PULLMAN, Wash. — The majority of students, faculty and staff at Washington State University feel positive about the campus climate, according to the results of a comprehensive survey conducted last spring by the office of WSU President V. Lane Rawlins.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the more than 1,300 students who completed the Online survey said they consider WSU’s campus climate to be positive or very positive. Fewer than 9 percent of the student respondents characterized the campus climate as “negative.” 

Rawlins said the April survey was intended to serve as a baseline for what will be a continuing effort to gauge the opinions of students, faculty and staff. 

“It is important for us to ask these same questions on a continual basis so we can track our successes and address areas that pose the greatest challenges,” he said.

A total of 1,328 students and 2,500 faculty and staff members completed the survey, which was administered by WSU’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center.

In letters mailed out to all WSU campuses in April and May of this year, a total of 6,327 students, 3,374 faculty and 3,681 staff members were invited to participate in the Internet survey.

The results were consistent across the WSU system. The vast majority of student and employee respondents at the Tri-Cities, Spokane and Vancouver campuses agreed with their Pullman counterparts that the climate on their campus is as good or somewhat better than other places they have worked or studied.

Brea Thompson, president of the Associated Students of WSU, said she is pleased the university is making the effort to gauge student satisfaction.

“It is comforting to know many people feel supported at our university, but we shouldn’t overlook those who don’t feel the same way,” she said.

When asked how good a job WSU is doing in promoting and supporting diversity, there were no significant differences between white students and students of color.  About 55 percent gave WSU either an “A” or “B” grade, while 12 percent think a “D” or “F” grade is more appropriate.

Middle Eastern Student Association member Layla Yousify said, however, that she believes the results do not give the entire story for how multicultural students feel at WSU. 

“I experience discrimination on almost a daily basis, whether it is intended as a joke or a serious threat,” she said. “Many of us do not feel we can be ourselves. We just don’t feel comfortable here.”

Yousify says one significant step the university can take to support diversity is to hire a more diverse faculty and staff. 

More than half the faculty who responded to the survey agreed that WSU is doing an excellent or fair job of promoting and supporting diversity. African American respondents were most critical, with more than 41 percent saying WSU is making a poor or failing effort in promoting diversity.  Some 40 percent of African Americans also indicated that the climate at WSU is somewhat better or much better than other places.

Michael J. Tate, the newly appointed interim vice president for equity and diversity, said he believes the survey results will encourage the university to step up its efforts to diversify. 

“Our goal is to make WSU a destination university for all faculty, staff and students,” Tate said. “We need to work harder to identify qualified candidates from under represented groups and convince them that this is the place they need to be.”

The survey also suggests “students do, in fact, value diversity and feel it has great impact on their lives,” said Tom Brigham, a WSU professor and assistant to President Rawlins.

While the survey results paint a fairly positive picture overall, WSU administrators acknowledge there is still room for improvement. The majority of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students who responded said they feel that antigay prejudice is more prevalent at WSU than at other places. About 12 percent of them said they have experienced discrimination quite often or very often.  This compares with eight percent for multicultural students. 

While three-fourths of gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents think the University is doing a fair job or better in promoting and supporting diversity, almost one-quarter of them think WSU is somewhat worse or much worse than other places they have lived, worked or studied. 

Megan Whalen, a senior in Women’s Studies and Sociology, said she is not surprised by the survey results. 

“A lot of folks have been taught not to use racial slurs, but most people have never been told to refrain from using homophobic language,” she said. “Because of this, I believe GLBA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Allies) students often receive more overt discrimination than do students of color.”

The public is invited to review the complete survey results. A 35-page executive summary can be accessed on the Web at http://www.wsu.edu/president/documents/ExecSumm10-14-04.doc.