Inside Iowa State

Inside Archives

Submit news

Send news for Inside to, or call (515) 294-7065. See publication dates, deadlines.

About Inside

Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

November 5, 2004

Climate survey: Most unwelcome conduct is subtle

by Anne Krapfl

Nearly four out of five respondents in a spring campus climate survey said that in the last year they hadn't experienced "offensive, hostile or intimidating conduct" at Iowa State that interfered with their ability to work or learn. However, about half of the respondents said they had observed such behavior on campus.

Consultant Susan Rankin's final report on the climate survey was delivered to the President's Advisory Committee on Diversity this week. It details responses to questions about personal experiences regarding campus climate issues, perceptions of the climate for under-represented members of the Iowa State community and perceptions of "institutional actions" -- policies or initiatives intended to address concerns about diversity.

"Fostering an environment that emphasizes respect and support for all individuals is a key element in ensuring that Iowa State University meets its commitment to academic excellence," said President Gregory Geoffroy. "The campus climate survey is a valuable examination of our cam-pus community, and it will help us identify ways to make improvements.

"I thank Dr. Rankin for her comprehensive work, and I am equally grateful to the students, faculty and staff who took the time to share their opinions and experiences," he added.

Rankin's full report and supporting documents are online at the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Web site: About 73 percent of the survey's 1,930 respondents added their own comments about diversity at Iowa State. "Generally, respondents were divided between whether attention to diversity and climate issues was a positive or negative aspect of Iowa State University's atmosphere," Rankin wrote.

The survey

The online survey was conducted last February and March, with oversight from the President's Advisory Committee on Diversity, to gauge the inclusiveness of the campus environment for minority and majority populations of all kinds. The last such survey was done in fall 1993.

All 27,000-plus Iowa State students and more than 6,100 employees -- 1,751 faculty and 4,412 staff and administrators -- were contacted to participate in the survey; 1,930 respondents completed the 64-question survey. The sample population included an over-sampling of under-represented populations, random sampling of majority populations and "snowball" sampling of "invisible" minority populations, such as persons with learning disabilities or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Snowball sampling involves word-of-mouth communication, with the intent of over-sampling a group. About 33 percent of the survey respondents were non-white.

Demographics: ISU and the survey respondents
  ISU (all)

Race/ethnicity (all not listed)  
African American39
Asian/Pacific Islander314


Next in the process

Geoffroy is in the process of appointing a campus implementation committee to work with Rankin to develop a plan for prioritizing and implementing recommendations from the survey report. That planning process is expected to wrap up by April 1. Larry Genalo, professor of materials science and engineering, will chair the group. The committee should be named by mid-November.

Following are some highlights of Rankin's report.

Personal experience

Twenty-two percent of the respondents reported that they had experienced conduct that interfered with their ability to work or learn at ISU. These respondents most frequently attributed the experiences to their gender (49 percent), ethnicity (29 percent), race (28 percent), position at ISU (26 percent), physical characteristics (18 percent), "other reason" (18 percent), age (17 percent), sexual orientation (14 percent), educational status (13 percent) and country of origin (10 percent). Respondents could check more than one factor.

Rankin said these results are comparable to a national assessment she completed last year. What didn't follow national data was the form of the unwelcome conduct. At Iowa State, the most frequently noted harassments were subtle: intimidation (49 percent), feeling ignored (48 percent), and being excluded (40 percent) and derogatory comments (40 percent). Nationally, Rankin reported, more than 80 percent of those who said they had been harassed reported being victims of derogatory comments.

Forty-eight 48 percent of respondents reported observing offensive, hostile or intimidating conduct. These respondents most frequently said they felt the conduct was based on the victim's gender (49 percent), ethnicity (47 percent), sexual orientation (44 percent), race (43 percent), country of origin (31 percent) and religion (22 percent).

And, that same group identified a faculty member (47 percent), student (42 percent), administrator (24 percent), peer (19 percent) or staff member (18 percent) as the most frequent source of the offending conduct.

I observed discriminatory "X" at ISU


Perceptions of the campus climate

A majority of respondents said the overall campus climate was either "very" or "moderately" respectful of 10 of 13 groups listed, including men (88 percent), Caucasians (84 percent), African American/Blacks (69 percent), Asian/Pacific Islanders (67 percent), Chicano/Latino (63 percent), persons with physical disabilities (59 percent), and people with religious back-grounds different from their own (54 percent). Fewer respondents perceived that the campus is accepting of non-native English speakers (49 percent); persons from the Middle East (47 percent); and openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons (35 percent).

Fifty-four percent of student respondents said the classroom climate was welcoming for people from under-represented groups. White students agreed more frequently (60 percent) than students of color (46 percent), and male students agreed more frequently (56 percent) than female students (49 percent). Similarly, 54 percent of employee respondents said the workplace climate was welcoming for people from under-represented groups.

When questioned about building accessibility on campus, respondents gave the library, Memorial Union, classroom buildings and restrooms the highest marks. Classrooms themselves received fewer positive assessments (45 percent) than classroom buildings (60 percent). Athletic facilities, residence halls and Greek residences received the lowest marks for accessibility.

Perceptions of institution-wide efforts

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the president's office visibly fosters diversity. Smaller percentages said the same about their direct supervisors or department heads (50 percent), faculty in their department (48 percent), academic deans or unit heads (46 percent), or the student government leadership (33 percent).

Half (50 percent) of respondents said they believe ISU values their involvement in diversity initiatives, and 15 percent said they don't believe so. The rest were uncertain.

When questioned about the potential effectiveness of awareness training for faculty and staff on issues related to specific factors (ex. age, ethnicity, religion, disability), respondents showed some uncertainty. For the 10 factors listed, the number of respondents who expressed uncertainty about the value of training varied from 22 percent to 35 percent. Respondents said most frequently that training focusing on ethnicity (58 percent), race (56 per-cent), disability status (54 percent) and sexual orientation (53 percent) could affect the campus climate.

Respondents were more divided when asked whether including diversity-related activities as a criterion in employee performance evaluations would improve the campus climate. Forty-five percent said they thought it would, 28 percent said it wouldn't, 21 percent were uncertain and 7 percent said they didn't know.


"Fostering an environment that emphasizes respect and support for all individuals is a key element in ensuring that Iowa State University meets its commitment to academic excellence."

President Gregory Geoffroy