A primary focus of ESU’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee to establish an environment where all students feel a sense of belonging at the university.
The committee oversees a number of programs that are designed to enable and empower students to achieve their full potential at the university.
Diversity and Inclusion have been working closely with both Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence (CLIE) and The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) in an attempt to implement a culture of unity and inclusiveness on campus.
In the spring of 2019, the university, in coordination with CLIE, OMA and diversity and inclusion, conducted a survey on campus in an attempt to determine the attitude of ESU’s constituents in regards to campus climate.
Dr. Eugene “Gene” Kelly, the Dean of Student Life at ESU, said that the survey was conducted as a means of rooting out the issues that students, staff and faculty considered the most important.
Many of the questions on the survey focused on how comfortable students felt on campus and whether the university was inclusive of minorities.
The diversity and inclusion committee and multicultural affairs, Kelly added, will use the results of the survey to determine the next steps to be prioritized by these offices.
While the official results of the survey will not be available until June, the university has received
Dr. Kelly said that originally, they had hoped for 2,000 respondents, however, came up short of that number.
In addition to the 866 students that took the survey, 133 faculty members, along with 134 staff members also responded, for a total of 1,133 respondents.
Approximately 42 percent of students who took the survey were non-white.
That percentage is proportionate to the percentage of non-white students in the entire student body.
Dr. Kelly added that it was important to have an accurate representation of that demographic.
The reason being, many of the issues that the climate survey covers disproportionately affect non-white students.
Another category of the survey was the overall sense of belonging among students.
More than 60 percent of respondents reported having a satisfactory sense of belonging on campus.
However, an overwhelming number of survey takers did not feel as though all people at ESU have a sense of belonging.
The subject of belonging, particularly among minority students, and students with disabilities, was one of the recent focuses of the Inclusion Poster Project on campus.
Many of the works that illustrate student’s feelings towards their sense of belonging are on display in many public areas of the campus.
The survey also indicated widespread dissatisfaction with the retention rate at ESU.
A large number of respondents suggested that ESU needs to address the low rate of retention, specifically among students from historically marginalized communities.
Less than half of student respondents were of the opinion that ESU was doing an adequate job recruiting, retaining and committing to students, faculty, and staff from marginalized backgrounds.
This was a topic that was discussed at length at that recent open forum on campus, hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA).
When asked about levels of comfort, students, staff and faculty members all reported high levels of comfort in relation to differences in race and sexual orientation.
Respondents reported lower levels of comfort surrounding people with disabilities, English language learning individuals, members of opposing political parties and undocumented immigrants.
Dr. Kelly said that as a result of the information they have been able to gather from the survey so far, one of the ideas his office is recommending is implementing the integration of diversity and inclusion topics into classes as a means of culturally relevant teaching.
In addition to preparing students for a diverse workforce, students from diverse backgrounds and experiences will be better able to relate to their coursework.
OMA has recently made changes to its staff and program.
Lurine Allotey was recently appointed to the position of assistant director of Multicultural Affairs.
They are currently in the search for a new full-time director.
Partnered with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, OMA is working on several new programs on campus that will be directed towards marginalized groups, including new women of the color initiative.
According to Dr. Kelly, the goal of these programs is to create a sense of community among ESU students, faculty and staff and assist them in becoming a part of ESU culture.