Georgetown University launched its first cultural climate survey Monday to assess students’ perceptions of diversity and inclusion on campus.
The survey, which was created by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action, is open to both undergraduate and graduate students and will run from Feb. 24 to March 24. The survey will ask students questions about effective professor-student relationships, support for cultural communities on campus and the interactions with law enforcement, among others.
Administrators sent out the survey universitywide email. Student are also prompted by a reminder in Canvas, Georgetown’s academic management system, to refer to their personalized survey link, which they received in an email from University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95).
The responses to the questions will help the university ascertain how to provide resources to meet students’ needs, according to a Feb. 19 schoolwide email announcement from Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Rosemary Kilkenny (LAW ’87).
“Data will help inform how we can enhance or build meaningful programs and support systems to ensure an inclusive educational experience for all members of our community, so that every student can flourish at Georgetown,” Kilkenny wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We will be asking about diversity and identity across various dimensions, including race, ethnicity, faith, sexuality, ability, gender and other backgrounds.”
The university initiated discussions regarding the survey beginning in March 2019. Questions for the survey were drafted by administration officials and then assessed by a statistician to ensure they were unbiased.
Georgetown University Student Association Senator Leo Teixeira (COL ’20) said that while giving students the platform to express their experiences at Georgetown is a positive step for the university, administrators must continue to work toward adequately supporting marginalized communities on campus. Teixeira is also a member of the Georgetown Latinx Leadership Forum, the Georgetown University Black Leadership Forum, Hoyas for Immigrant Rights and O Clube Brasileiro de Georgetown, a Brazilian student organization.
“As a member of these organizations, I strongly believe that this climate survey is necessary,” Teixeira wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It’s clear that, as a predominantly white institution where a large portion of students come from affluent backgrounds, Georgetown still has a long way to go in terms of properly supporting students of all cultural backgrounds, and especially those belonging to marginalized communities.”
The Georgetown University Student Association created the Cultural Climate Survey Student Advisory Committee in May 2019 to work alongside the administration and staff to ensure the survey had student input. The committee began meetings in summer 2019 and started its work during the 2019 fall semester as the survey developed.
Through the committee’s work, members were able to better represent student voices in the survey, according to GUSA Senator Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22).
“All of us collaborated in the form of weekly meetings with administration on reviewing the already established questions and adding Georgetown specific questions,” Sanchez wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We helped shape the survey to truly reflect the Georgetown experience, as we provided the perspective of the students.”
The GUSA Senate faced internal disagreements about what questions to include in the Cultural Climate Survey and how they should be phrased, particularly surrounding law enforcement that would accurately characterize student experiences, according to former GUSA Senator Alexandra Mucher (COL ’22).
In October 2019, GUSA circulated a petition, which 160 students and 10 student organizations signed, to suggest questions in the survey about intersectional identities and policing on and off campus. The committee ultimately received approval from the administration to add the proposed questions.
The petition was a necessary tool for the administration to consider student suggestions after students’ proposed questions faced pushback from administration, according to Uju Nwaigwe (COL ’20), the chair of the GUSA Racial and Cultural Inclusivity Policy Team.
“We ultimately had to create a petition in order for them to take our matters seriously. I also think that we had competing views on the survey,” Nwaigwe wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I think administration wanted the survey to show how ‘great’ Georgetown is with diversity and the students, like myself, wanted the survey to show how bad Georgetown is with diversity.”
Other colleges and universities in the United States have administered similar campus cultural surveys to students in the past. In 2016, the University of Michigan administered its Campus Climate Survey on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Case Western Reserve University launched its survey in 2011.
Georgetown has administered similar schoolwide surveys in the past, including the inaugural Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct in 2016 and the follow-up survey in 2019. While the participation rate for the first survey was 51%, the second saw a decline in participation to roughly 40%.
The new cultural climate survey will help students, faculty and administrators create a stronger community on campus, according to a Feb. 24 schoolwide email from University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95).
“As a community, we are at our best when we are able to work together to create and sustain an environment where each member of our community can thrive,” DeGioia wrote. “I wish to express my gratitude for your commitment to fostering a culture of care for all members of our community as we engage in professional and academic pursuits and in the work of personal formation.”
Georgetown’s Office of Assessment and Decision Support, which leads university data collection and analysis, will review the survey data and share the results with the entire university community including students, faculty, administration and planning committees in fall 2020, according to Kilkenny.
“The university is prepared to acknowledge both positive and critical comments about our community, and intends to collaborate with students and colleagues to enhance the educational and co-curricular experiences of all students,” Kilkenny wrote. “We want to hear from all segments of our student community — all voices are important to shape the full picture of our environment on campus.”
This article has been updated Feb. 26 to clarify where students can access the survey.