Marquette Wire

EDITORIAL: Climate study identifies common theme: lack of support

Photo+by+Ben+Erickson+%2Fbenjamin.a.erickson%40mu.edu
Photo by Ben Erickson /benjamin.a.erickson@mu.edu

Photo by Ben Erickson /benjamin.a.erickson@mu.edu

Photo by Ben Erickson /benjamin.a.erickson@mu.edu

Editorial Staff

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Students, faculty, staff and administration of Marquette University, you may have heard this already, but the climate study results are here. To some of you, these results might seem like just another piece of content in an email from the university, but the identified information from this study is essential in that it calls the university to action.

The intention of this survey is to identify Marquette’s climate, which is defined by Rankin & Associates Consulting as “the current attitudes, behaviors, standards, and practices of employees and students of the institution.” Beyond identifying the climate in terms of what is currently happening at Marquette, the university hoped to discover what it isn’t doing, so to implement changes in its current institutional state.

The study had a 31 percent response rate, which was “great,” according to Sue Rankin of Rankin & Associates Consulting. The reason being, a 31 percent response rate, or participation from 4,293 students, faculty, staff and administration, allows the results to be generalized over the entire campus population.

Over the course of the next three weeks, the Marquette Wire will delve into some of the more prominent issues addressed in the climate study results, focusing on three key themes apparent on Marquette’s campus including: student support, faculty sentiments on Marquette’s climate, and micro-aggression.

One of the questions pertained specifically to students at Marquette and whether they had seriously considered leaving the school at any point in their academic career. Rankin & Associates Consulting found that 37 percent of undergraduate students and 24 percent of graduate students had seriously considered leaving Marquette.

To put it into perspective, imagine an entire grade of undergraduates — and then some — leaving the university. The reality is overwhelming, but could be understandable since it is most likely for financial reasons that they would leave, right?

Not really. The majority of the undergraduate students who considered leaving Marquette did so because they felt they lacked a sense of belonging (64 percent), they found the climate to be unwelcoming (42 percent), or they believed they had no support group (33 percent). What these findings all have in common is the overarching feeling of not having support or a sense of community at the university.

Should we be surprised by the uncommon nature of students saying they feel uncomfortable, or that they don’t have a sense of belonging at Marquette? As of right now, probably not. Given that the semester just began, freshmen are still adjusting to life in college and are most likely still trying to establish what their “place” in the university looks like. Of the undergraduate respondents who said they were seriously considering leaving Marquette, the consideration decreases dramatically with each year, starting at 78 percent in the first year and dropping to 13 percent by their third year, which is most likely due to each person either transferring to another university or finding niches to which he or she belongs.

The university does extensive outreach for prospective and incoming students. When a student first visits Marquette, or when he or she moves in during freshman orientation, effervescent and merited student leaders including tour guides and the orientation staff will greet him or her.

Unfortunately, once the high of orientation dies down, so does the welcoming university environment. Classes start at full speed, upperclassmen under or overcommit themselves (usually with good reasoning), and freshmen ebb and flow through their first semester.

Additionally, for students who don’t experience that initial connection to the university, the hustle and transition of the first semester can cause them to doubt the decision even more.

And if these students are bottling up this doubt, it is no surprise that they would feel they lack a sense of community and support on campus.

The university went about the climate study in order to identify and respond to different issues that students and faculty have. While orientation week provides a temporary welcome during a period of adjustment, the university needs to go beyond team-building activities to foster community continuously.

Furthermore, while Marquette’s ultimate goal is to provide higher education to its students, the relationships of professors, faculty, staff and administration with students must go beyond academics. If Marquette promotes the development of the whole person, then every student deserves someone who will listen to them beyond the 30 minutes that are spent planning next semester’s schedule.

The issues the Marquette Wire reports as most important to act upon may be different from where the university decides to act, but this assessment comes not only from observation of the climate study but personal experience as well.

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