The 2018-2019 Campus Climate survey revealed many LSU faculty members— particularly those of racial minority groups and the LGBTQ community—feel discomfort from comments made by peers and students regarding race or gender/sexual orientation, and that the University does not show respect for these groups.
The Office of Diversity created the Campus Climate survey in 2016 in order to measure student, faculty and staff opinion on the inclusion of racial groups and LGBTQ community members on campus. In fall 2018, this test was released online to measure faculty, staff and student opinions, broken into four parts: satisfaction and support systems, campus inclusion experiences, perceptions of campus inclusion and concerns about campus inclusion.
A growing number of professors also echoed a point made by some students who felt that white, Christian, heterosexual and/or male persons at the University are not treated equally.
Around 25% of employees at the University, totaling 1,279 employees, took the survey, with 18% employees finishing the entire survey.
“[It’s important because] we’re all doing our own things and teaching one-on-one all the time,” School of Music professor Loraine Sims said. “You don’t know the truth, and people are more likely to tell the truth on a survey. People like me who think one thing learn that maybe it’s not so rosy somewhere else on campus.”
Two-thirds of faculty overall feel like outsiders among colleagues, according to the survey, with Hispanic/Latinx and African American employees feeling like outsiders more than other racial groups.
Almost two-thirds of multiracial faculty reported experiencing discomfort at work due to comments from colleagues regarding their race, while about half of African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander employees reported at least sometimes being made uncomfortable by coworkers through comments regarding their race.
Half of African American employees also said the University does not have respect for people of color, while 47% of Hispanic/Latinx employees reported they do not feel as though women are welcomed on campus.
Survey respondents can leave anonymous comments after each block of questions in the survey, and over half of employee comments in this section spoke of discrimination they experienced or witnessed on campus.
“Women are not paid equally, and their knowledge/input is typically ignored,” wrote one employee.
Additionally, 40% of female employees and 36% of LGBTQ employees reported being made uncomfortable by peer comments regarding gender, while only 14% of male employees said the same. Almost half of employees said they did not believe that LGBTQ faculty and staff are welcomed and respected at the University, and 40% of LGBTQ employees shared that sentiment.
“We are long past that awful time,” Sims said. “Not completely past it, but we are so past it. All it is is to open your mind. In my job, mostly people are just curious. I think if we can just answer people’s questions, we’ll let them see that people are people, no matter what pronouns they have or what they look like.”
Sims said that within the School of Music, she hasn't witnessed much discrimination against LGBTQ students or faculty. She found the results of the survey shocking.
“My advice is to find where the safe places are on campus,” Sims said.“Find the safe people, surround yourself with those people first, and then you will feel a little more empowered. The worst thing you can feel is like, ‘I’m the only person in this by myself.’”
It’s not solely colleagues and peers that create an uncomfortable working environment for some faculty members at LSU— half of trans/genderqueer employees reported discomfort from comments made by students regarding their gender, and nearly half of multiracial employees reported discomfort from student comments regarding their race.
These results come within months of the Princeton Review’s ranking of the most LGBTQ-unfriendly campuses in the country, where the University ranked No. 11, despite winning the 2019 HEED Award, a diversity award given by literary magazine INSIGHT into Diversity.
“I have hear[d] many students make derogatory comments about people of color and sexual minorities,” wrote one employee. “Although they weren't directed toward me, they were very hurtful.”
In the results of this survey, a growing number of students and employees reported thoughts and/or comments about being white, male, Christian and/or heterosexual on the campus. Similar to 47% of student comments, one-third of professors shared comments that articulated a belief that majority groups were being discriminated against on campus.
“Women and LGBTQ have superior privileges,” wrote one employee.
Faculty also cited issues with interpersonal skills within office settings; fewer employees believe their supervisors manage well than in 2016.
“A Ph.D. is not a predictor of having management skills,” wrote one respondent.
Other responses cited in the survey included a higher level of satisfaction in employees’ work and higher levels of morale than in 2016. One out of every 10 employees reported at least sometimes having spaces on campus be inaccessible, with the majority of those employees being able to identify specific spaces or buildings on campus that are not ADA-compliant.
One topic that students and faculty generally disagree on is campus safety. While 80% of the student body said they have felt unsafe on campus at least once, only 46% of employees echoed that statement.
However, female employees and students do agree on campus safety: 57% of female employees reported feeling afraid on campus, compared to the 70% of female students who agreed with that statement.
“Some areas of campus do not have good lighting, and walking at night does not feel safe,” commented one employee.
In early 2019, a series of stalkings and harassments occurred on campus and circulated on social media in which females were confronted, often aggressively, by non-student men. One incident included a stranger confronting a female student on campus and repeatedly asking her for her phone number until he forcibly removed her headphones from her ear.
Such incidents may have influenced the opinion of faculty and students regarding safety for females on campus.
“Walking around campus at night is now generally considered unsafe,” one student respondent wrote in the survey.
The majority of the sexual harassment reports in the survey were retellings of personal experiences rather than eyewitness accounts.
Students and faculty also differ on the tolerance toward inappropriate conduct on campus. Despite a vast majority of students reporting that inappropriate jokes seem to be tolerated on campus, less than one-third of faculty members agree with that statement. A higher number of LGBTQ employees do believe that misconduct is permitted on campus.
“I’m not familiar with the policies at LSU,” French sophomore and LGBTQ member Jack Rittenberry said. “But knowing the University, they are probably doing the bare minimum.”