UCSF Climate Survey Q&A

By Kristen Bole

What is the Climate Survey?

The University of California has engaged Rankin & Associates Consulting to conduct a system-wide “Campus Climate” survey, to gather a wide variety of data related to the institution’s living and working environment. The survey covers issues of inclusion, diversity and climate for students, faculty, staff, post-doctoral scholars and trainees at the 10 UC campuses, as well as the Office of the President, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. This information will enable the University and campuses to develop effective strategies and initiatives to continue to improve their climate.

The survey was the first system-wide effort of its kind for UC and included more than 100,000 respondents from 13 locations, making it the largest survey of its kind in the nation.

How was the survey conducted?

The UC survey was designed with input from each campus, as well as student associations, employee unions and faculty. At UC San Francisco, the survey contained 102 questions and was distributed from November 5, 2012 through January 14, 2013. It was offered in English, Spanish and Mandarin, both online and via confidential paper surveys for those who did not have Internet access or preferred to respond on paper.

Who participated in it?

UCSF was the first UC campus to participate in the survey and had the highest response rate of 47 percent. UCSF community members completed 9,434 surveys. This included 3,037 non-union staff (a 51 percent response rate), 2,630 represented staff (26 percent response), 1,158 faculty members (45 percent), 1,037 post-docs/trainees (57 percent/25 percent), and 1,187 graduate or professional students (38 percent). Those who responded were also representative of the UCSF population in terms of gender and ethnicity.

Why was this conducted?

Our goal is to make UC and UCSF a model for diversity and inclusion in higher education. UC is dedicated to fostering a university community that provides leadership for constructive participation in a diverse, multicultural world. UCSF echoes that goal and strives to attract and support the most talented and diverse students and trainees in the health sciences, and be the workplace of choice for diverse top-tier talent. To do so, we must create an environment in which our students, trainees, staff and faculty can thrive. In order to create a welcoming environment for all members of the UC community, we need to understand what we’re doing well and which areas need further focus and support.

What were the results at UCSF?

The UCSF survey reflected a high level of satisfaction with the campus climate, as well as positive attitudes about work-life issues and, for students and trainees, positive sentiments about their overall academic experience. Roughly 78 percent of respondents said they felt UCSF values a diverse faculty, and 85 percent said the campus values a diverse staff.

Overall, 76 percent of all UCSF respondents said they were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the campus climate and 72 percent said they were comfortable with the climate in their department or work unit. Respondents reported a welcoming classroom climate regarding gender identity and race, little difference in those ratings by gender, no difference by religion, and an inclusive LGBT environment. Among students, 77 percent reported being “satisfied” with their academic experience at UCSF, while 81 percent of graduate/professional students and 74 percent of post-docs/trainees reported they were “satisfied with the extent of their intellectual development since enrolling at UCSF.”

Were there any specific issues at UCSF?

The survey also highlighted some opportunities for improvement. While the majority of participants reported being comfortable with the UCSF climate, members of under-represented minorities were less comfortable with the climate for diversity, and those with disabilities reported concerns with access. Transgender participants reported the least comfort overall with the UCSF climate.

In one area of concern, 29 percent of the UCSF participants in the survey felt they personally had experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive or hostile conduct,” which is classified as “micro-aggression” in the survey, and 12 percent felt the conduct interfered with their ability to work or learn. A higher percentage of staff responded experiencing micro-aggressions than faculty or students, and a higher percentage of ethnic and racial minorities reported experiencing this conduct as compared to non-minorities. These rates were highest among staff, rather than faculty and students, on all campuses. UCSF’s slightly higher rate could be attributed to the higher ratio of staff on campus and smaller student body population compared to other UC campuses.

How unusual are these results?

These findings are very consistent with responses to Ranking & Associate surveys in other institutions of higher education nationwide. For example, average “comfortable” rates tend to be between 70 to 80 percent nationwide vs. 76 percent at UCSF. Similarly, “exclusion” rates – the area of greatest concern at UCSF – are normally between 20-25 percent, versus 29 percent at UCSF. The results also parallel findings of climate studies conducted by other firms.

What happens next?

The survey was the first of two major phases. The second phase will focus on developing strategic initiatives and action plans based on the survey results, with the ultimate goal of building on successes, addressing climate challenges and promoting positive change.

UCSF has a long history of using surveys such as this to generate positive reforms on campus. These include the faculty climate surveys in 2005 and 2011, which led to the creation of the Chancellor’s Council on Faculty Life, the CORO Fellows Program in Public Affairs, Faculty Development Day, and the Faculty Mentoring Program. Other surveys also have led to improvements for improved work/life balance on campus, such as child care grants for doctoral students, and emergency child care services for UCSF faculty, staff and students’ children.

Where can I get more information?

More information on the survey, including the social science research upon which it is based, and the UCSF-specific report, can be found on the UC Office of the President Climate Survey web site.

Click here to go back to the climate survey story.