ACE Survey Finds Increased Focus Among College Presidents on Campus Racial Climate
March 10, 2016

Campus racial climate has become a larger priority for college and university presidents and their institutions, finds a new national online survey by ACE's Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS).

The survey is the first in CPRS’ Pulse Point series, short surveys of college and university presidents on timely higher education topics. A full 567 college and university presidents responded to the survey.

“College presidents are engaged on this issue, which is exciting to see. They are meeting with student organizers and prioritizing racial climate, including through initiatives aimed at creating diverse and inclusive environments. Yet presidents also acknowledge that their campuses have work to do and are shifting their attention to more systemic efforts such as curricular revision with an eye towards diverse perspectives,” said Lorelle Espinosa, assistant vice president for CPRS.

Presidents see high-profile events like those related to the #BlackLivesMatter movement as driving dialogue on their campuses. Of those presidents who have had students organize, the vast majority of them have met with organizers on more than one occasion.

Select findings are below:

Student Organizers and the Influence of High-Profile Events 

  • Nearly half of presidents of four-year colleges and institutions and 13 percent of presidents of two-year institutions say students have organized around concerns about racial diversity.
  • Eighty-six percent of four-year and 71 percent of two-year presidents have met with student organizers on more than one occasion. 
  • When asked about the influence of high profile events (e.g., those related to #BlackLivesMatter) on community dialogue, three-quarters of four-year presidents and 62 percent of two-year presidents indicated an increase in the campus-wide dialogue or dialogue within certain groups.

Actions Taken 

  • More than half of presidents say that racial climate on their campuses has become more of a priority compared to three years ago.
  • The most prominent action over the last five years, for both two-year and four-year institutions as well as public and private institutions, has been initiatives aimed at increasing diversity among students, faculty and/or staff. 
  • Looking to the future, nearly 20 percent of presidents say their campuses will develop diversity/cultural competency training for students, faculty and/or staff and revise or redevelop curriculum.

Where Presidents Turn and How They View Campus Constituents 

  • Almost half of presidents at four-year institutions and roughly one quarter of presidents at two-year institutions say they have a full-time individual dedicated to student issues of diversity on campus, such as a chief diversity officer. 
  • The two senior administrators that presidents lean on most when addressing issues of racial diversity among students are their vice president of student affairs and/or dean of students and their campus’ full-time individual dedicated to diversity. For those who do not have the latter, they lean even more so on their senior student affairs leader.
  • Presidents of two- and four-year institutions “strongly agree” or “agree” that their staff, faculty and governing boards have an awareness or sensitivity to the need for racial diversity and inclusion, with some slight differences between the two sectors.

Additional findings from the survey will be released later this year.

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