As we begin this new semester, reconnect, and move forward from the unnerving threats we have recently experienced, our commitment to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) and anti-racism goals at Tufts stands firm.
Today we are sharing initial findings from our first university-wide DEI Campus Climate survey, which was conducted this past spring. Nearly 5,200 students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty (including adjunct faculty), and staff participated in the anonymous survey, making the response rate just over 29%.
Survey goals: Tufts community members created this survey collaboratively as a tool that would inform and further our anti-racism commitment to Acknowledge, Commit, and Transform (ACT).
Acknowledge: Our goal was to identify priorities and opportunities for change, growth, and improvement. The survey asked about individual experiences of belonging and inclusion; bias, harassment, and discrimination; and academic, professional, and financial stress.
Commit and Transform: We collected a wide range of demographic data, including some information not otherwise gathered and reported at Tufts, to help understand and illuminate how individual experiences can impact our campus climate.
Initial findings: In many cases, survey respondents from historically excluded and underrepresented groups reported less positive experiences than their peers. While most respondents reported satisfaction with the campus climate, capturing the differences helps us quantify and clarify what many of us experience or hear anecdotally: at Tufts, identity, role, income, and ability all impact experience.
Satisfaction with campus climate: Many respondents from historically excluded and underrepresented groups were more dissatisfied with campus climate relative to the overall survey results.
Inclusion and belonging: Similarly, many respondents from these groups reported feeling lower levels of belonging relative to the overall survey results.
Bias, harassment, and discrimination: Community members who belong to a particular demographic group were more likely to report witnessing bias directed toward members of that group compared to other respondents. For example, transgender respondents more frequently witnessed disparaging remarks or intimidating behaviors toward trans people than respondents who did not identify as trans.
Financial stress: Staff, postdoctoral scholars, adjunct faculty, graduate and professional students, and first-generation undergraduate respondents reported high levels of financial instability compared with the overall responses. Among respondents with student loans, 81% of the graduate and professional students and 46% of the undergraduates agreed or strongly agreed that they will be seriously burdened by loan payments after graduating. One-third of all faculty and staff respondents reported needing to take on a second job in the past five years to supplement their income, with 68% of adjunct faculty respondents reporting it necessary.
Academic and professional stress: Many community members reported that they experience unmanageable levels of stress. Among all student respondents, 81% said they experienced unmanageable academic stress at least occasionally and just over two-thirds of faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars also reported unmanageable professional stress at least occasionally.
We encourage you to read more about these findings online, including reports from the Office of Institutional Research (OIR) in the Office of the Provost about their analysis to date and the survey’s background, methodology, and response rate.
Our own experiences and backgrounds may shape our reactions to these findings. For many of us, the data is consistent with lived or observed experience, while for others, the findings may be surprising or enlightening.
At Tufts, we aim to create an environment that welcomes and supports community members of all backgrounds, identities, abilities, beliefs, and perspectives. Based on what we already know from the initial survey findings, however,we need to acknowledge that we fall short of our expectations in some key areas. We must work together, with support and sponsorship from leaders across the university, to achieve the kind of equitable, inclusive experience every Tufts community member deserves.
More analysis needed: The Office of the Vice Provost for DEIJ will partner with an external data research and assessment firm, OIR, and Tufts faculty experts to do further analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data collection and to draft a full report by fall semester.
What’s next: The Provost’s Office has shared the survey data and OIR’s initial analysis with the schools’ deans and will continue to work closely with them, their assistant and associate deans of diversity and inclusion (ADDIs), and with other school and unit leaders to develop next steps.
These leaders have started to review and analyze their data in the context of school- and unit-specific DEIJ strategic plans, reflecting on opportunities to engage community members and develop targeted responses.
Our new Vice Provost for DEIJ Monroe France will officially begin his work at Tufts on April 3. We eagerly anticipate his leadership and the passion for co-creation, possibility, and innovation he will bring to the work we have ahead.
In the meantime, this message is the beginning of more ongoing, consistent communication to come about the survey data and the university’s ongoing DEIJ work.
Throughout the winter and spring, you can expect programming and communications that will contextualize the data, the history of climate assessments in higher education, and more.
During the spring semester, you will also begin to learn about opportunities to engage with your school or unit about survey data specific to your community and how those findings will affect your school or unit’s DEIJ strategy moving forward.
Later in the spring, we will welcome our new Vice Provost for DEIJ to Tufts and share more findings from the survey. We will present a more comprehensive plan for next steps by this summer and a more complete report of findings this fall.
Finally, with Vice Provost France’s leadership, community members will have opportunities to join us in imagining new possibilities and determining which targeted actions Tufts should take in response to our survey findings.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the DEI Campus Climate survey, and to those who helped shape and shepherd the survey instrument and data analysis. We are especially grateful for the continued patience of our entire community as we finish our analysis and prepare a more comprehensive report of findings. This is the first time Tufts has conducted a university-wide climate survey like this and our goal is to ensure that every aspect is done thoughtfully and done right.
This is just one step we are taking on our journey to address institutional inequities and to develop a more inclusive campus community. We look forward to the work ahead of us.
Caroline Attardo Genco Provost and Senior Vice President ad interim