Regents seeking climate survey by end of semester

Board debates whether proposed questionnaire captures political diversity

The CU Board of Regents on Friday directed administration to move ahead with a universitywide diversity climate survey – if possible, before the end of the semester.

The proposed survey, a follow-up to a 2014 climate survey, will again be distributed to students, faculty and staff at the university and has been endorsed by Faculty Council.

As presented at the board meeting by Patrick O’Rourke, vice president, university counsel and secretary of the board, the new survey will be shorter and better target areas of greatest concern to the board, he said. The recommended Diversity Engagement Survey, which was developed by the University of Massachusetts and administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), is copyrighted and tested for accuracy and determining benchmarks. Unlike the previous survey, it can be a guide for the regents to weigh the progress of inclusivity in years to come.

O’Rourke said he is speaking with the AAMC this week and will find out whether the survey can be finalized and disseminated within the next couple of weeks.

Before agreeing to move forward, Regent Heidi Ganahl, R-Superior, argued that the 2014 survey should be replicated to determine whether the university has made progress in all levels of diversity, but specifically political philosophy.

“I hear so loud and clear from kids who are on our college campuses how they do not feel accepted, they do not feel they have a voice in the classroom,” Ganahl said. “I do not think students or faculty are going to know by the questions you showed that when we’re talking about diversity we’re talking about diversity of ideas. That we’re talking about political ideologies.”

O’Rourke noted that political ideology was not a question on the 2014 survey and that because of the low response rate, arduous length and other issues, it could not be used as a benchmark.

Regent Jack Kroll, D-Denver, said that because the campuses are all doing their own climate surveys, the board needs to determine a name that will reflect the goal and set it apart. He also said that the board talks about diversity of thought each meeting without ever coming to an agreement.

“Inclusivity is not a zero-sum game,” Kroll said. “We all have to start from that premise. If we start from that premise then maybe we’d make some progress on this issue.”

Chancellors from each campus supported the survey and agreed it would be in the best interest of those taking it to receive it before the end of the semester. They also stressed the need for the survey to be given over consistent intervals to ensure that progress – or lack thereof – can most accurately be measured.