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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

University leaders talk next steps after campus inclusive survey results

The Campus Inclusive Survey, which has been done previously in 2018 and 2020, asked the Notre Dame student population to reflect on their sense of belonging and what factors have influenced how at home they feel under the golden dome. 

Data was collected from February to March 2022 and yielded a 42 percent response rate, according to vice president of student affairs Fr. Gerry Olinger. 

“We had 5,380 respondents [to the] survey, which we were actually very pleased with,” he said. “On average, the national response rate for these types of surveys is about 20 to 24 percent. So, we had a significantly higher response rate than many other institutions.”

The results of the recent survey, Olinger explained, are entirely accessible to anyone within the campus community, except in cases where anonymity could not be preserved. Students, faculty and staff can log into the survey results using their Notre Dame NetID and password. 

Viewers can find the survey results in their aggregate form by clicking through data in each of the nine survey topics: respondent characteristics, student experiences at Notre Dame, comfort sharing aspects of identity, recommending Notre Dame, how Notre Dame has changed, insensitive remarks, adverse treatment, resources for reporting and open-ended comments. 

Out of many result statistics, Olinger highlighted a few that he said stood out to him, both good and bad, including that 89% of students reported feeling a sense of belonging on campus. This number correlated with the 50% of students who responded to experiencing adverse treatment ranging from verbal comments or jokes to threats of violence and personal property damage.

Additionally, only 7% of reported instances of adverse treatment were reported, either to a staff member, SpeakUp or another reporting mechanism. Although he did express concern about the low number of reported cases of adverse treatment, Olinger noted that most of the respondents did respond that they knew how to recognize and report instances of discrimination.

“We can celebrate a strong sense of belonging, we can celebrate some of the more positive, but we also need to acknowledge that there is work, important work, to do ahead. And that's where myself and others are so committed,” he said. 

In response to a low familiarity rate with the reporting database, Olinger said the steering committee is entering into an advertising campaign with Notre Dame student government and added a new racial discrimination and sexual assault awareness module to Welcome Weekend. 

While the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Research (OSPIR) collected the data and worked to format the results to assure anonymity, Olinger said the steering committee oversaw how the results were organized, interpreted and merged into both existing and future programs, including the creation of more listening sessions.  He also noted his weekly office hours and fireside chats as being open to anyone wishing to talk about campus issues. 

Alongside Olinger at many of those student-led sessions will be the inaugural vice president for institutional transformation and advisor to the president, Hugh Page. A part of Notre Dame faculty since 1992 in theology and Africana studies, Page transitioned from his former position as vice president and associate provost for undergraduate studies in July. In his current role directly under University President John Jenkins, Page said he works on campus wide diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. 

“My responsibility now is to help coordinate and catalyze progress on DEI initiatives on campus and to collaborate with the President and key leaders on campus, for example, members of the President's Leadership Council and the deans in ensuring the success of those efforts,” he said. 

Although Page acknowledged his importance to the University, he explained that he is not necessarily the face of DEI on campus. 

“We have so many people working on DEI related projects and a collective sense that even though I'm in this role, if you were going to ask the question, ‘who is the face of DEI at Notre Dame,’ the most reasonable answer would be all of us,” he said. “I am, in some ways, the first among equals in this sort of work.” 

Page noted his eagerness for student guidance to inform their actions.

“In this day and time, there can never be too much conversation about issues that enable us to feel a sense of belonging and focus on the kind of community that we want to be and the steps that we need to take,” he said. “More intensive conversations, opportunities to get to know one another and the infusion of the efforts everywhere … I think that's something that we need to see going forward.”

Page and Olinger emphasized their joint intent to not only have conversations surrounding DEI but also to put more informed ideas into action. 

“[The changes will] not be done in a vacuum but it's done in very much of an iterative way,” Olinger said. “Sometimes the fear is that the University is just listening, and I think it's important to show that there are important action items and steps taken, but we also need to make sure that that action is being informed by student voices.”

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