Factors Affecting Campus Climate: Creating a Welcoming Environment

By Campbell-Whatley, Gloria D.; Wang, Chuang et al. | New Waves, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Factors Affecting Campus Climate: Creating a Welcoming Environment


Campbell-Whatley, Gloria D., Wang, Chuang, Toms, Ozalle, Williams, Nakeshia, New Waves


Diversity and climate is a major concern on college and university campuses (Hart, 2008). In the past two decades, the number of faculty with gender, racial, disability status, and religious differences has increased (Holley, Larson, Adelman, & Treviño, 2008; Jayakumar, Howard, Allen, & Han, 2009; Locks, Sylvia, Hurtado, Bowman, & Oseguera, 2008; Pittman, 2012; Vaccaro, 2010). Understanding the issues of diversifying institutions while addressing the psychological and behavioral dimensions of the climate is significant (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, & Allen, 1998). Sustaining and assuring a welcoming environment while incorporating a diversity of voices, knowledge, and lived experiences in the educational and academic process is of paramount importance to higher education.

Campus climate is the interplay among people, processes, institutional culture, and represent important aspects of an organization including perceptions and expectations of the people in the academic community (Hart & Cress, 2008; Vaccaro, 2010). A welcoming campus climate means an acceptance of faculty who bring varied perspectives, experiences, attitudes, and styles to campuses that positively affect teaching and research. Concerns may range from an understanding of diversity issues to a connection with students represented in the diverse campus community. Varied perceptions of representative groups on the campus are expected, but ensuring a greater possibility of creating a welcoming environment is embedded in efforts to embrace, accept, and understand differences and realize the need for diversity engagement and exposure. Conflict arises when faculty feel they experience difficulty at work as a result of sexual orientation, disability status, ethnicity, and gender on campus. Studies show that non-majority faculty and women continue to bring forth conflicting issues related to the climate and its effect on retention and promotion (Pittman, 2012).

The study seeks to examine the difference between majority faculty (White) and non-majority faculty (faculty of color) and male faculty and female faculty on the Campus Climate Diversity Survey. The present study also determines particular factors that are significant to the campus climate.

First, the study is significant because it provides information for diversity training initiatives specifically for one campus. Diversity training should be tailored to the needs of the campus community where the initiatives occur. Secondly, this study presents five factors relevant to campus climate: (a) Respect, (b) Conflict, (c) Diversity Engagement, (d) Diversity Interest and (e) Diversity Exposure. Although there have been studies performed on campus climate, these five aspects of diversity have not surfaced as key elements that categorize the type of experiences that are encountered on college campuses and universities. Usually studies on faculty discuss the aspects of promotion and tenure, but few examine the incremental elements that comprise campus climate.

The present study used an Exploratory Factor Analysis to determine five related factors from a diversity survey given to faculty at a midsized urban university in the southeast. A MANOVA was used to determine gender differences or differences between majority and non-majority groups on the combination of the five constructs from the factor analysis. Independent samples t-tests were then used to determine the significant difference of each item on the survey and differences between majority and non-majority groups and differences in males and females. The comprehensive literature review below offers variations in historical foci as diversity issued morphed through the years.

Literature Review

Early studies of campus climate show a difference in the perceptions of women and men, and majority and non-majority faculty. The literature review provides a glimpse of the changing landscape and difference in the focus of diversity surveys and campus climate through the years. …

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