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SIUE's campus climate survey saw hundreds of responses from students, faculty and staff, provoking questions on issues ranging from freedom of speech to diversity in hiring.

Jessica Harris, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, hosted a panel at the MUC with other stakeholders involved in making SIUE safer and more inclusive.

“We’re going to cover five today,” Harris said. “Freedom of speech and diversity of thought, fairness in hiring, belonging, bias incident report and response and campus safety. 

Approximately 3200 staff, faculty, administrators and students responded total, from all of SIUE’s campuses. The survey had a section for written responses that people could fill out. These comments were discussed early in the panel.

“I pulled out some of the comments that were found throughout SIUE’s survey reports from our faculty, staff and students,” Harris said. "I think that you’ll find that these comments are very telling in terms of where we are as a campus community and speak to the work we have in front of us.”

Some of the comments came from people holding conservative or Christian beliefs, many of whom criticized SIUE for not making them feel welcome on campus.

“A comment from a student, ‘I don’t like how nonchalantly some professors treat viewpoints they don’t agree with, in particular one of my professors is very anti-Christian and [anti-right-wing],’ and again I’ve just pulled several comments, but they reflect patterns if you read through all of the feedback in the survey,” Harris said.

Jerrica Ampadu, an assistant nursing professor and Director of Student Nurses Achievement Program, felt uncomfortable after hearing these comments.

“We started talking about the anti-racist fatigue and that was quite discouraging for me,” Ampadu said. “Because the person who tells the story controls the narrative. SIUE is a predominantly white institution, I even pulled some information from the fact book; in 2018 to 2021 we only hired 14 Black faculty members out of 105.”

Ampadu is a healthcare professional that works primarily at SIUE’s East St. Louis Campus. She explained how diversity in healthcare can play a major part in the safety of patients.

“The lack of diversity results in someone’s life,” Ampadu said. “Research says that if you’re a Black high-risk infant, and you don’t have a Black provider, you will die. If you have a Black provider, you are four times more likely to survive. This is what I see when I see diversity.”

A large percentage of both staff and students responded that they often didn’t feel safe on campus.

Approximately 50 percent of administrators reported experiencing some form of discrimination, bias or harassment, and 87 percent disagreed to being treated equal. Of those, 82 percent of respondents stated that they had not reported those incidents. Ampadu said this is because they don’t feel safe reporting these incidents.

“The issues identified in this survey are not issues that can be solved by one group, rather [a pairing of all groups] to ensure that we have meaningful actions that will impact these issues,” Ampadu said.

Many respondents said that the campus is more welcoming to white students rather than to Black students. At least 55 percent of staff of color responded that they were not treated equally to their white counterparts.

Racial discrimination was not the only problem highlighted by the survey. LGBTQ+ faculty members also reported that they did not feel safe on campus.

Nick Niemerg, assistant director of constituent relations, discussed how respondents were unhappy with SIUE’s resources and how theQueer Staff and Faculty Association has had trouble getting attention among LGBTQ+ staff and faculty.

“The satisfaction of services provided to LGBTQIA+ employees had a very resounding similarity to [other staff],” Niemerg said. ”Thirty percent of faculty responded that they were dissatisfied with services for our transgender individuals and mental health services.”

Niemerg said that much of the services for the LGBTQ+ community are centered around students rather than faculty and staff.

“Through work with the Safe Zone committee, there is a continuous list of both on-campus and off-campus resources that are updated, but it’s all through a website and not many people know it’s there,” Niemerg said.

The Queer Staff and Faculty Association has had trouble getting members, as knowledge of it has mainly been passed through word of mouth.

“There currently is no office or centralized location for faculty and staff that identify as LGBTQIA+ to go to,” Niemerg said. “It’s a great opportunity I think for the university to figure out how we use the resources we currently have and what offices and organizations we should partner with to create a safe space.”

There are currently 35 members of the Queer Staff and Faculty Association. Niemerg wants to expand the association to provide a better safe space for members of the community but has run into difficulty

“It’s a little tricky,” Niemerg said. “The loss of access to the announce list has proved to be a little bit of an issue to get the word out that the group exists.”

Sheila Caldwell, Vice President for Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity for SIU, stated that while not everyone at SIUE filled out the survey, the ones that have something to say typically do, as someone that has had an incident occur to them would be more likely to respond to the survey than one who didn’t­­­. This gives a general idea of what action needs to be taken by the school and how organizations can better focus on how to combat these issues.

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