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Minority Students Report Feeling Less Welcome At UW-Madison

University Releases Results Of First Campus Climate Survey

University of Wisconsin-Madison campus
iris (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Minority students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison feel less welcome on campus than their white peers, according to results from the university’s first campus climate survey.

The survey was conducted last fall and 8,652 students responded. At the time of the study, UW-Madison had about 43,000 students enrolled. All answers were broken down into respondent demographics including, students of color, LGBQ, transgender/non-binary and women.

Overall about 80 percent of respondents reported feeling “very or extremely often” safe, welcome and respected. However, only 68 percent of students of color reported feeling frequently safe, compared to 80 percent of white students.

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Chancellor Rebecca Blank said these survey results verify anecdotal evidence that the university already had.

“We are working very hard to address these disparities, but this is an effort that’s going to require everyone’s involvement,” Blank said. “It can’t be done just from the top-down.”

Blank said the idea for this campus climate survey came up in the spring of 2014.

Participants also reported if they had witnessed or been the target of harassment or intimidating behavior. Of the responses, about one-in-ten students said they had been the target of this behavior at least once. Thirty-three percent of transgender/non-binary students reported being harrassed at least once.

Disabled, transgender/non-binary, LGBQ and students of color were more likely to report being expected to represent the “point of view” of their identities in classes.

The Campus Climate Survey Task Force analyzed the results and made recommendations, like increasing the number of students, faculty and staff from “underrepresented groups.”

UW-Madison already has Our Wisconsin, a diversity education program, which students can participate in. Vice Provost Patrick Sims said this program is one way to help students create an environment of understanding among students.

Only 50 percent of transgender/non-binary reported feeling welcomed “very or extremely often.” This kind of disparity compared to other students was echoed across the report.

Sims said this is an evolving discussion to find more ways to make transgender students feel more accepted on campus.