was happy to see UCSB ranking the most “comfortable/very comfortable” out of all the UC campuses for campus climate.

“We were pleased that a vast majority of our students, faculty and staff – 84 percent – reported feeling comfortable being part of the campus community. This was the highest in the UC system. The average level of comfort for the entire UC system was 79 percent,” Yang said via email.

Underrepresented minority respondents and undocumented students reported some of the lowest comfort levels, according to the study’s executive summary, while transgender and “genderqueer” respondents as well as military veterans also reported lower levels of comfort and satisfaction with the climate of universities in the UC.

According to a statement released by the UC Office of the President, UC President Janet Napolitano and chancellors at all 10 UC campuses concluded that the UC must “seek to create and nurture in every corner of the University” and facilitate “an ethos of respect for others and inclusion of all.”

The survey completion rate at UCSB was 30 percent, which is slightly greater than the overall average of 27 percent, system-wide. According to the survey report, 72 percent of undergraduate students and 77 percent of graduate students stated that their academic experience at UCSB was satisfactory.

At UCSB, 23 percent (1,890 students) of those who responded reported experiencing intimidating, exclusionary, hostile and/or offensive conduct around them, and among those 23 percent, staff respondents experienced this behavior more so than faculty or students. Racial, sexual and gender minorities also experienced higher levels of this behavior than non-minorities, according to the survey results.

Navkiran Kaur, a third-year Black Studies major, said she analyzed the survey results for both UCSB and the whole UC system, and holds hope that the university system works to address the concerns of those who are not satisfied with the current climate.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all. I was one of the few people that reported that I don’t feel comfortable here, as a woman of color especially,” Kaur said. “It is unfortunate, and I think that it is something that students, administration and UC Office of the President need to be taking upon themselves to make the UC not only safer, but also more accessible and helpful to all students.”

According to Kaur, it has been difficult for her to relate to faculty and staff as a woman of color, which she said has led to her feeling discomfort on campus. She also suggested that increased faculty and staff diversity could improve student involvement and success on campus.

“Things like mental health come into play with retention and recruitment of students,” Kaur said. “When places like CAPS don’t even have a diverse variety of psychologists, then how are they supposed to help students?”

Associated Students President Jonathan Abboud said upon reading the results, he found some shocking, particularly the concrete rates of sexual assault at UCSB. According to the survey, 8 percent of respondents reported they had experienced unwanted sexual contact while at UCSB. He also said the survey results have not been well publicized to students.

“It’s one thing in your head know that these are problems, but it’s another thing to see raw data that tells you that very clearly,” Abboud said. “Everyone knows sexual assault is a problem, for example. Even these numbers are lower than it actually is. Seeing the numbers is shocking, just because you get to see exactly what it is.”

According to the report’s executive summary, a System-wide Work Team (SWT) of at least two representatives from each campus — along with representatives from student associations, faculty, and employee unions — collaborated with Local Work Teams at each campus to contribute to developing the survey. The survey administered to UCSB students was 118 questions long and was made available through a secure online portal, as well as through a confidential paper version.

UC Office of the President representative Shelly Meron said work remains to be done on each campus and each campus will be have a specific plan for moving forward.

“These efforts will typically be led by a local, campus climate-focused group (like the Advisory Councils on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion, for example),” Meron said in an email. “These groups will engage a variety of constituencies at each location as they come up with recommendations for their chancellor/location leader and oversee the implementation of local changes and initiatives.”

Chancellor Yang said he supports giving the findings of the survey a closer look in order to improve the overall campus experience.

“We look forward to an in-depth study of our campus’s data so that we can continue conversations and develop actions to foster an even more welcoming, inclusive, and supportive climate for all members of our campus community,” Yang said via email.

Maria Herrera-Sobek, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, said increasing numbers of female faculty and Hispanic undergraduates are indications of work that has already been done to foster diversity.

“We are committed to working to address the concerns of those who have experienced exclusionary conduct,” Herrera-Sobek said via email. “We have some strong programs already in place and have identified and implemented best practices from other institutions that are yielding positive results, including the rising number of female faculty and the growth in the Hispanic undergraduate population.”


A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 3, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.