Fall 2012

Western’s Climate: The True Metric is in the Story

A Message from the Vice Provost for Equal Opportunity and Employment Diversity, ADA & Title IX Coordinator

Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, Vice Provost for Equal Opportunity and Employment Diversity, Title IX and ADA CoordinatorWestern has taken a great step forward in seeking to better understand the diversity climate and how various groups feel welcomed or included on campus. In 2009, the University conducted a survey of students through the NASPA organization, “Student Voice,” and then in 2010-11, facilitated a survey through the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), a UCLA survey organization, to look at the diversity climate for faculty. Most recently, we just completed a survey of engagement and diversity climate for staff, and Human Resources and the Equal Opportunity Office will issue reports at the beginning of the year.  

From our first two studies, and available benchmark data, we know that Western is similar to our peers on many diversity climate measures. We also know that this is not good enough, that we want to identify those areas that still need improvement and clearly understand them, as we work together across campus to fulfill Western’s strategic and philosophical commitment to inclusion and valuing differences. It is a matter not just of recruitment but also of retention, requiring us to understand the extent to which students, faculty and staff feel comfortable, accepted, included, and appreciated in the classroom and in the workplace.

Quantitative survey data can produce helpful metrics allowing us to analyze baseline data with respect to our climate on campus, but it is only one lens through which to look. It is really through qualitative studies, like that recently done by Professor Raine Dozier, that we begin to understand the meaning behind some of the numbers and percentages that our quantitative surveys have reported. The stories people tell about their experiences allow us to more deeply understand the diversity climate on campus so we can all work to most effectively address it.  

In Dr. Dozier’s report, The Experiences of LGBT Faculty at Western Washington University, faculty relate day-to-day experiences that have impacted them personally and professionally. For those unfamiliar with experiences that individuals from marginalized groups may encounter on a routine basis, this report is an “eye opener.” Most importantly, it represents an authentic portrayal from each participant’s perspective of how bias, conscious and unconscious, adversely impacts lives in tangible ways. These insights allow us to go beyond the useful, but limited, survey data, helping us better appreciate the nature and dynamics of those areas in need of improvement--those areas which can benefit from change. The kind of data collected in this type of research helps us develop recommendations and take actions that are evidence-based.

Survey results and studies, such as Dr. Dozier’s report, are of great value as Western strives to foster a more fully inclusive climate. This is crucial work, in which all members of the campus community have a role to play.


Sue Guenter-Schlesinger

Vice Provost for Equal Opportunity & Employment Diversity

Page Updated 11.22.2017