Students displeased with University response to Mosaic Project survey results
The University sent out a “campus climate” survey to all students on the Danforth Campus. About 2,600 students responded—roughly 21 percent of the students the survey reached. The survey was intended to determine a baseline of bias and microaggressions at Washington University.
Students did not seem particularly surprised by the data collected, but the main component of interest was the qualitative data that accompanied students’ responses.
“A lot of the results of the survey are not unexpected by most students I talk to. Somehow, everyone knows…yet nothing is being done. That in itself is a major concern,” senior and Diversity Affairs Council member Gaby Dinkin said.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Students Rob Wild said, “I wasn’t surprised by what was in the data, and I think until you see less disparities in the way people experience our campus—frankly, until you see no disparities—we’re going to have work to do.”
Qualitative data included the information that students who reported feeling isolated and out of place on campus included Christian students, who often felt judged as less “academic” by their non-religious peers; international students; non-drinkers; non-Greeks; students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds; students who identify as racial minorities; students with conservative political beliefs and students with mental health diagnoses.
These and other trends were identified through examining the aggregate data, which was a point of contention for many of those in attendance at the forum.
“I was disturbed by the lack of qualitative data presented on [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning] and trans[gender] people,” junior Brendan Ziebarth said.
In response, Jessica Wilen, administrative coordinator for the vice chancellor for students, said, “There are a lot of different ways we could have sliced the data, both qualitative and quantitative, so we could go back and look at qualitative responses just for LGBTQ populations, just for women, just for x, y or z, but we only looked in the aggregate…we had to start somewhere.”
Others raised concerns about the lack of involvement of the campus in these issues.
Danielle Bristow, director of First Year Center programs, said she wanted to reach out to members of the University community who did not attend events focused on diversity. When the event’s coordinators responded that presentations of the data could be made to the home groups of people in attendance, senior Jacqui Germain questioned whether that would improve the situation.
“Those groups already know, right? So it’s a matter of making sure that other people who don’t have these experiences know that those experiences are happening at all. For me, I’m not in Pride, but I want to know what other experiences are happening, what other people are being marginalized at Wash. U.,” Germain said.
Sophomore Jonathan Williford was concerned with the lack of involvement on the part of the administration and decision-making bodies on campus.
“Raise your hand if you sit on the board of trustees,” Williford said, and when no one raised a hand, he added, “Just curious.”
Junior Ismael Fofana said he thought the University should be taking more action about the data presented.
“I understand that this is just a start, but when I look at the campus climate survey, I understand that these issues exist. I’m black. I’m male. I’m queer. I come from the working class. And so to me, this is no surprise, but I think the data should be used. This is not for me as a student. This is for the administration. I don’t understand why I have to come to you to show you how this data should be presented. I know I have a voice. But what will you do?” Fofana said.
One member of the audience pointed out that a University photographer had been snapping photos of people speaking throughout the entirety of the event, suggesting it was more of a photo opportunity to show the school’s interest in diversity than something that was constructive. After the photographer continued to take photos for some time, Provost Holden Thorp dismissed him, noting that people were uncomfortable with his presence.
Thorp stressed that the administration was in fact very dedicated to the issue of diversity and inclusion on campus.
In response to those who were concerned with the seeming lack of administrative concern, Thorp said, “You’ve got to keep the pressure on us. I’m not going to quit, but part of social change is for you all to continue to push us and for us to continue to respond.”