Smart on Climate Study: Want to Eliminate Discrimination on Any Basis, Except Merit

Mar 20, 2015

President Clif Smart discusses the results of the climate study on Thursday.
Credit Steve Fines / KSMU

Results of a campus and community climate study released this week shows Missouri State University data in line with that of other schools across the nation, according to President Clif Smart.

“The results of this study make two points clear,” Smart said. “First, we have made progress in the last five years; second, we still have lots of work to do.”

Details were made available Thursday at MSU’s Plaster Student Union. Chicago-based Diversity Works, Inc., was retained to complete the campus and community climate study.

The top two findings that were addressed concerned the community as a whole. A large percentage of minority students perceive Springfield as less welcoming, and two-thirds of LGBTQ participants identify the Missouri State campus as a safe haven compared to the larger community.

In response to the findings, the city of Springfield has teamed up with community partners to develop a consortium to focus on areas of diversity in the community.

Cora Scott is Springfield’s director of public information and civic engagement.

“We want to keep the highest skilled, the smartest brains, the most fun people in our community so having a more diverse population that feels welcome and feels this is their home is important to use,” Scott said. “So that’s one reason we were interested in the results of MSU’s study.”

A deeper look at the study shows a disparity in responses amongst majority and minority students, staff and faculty members on the Missouri State campus.

One question asked respondents to rank if “people at MSU are treated differently on the basis of racial-ethnic identity.” 47 percent of Caucasians strongly disagreed with that statement, while 45 percent of people of color strongly agreed.

Another asked if “It is common to hear offensive speech at MSU about people on the basis of their gender identity/expression.” 55 percent of heterosexual respondents strongly disagreed with that statement, while 58 percent of LGBTQ respondents strongly agreed.

Certain findings of students and employees with disability show that 54 participants have experienced discrimination, sexual harassment, a hostile work environment or retaliation in the past 12 months as a member of the Missouri State community.

However, in nearly every category, students, faculty, staff and administrators indicated that the university is positively working towards a more inclusive and diverse community.

“We want to eliminate discrimination to the extent we can on any basis, except merit,” said Smart.

A campus wide committee will now be formed to develop recommendations based on the climate study report. In the meantime, activities for fall 2015 have been created to enhance diversity efforts concerning people of color.

The climate study was a 19-month undertaking, completed in three sections; campus research, focus groups and community focus groups. Click here for more information about the complete campus and community climate study.