LSU on Film

LSU students travel across the Quad on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, at Louisiana State University.

Results of LSU’s 2018-2019 Campus Climate Survey revealed many students, especially those in minority groups, reported instances of discrimination and unsafe situations on campus.

The Campus Climate survey was created in 2016 to measure satisfaction and opinion on inclusion at the University. In fall of 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.

In the most recent campus climate survey, most students—particularly females, LGBTQ students and those within minority groups—reported feelings of inequality, lack of safety and/or exclusion on campus. Beyond this, a higher number of majority students—white, male and heterosexual students—reported inequalities on campus than in 2016.

About 1,914 students—6% of the student body—were accounted for in the study, compared to 18% of employees on campus.

“It’s a really good chance for students to be heard not only [at LSU] but also at the state level,” University Title IX graduate assistant Kimberly Davis said. “The point is to hear from students and hear what their concerns are. We take that very seriously.”

But the concerns held by students who completed the survey varied depending on their race, gender and sexual orientation. For example, almost half of African-American students and about one-third of Hispanic and multiracial students reported being made uncomfortable by comments regarding race, in comparison to only 9% of white students on campus.

Respondents could leave comments after each block of questions in the survey. Only 9% of the students’ anonymous comments were positive.

“I have felt looked down on by certain faculty, staff and peers because I have a working-class background and almost no financial/economic advantages,” wrote one student in the survey.

Nearly half of all LGBTQ and trans/genderqueer students also felt discomfort on campus after hearing comments from fellow students regarding their sexual orientation, according to the survey. About one-third of these students also reported feeling uncomfortable due to comments from faculty and staff.

“As an LGBT person of color, I do not feel completely safe or accepted at this university,” one respondent wrote.

Last month, the Princeton Review ranked the University No. 11 on the list of the nation’s most LGBTQ-unfriendly colleges.

Sociology senior and Spectrum President Leigh Fresina said ignorance is the root of the problem.

“People are uneducated about the LGBTQ+ community,” Fresina said. “That’s a fact. All they need to do is open their minds, even a little bit, and they’ll see that we’re just like them.”

The University provides students with services like the Office of Diversity, Women’s Center, Multicultural Affairs and African American Cultural Center. However, less than half of male, white and/or non-LGBTQ students reported any likelihood of using such services.

Since the 2016 Campus Climate survey, there has also been a rising number of students who believe that inequality does exist, but that it is reared toward students in majority populations rather than minority groups, women or LGBTQ members, including the following three comments from respondents:

“The climate is worse for a white male than anywhere else, especially if you are religious and straight,” one student wrote. “When watching videos in class or discussing slavery, I feel that that all eyes are upon me because of what my [race] did 150 years ago.”

“I’m not so sure why we care so much about diversity. From my point of view, inclusiveness is when all people are treated the same regardless of skin color or sexual preference,” another respondent wrote. “At LSU, they are so concerned with diversity that they make those people stick out like a sore thumb and let the ‘diverse’ people have more opportunities than the regular person.”

“As a white male, I feel as though every year this campus takes more and more steps to make this a safe and great space for minorities and females,” one student commented. “However, when was the last time that the interests of white men were taken into account?”

Students like mass communication senior Mary Dicharry were outraged to hear such comments made about the culture of the University and the Deep South.

“If they feel oppressed because we are calling the general population of white, cisgender, heterosexual men on their actions, that’s their fault for not recognizing their own oppression of women, non-binary people and people of color,” Dicharry said. “Now, after hundreds of years of getting their way, they are upset because they are being held accountable for their actions.”

Despite the comments, students who believe that inequality is present on campus remain in the majority.

A majority of students also reported that from what they’ve seen, inappropriate jokes and comments are still tolerated on campus.

In the survey’s comments, one student reported an experience where they were called a racial slur and had a full drink thrown at their car after recommending to someone that they move their car in order to not get a ticket.

Students reported often feeling a lack of support from peers, faculty and staff on campus, especially Hispanic and Latinx, multiracial and LGBTQ students. Students in the LGBTQ community also said they did not feel like part of the ‘LSU family’ more often than any other group.

More than half of respondents said they have felt like an outsider at the University at least once, with multiracial and African American students reporting this more often than other racial groups.

“I think the University as an institution is great at promoting/instilling diversity, but I think some students still have a long way to go in truly accepting everyone,” one respondant wrote.

Students also reported an overall lack of safety on campus: 60% of all students reported occasionally feeling fear on campus. Gender had a significant role to play on responses regarding fear on campus; while 65% of male students reported never fearing for their safety on campus, 70% of female and 74% of trans/genderqueer students reported feeling fear on campus at least once in a while.

This discrepancy may be influenced by the series of stalkings and harassments toward women on campus in early 2019. Numerous incidents where women were aggressively confronted by non-student men on campus circulated on social media, including a female student who was confronted by a stranger who repeatedly asked her for her phone number before removing her headphones from her ear.

“Walking around campus at night is now generally considered unsafe,” one respondent wrote in the survey.

The majority of the sexual harassment reports in the survey were retellings of personal experiences rather than eyewitness accounts.

“To be completely honest, from what I’ve heard from the number of friends and people that I’ve known who have been raped or sexually assaulted by white, cisgender, straight men, these men receive minimal punishment—if anything—for their crimes, and it’s disgusting,” Dicharry said. “I don’t understand.”

Eighty percent of all undergraduate students reported concerns about safety on campus.

Other findings in the survey included that graduate students often felt as though they were underpaid, and that their already low wages were taken by “monstrous fee(s).”

The two most common reasons among students considering leaving the University were scarce resources and problems with their specific degree programs. Other students also cited a necessity for renovating campus, such as additional sidewalks, renovating older buildings and additional lighting for walkways on campus.

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