Pennsylvania State University professor Susan Rankin, the lead consultant on our Campus Climate Study Team, defines campus climate as "the current attitudes, behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential."
Respect is one of the most critical words in this description. It's not just the experience of individuals and groups on a campus; it's also the quality and extent of the interaction between those various groups and individuals that determines a healthy campus climate.
Diversity and inclusion are extremely important aspects of campus climate. According to the UC Regents' Study Group on University Diversity, "diversity and inclusion efforts are not complete unless they also address climate [and] addressing campus climate is an important and necessary component in any comprehensive plan for diversity."
So why does campus climate matter? What makes it so important? Why are respect, diversity and inclusion so critical? That depends on the audience.
Numerous studies have concluded that how students experience their campus environment influences both learning and developmental outcomes, and that discriminatory environments have a negative effect on student learning. Research supports the value of a diverse student body and faculty on enhancing learning outcomes.
Quite simply, students thrive in healthy environments, free of the negativity of discrimination, where inclusion and respect for diversity is the daily norm.
Faculty members, administrators and staff members are significantly impacted by campus climate. According to workplace studies, the personal and professional development of professionals is greatly enhanced through a healthy working environment. Research suggests that faculty members who consider their campus climate healthy and inclusive are more likely to feel personally and professionally supported. Research also indicates that there is a direct relationship between workplace discrimination and negative job and career attitudes. In addition, faculty and staff who have encountered prejudice directly attribute its negative effects to decreased health and well being. Creating a healthy campus climate is as important for faculty and staff as it is for students.
© 2014 Regents of the University of California