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Student Affairs pursues inclusivity



Erin Hoffman Harding speaks on the Campus Climate Survey

Notre Dame residence halls hold Hall Council every week as an opportunity for community members to enjoy fellowship, learn about upcoming events, and hear dorm announcements. Last week Cavanaugh Hall hosted an unusual guest presentation. Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffman Harding visited the women’s hall to speak about the results of the campus climate survey administered by Notre Dame in the spring of 2018.

According to the online survey report, “the University developed the Inclusive Campus Student Survey to assess the overall climate on campus related to diversity and inclusion.” This was the first survey of its kind administered by Notre Dame. Ms. Hoffman Harding said that the University plans to continue this survey every other year in an effort to track the progress made in inclusivity.

The entire survey report was released to the Notre Dame community this past fall. It asked a series of questions about campus life at Notre Dame, focusing on topics such as belonging, adverse treatment, and inclusion.

The online results break down each response into demographics to better analyze which groups are most affected by certain issues. For example, Ms. Hoffman Harding first discussed the question of belonging at Notre Dame. For the statement “I feel a sense of belonging at Notre Dame,” 54% of respondents answered “strongly agree,” and another 32% answered “somewhat agree.” While this is a positive and encouraging response overall, Ms. Hoffman Harding broke down some of the demographics to show that groups who were less likely to feel like they belonged included minorities, LGBTQ individuals, undocumented individuals, and non-Catholics.

Another question asked if students have experienced adverse treatment due to factors such as sex, race, religion, etc. While 53% of students replied “no,” Ms. Hoffman Harding pointed out that that percentage is still unacceptably low. Among the most common responses, adverse treatment is reported to have occurred because of political views (20%), race/ethnicity (13%), sex (13%), and socioeconomic status (13%).

Further questions examined the manifestation of this treatment: how did it happen and by who? In every category, verbal comments were the most frequent manifestation, followed by a mix of mocking/offensive jokes, exclusion/isolation, and prejudiced stereotyping. The most frequent source of this treatment was from fellow students, followed by a mix of faculty and hall staff. Most commonly, adverse treatment occurred on campus: in residence halls and classrooms.

Because of these results, Ms. Hoffman Harding took some time to discuss with the Cavanaugh residents what students can do to ensure a more welcoming community. She commended the hall cabinet for incorporating programs like GreenDot Training into Cavanaugh Hall Council, and she said that, overall, awareness is the most helpful tool.

The university is taking steps as well, she said, to encourage inclusion and open discussion of these topics. Two advisory committees have been created to include students in future changes made by the university.

During the discussion, junior Emily Black asked what steps are being implemented in the colleges for faculty and staff based on these survey results. Ms. Hoffman Harding explained that serious thought is going into the faculty selection process, and that possible diversity training sessions may be instituted. Due to time constraints, Ms. Hoffman Harding could only touch on a few points and generalize data results, and she expressed that she wished she had more time to go in depth about the results and the university’s future steps.

Senior Abby Ferguson told the Rover that while she was impressed by the depth of the survey’s results, she was a little less satisfied by Ms. Hoffman Harding’s presentation. “I felt that she focused too much on what we as students could do,” she said. “And while this is important, I think we all were wondering what the administration and faculty is going to be doing as well.” Other students also expressed a desire to attend a longer discussion of the survey and hear concrete steps that the university is planning.

Overall, Cavanaugh Hall residents were engaged in the survey results and discussion and were eager to learn what comes next for the university. According to the online release of the survey, “It is the University’s hope that a continued conversation among the campus community will help to further support creating a more inclusive campus community and developing a measurable action plan for meeting the needs of our students.”

Monica VanBerkum is a junior studying anthropology and living in Cavanaugh Hall. Catch her at Cav Hall Council as the McWell health commissioner! Contact Monica at mvanber1@nd.edu.

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