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Student input needed for diversity survey

Des Delgadillo
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A new university survey is looking to gauge diversity and inclusivity among La Verne students and faculty.

Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusivity and the Office of Institutional Research, the survey is meant to set a concrete baseline the university can use to set new goals for improving its campus climate.

“Students who feel a sense of belonging to the school are more likely to stay than students who don’t,” Joy Lei, chief diversity and inclusivity officer, said. “My main goal is to have a healthy and diverse and inclusive climate where everybody, whoever they are, can feel welcome, feel safe, feel respected, and feel that they connect with the school as a community.”

Lei and an advisory council began working on the survey in the fall, making sure all questions were pertinent and gathered the necessary data.

The survey takes a comprehensive approach, looking at the more intangible factors of a campus climate, including social identity and how students perceive their relationships with various on-campus groups.

“It’s important that students that come from under-represented backgrounds are represented and don’t feel alienated,” Rocio Rosales Meza, an associate professor of psychology who sat on the advisory council, said. “Research tells us when they are a minority and they don’t feel supported on campus, that leads to negative mental health.”

Diversity is an umbrella term that goes beyond satisfying certain quotas, Meza said.

“Campus climate is that other important layer, because even though we admit diverse students to our campus, we also have to see how they feel,” she said.

This survey is a departure from the University’s previous tool for gauging similar conditions, the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, administered by the UCLA-based Higher Education Research Institute. The new survey is still administered by HERI but contains more questions focusing specifically on fleshing out opinions on campus climate.

For members of Lei’s advisory council, the current survey presents another step in the University’s concerted efforts to measure and improve its emphasis on diversity.

“Every time we’ve had an evolutionary step trying to create the best campus climate for our multicultural students and for everybody, there’s focus groups, surveys, meetings with clubs and organizations, and it’s ongoing,” Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs and a member of the advisory council, said.

The ideal campus climate is one that provides challenges, but also supports students, Rahmani said.

“You want to give them challenging opportunities, but with support and with engagement,” she said. “If you make all of this distress and don’t give them support, then people aren’t going to retain and achieve their goals.”

The University needs student participation.

“I want to base my future initiatives and what I’m going to do from my office based on what I get from the survey,” Lei said.

The survey is running through May 19, and students are encouraged to participate online through a link in their email.

Survey results are expected to be available to administration over the summer, and will be made available online on the office of institutional research website shortly thereafter.

Des Delgadillo can be reached at desmond.delgadillo@laverne.edu.

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