Campus Climate Survey Highlights Student Perceptions and Attitudes Regarding Race, Inclusion and Sexual Violence

University Student Center on USFSP CampusNinety-five percent of USF St. Petersburg students who participated in a campus-wide survey designed to measure attitudes and perceptions relating to sexual violence and diversity said they feel safe at their school.

The figure was one of many key findings in the survey, which will be used to help university leaders in their efforts to improve student experience and enhance available support and resources on campus.

The online, anonymous survey was conducted in spring 2019 by education research and technology company EAB and administered to 24 institutions throughout the U.S., including USF St. Petersburg and USF Tampa. Other participating institutions included both public and private universities, ranging from small (fewer than 4,000 students) to large (more than 20,000 students).

The survey was a collaborative effort with USF Tampa and involved several departments throughout USF St. Petersburg, including the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Dean of Students and Student Affairs.

At USF St. Petersburg, the survey was sent electronically to 4,426 students, with 747 responding – a 17 percent response rate. That’s higher than the average response rate of 15 percent recorded by EAB for all universities included in the national cohort.

Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock said the survey was a good first step toward opening up a broader dialogue about sexual violence and diversity and inclusion at the university.

“Creating an atmosphere where all students feel welcome and valued is one of our core pillars at USF St. Petersburg,” said Tadlock. “These results will help us identify our strengths and the opportunities for improvement as we work toward a more inclusive community for all.”

Other results from the survey include:

  • 86 percent of USFSP respondents said they think faculty are genuinely concerned about their welfare. This is higher than the average percentage of the other institutions included in the national cohort (82 percent).
  • 91 percent at USFSP said diversity is fully embraced within the campus culture, compared to 84 percent in the national cohort.
  • 82 percent said all students feel welcome and supported at this school, regardless of background, compared to 79 percent in the national cohort.
  • 87 percent said diversity is reflected in the student body, compared to 86 percent in the national cohort.

The survey also tried to capture information about perceptions and attitudes regarding sexual violence. USF St. Petersburg has a longstanding commitment to changing the culture around sexual assault by showing incoming students how to contribute to a positive, productive and safe campus community. All incoming students are required to take an online course on sexual assault prevention and numerous resources are available on the university’s website, USFSP.edu.

Perceptions and attitudes regarding sexual violence at USF St. Petersburg found in the survey included:

  • 64 percent said they had received sexual violence prevention information or training since the beginning of the school year, more than the national cohort average of 61 percent.
  • 4 percent said they had experiences with sexual violence, slightly less than the national average of 6 percent.
  • When asked if the university would take a report of sexual violence seriously, 91 percent said yes, more than the national average of 87 percent.

While many of the takeaways were positive, the exercise uncovered areas that university officials believe require additional attention, including a lack of understanding regarding the school’s formal procedures to address complaints of sexual violence. In addition, the survey found black respondents were less likely to report positive perceptions and experiences with diversity and inclusion, and that respondents of all races said they felt the need to hide some aspect of their identity to fit in.

Dr. Michelle Madden, USF St. Petersburg’s Campus Diversity Officer, said university leaders are taking the results seriously and will be using the data to inform programming and recommend changes to operations at USF St. Petersburg to help students feel safe and included on campus. The USF St. Petersburg Student Government will also be involved in creating opportunities for students to make their voices heard on these topics.

“We are committed as a university to continuing to strive for a climate and sense of community that is affirming and inviting for all,” said Madden. “Now that we have a better understanding of students’ perceptions, we can work together to raise awareness and identify solutions.”

The next step will be further exploring insights from the survey through a collaboration with the Kate Tiedemann College of Business Consumer Insight and Sales Lab to conduct student focus groups within the coming months. There will be a total of four sessions, where students will be asked to share more about their perceptions of campus life at USF St. Petersburg.

Students interested in participating in the focus groups are asked to fill out this short pre-qualification survey. Students will receive a gift for participation.

A more comprehensive overview of the survey results is available here.