Qualitative Analysis of Survey Comments
Comments from Students
Data were analyzed for 164 students, and sixty (60) submitted written comments on the survey. The demographic breakdown is: Caucasian (35), Asian (12), Other (10), Arab (1), and Native American (1). The students who marked "other" were international students. There were 31 males and 29 females who wrote comments. There were an even number of sophomores and juniors (14) who wrote comments, thirteen (13) graduate students, eleven (11) seniors and eight (8) freshmen.
The comments were analyzed by identifying major themes, with sub-categories where appropriate. Some themes parallel the data collected during Phase I of the survey. (See Appendix A). Many students mentioned one issue; while others wrote about two or three areas they had strong opinions about.
Fourteen (14) comments were critical of the survey instrument. Some students thought the questions were redundant, some thought that there was no critical thinking involved, or the survey was a waste of time. Sample comments are:
Others thought that the survey was difficult to understand or they said the questions were heavily weighted on the negative side. A few students criticized the wording of some questions and several thought that money was wasted as well as their time.
Almost as many comments (13) were positive about the survey. Students were glad to have the opportunity to express their opinions and believed that St. Cloud State University does a good job with diversity issues.
The comments listed reflect the opinions of those students who felt positive about the experience of taking the survey.
Criticisms of Professors
Students described some negative issues about their professors. Criticisms specifically targeted professors who do not teach, but talk about their own personal life or personal opinions on various subjects. A few students complained about foreign professors who speak "broken English", while others feel that professors need an education in cultural diversity themselves. Other criticisms include, feeling targeted, not getting the needed direction from professors and in some cases, professors favor Caucasian students. A few sample comments are listed below.
International Student Issues
A number of the international students thought that they are treated with disrespect by some faculty and administrators. Rudeness and poor behavior by some professors is mentioned. They feel that they, as international students do not receive assistance because they belong to a different ethnic group. Some of the actual comments follow.
One student commented that the cultural programs held at the university are good and help with understanding people and customs of various groups.
Experience No Racist Behavior
There are some students who indicated that they have not experienced racism on campus. Some students say that their classmates have reported racial issues to them but they have no first-hand knowledge of any incidents or behavior. A few students reported that they get along with people of different ethnic groups, hence they see no problems. Several students who have had no racial experiences suggest that such issues should be settled in a manner that is fair to all parties and that everyone is entitled to their opinions, no matter what opinion the held. A couple of comments are:
Experiences with Racism
An equal number of students (7) had experienced racist behavior. International students, as indicated above, express some of these issues. Some students indicated that there is negative and prejudice behavior in the residence halls and that no one wants to get involved. Others said that the university has taken many steps to confront racial issues, but have made no efforts to resolve racial issues. Students cited being insulted or ignored by professors because of the ethnicity.
One student wrote:
Another students wrote:
A few students mentioned with regret, the negative publicity that the college receives in regard to racism and negative treatment of some ethnic groups. Some students commented about gay, lesbian and transgender issues. One student was encouraged that GLBT issues were addressed in the survey, while others were critical of the GLBT Association by alleging that the Association has subverted several activities. Several students made suggestions for unity and coming together to resolve issues of difference. Some sample comments follow:
Comments from Administrators, Faculty & Staff
Administrators, faculty and staff of St. Cloud State University submitted a total of 109 comments. These comments ranged from one sentence to one page. The demographic breakdown was forty (40) administration/staff, eight (8) instructors, eighteen (18) Assistant Professors, seventeen (17) Associate Professors and twenty-six 26) Professors. The racial breakdown was as follows: Arab – 1, Asian –9, African American – 11, Native American –1, Caucasian –81, Bi-racial – 1, and Other –5. The gender breakdown was forty-eight (48) male and sixty-one (61) female.
The data was analyzed by identifying major themes. Seven major themes include: 1) criticisms of the survey, 2) criticisms of administration, 3) positive aspects of working at SCSU, 4) the feeling that only a small group of complainers exist, 5) racism exists and diversity is not seriously dealt with, and 6) diversity training issues.
Many respondents (24) were critical of the survey instrument. These comments ranged from indications that the survey was poorly constructed to issues about the wording of the items. Some people thought that some sections were confusing and difficult to respond to. A couple of people did not like the "distance" scale, while others wrote that religion or reference to religious groups was not relevant to the survey as a whole. Examples of the comments are:
Need for Leadership and Action
The second largest grouping centered on the need for better leadership and action in regard to diversity and the racism which respondents thought exists on the campus. Some criticisms of administration were general, however, many comments were directed specifically at the President, with some positive and some negative comments. A number of respondents indicate that administrators "come and go" and these administrators are more concerned with protecting their personal image or the image of the university. Respondents thought that no long-term commitment is made to resolve the real issues due to constant "changing of the guard". A few people wrote that some administrators only tolerate diversity and do not respect it.
Other criticisms focus on the hesitancy of administration to punish racist and/or religious "bigots", and thought that violations should be documented and people should be fired. They also said that when policies and procedures can be proven as "unfair", these policies and procedures should be changed. Some respondents believed that the administration does not listen to individual problems/comments and does not work to solve problems. Additionally, they indicated that a few people have been censored due to this lack of problem solving.
It was noted that some administrators engaged in gossip about faculty in a manner that is damaging to the faculty member's career. They feel that top administrators play the Jewish faculty against Faculty of Color. It was mentioned that the President needs to think about his views on people of color and indicated that people have heard him make derogatory remarks about African Americans. There were a few positive comments about good relationships with administration within departments and across colleges.
A few comments focused on the issue that a lack of attention to diversity and the inaction on the part of the administration creates and atmosphere of disrespect for faculty and lack of due process creates a hostile environment for people to work in.
Positive Aspects of Working at SCSU
A number of comments were directed at the positive aspects of working at the university. Thirteen (13) comments were written around this theme. A few of these respondents have been at St. Cloud for 10 years or more and have taught at other colleges or universities. When comparing SCSU with other schools, they stated that this university is doing a better job with diversity issues than other institutions. Some respondents indicate the belief that SCSU is a very progressive institution that facilitates an open environment. They also thought that the University is moving in a positive direction.
Some respondents expressed frustration that the positive aspects of the diversity efforts do not receive the positive publicity it deserves and that the media focuses on negative issues. A few comments indicated the perception that reports of discrimination at the university are greatly exaggerated.
Small Group of Complainers
A number of comments stated that there is a small group of people who complain and make unsubstantiated claims. They felt that a few people seen intent on causing dissatisfaction and want to damage the reputation of the university. The opinion is that these people want to be in control. Comments were directed at some faculty who want to make administrative decisions when it is not their place to do so.
Some comments are below:
Racism and Discrimination Exist on Campus
Respondents commented that subtle or covert racism exists on campus. They stated that certain groups i.e., African Americans, Jews are not respected, are not included in crucial decision-making meetings. White respondents stated that although many people of color have superior qualifications, there is a preference for less qualified white personnel. There are questions as to why administration has allowed this to occur. Several respondents stated that they have personally experienced very racist behaviors that were vicious and degrading.
Respondents thought that there is blatant political bias of the Women's Center toward pro-choice issues. Respondents indicated that pro-life students and faculty are silenced through scorn for their point of view.
Diversity Training Issues
Comments were made for and against diversity training. Some respondents state that more diversity training is needed, and that faculty should have the same training as staff and students. Others thought that the diversity training is forced on them and they felt bitter about this. The bitterness arises because they felt that only a handful of people complained about being harassed or discriminated against. Sample quotes are below.
Some respondents mentioned the Faculty Union. They were disappointed with this union and state that some meetings are used to advance individual agendas. Some feel the IFO allows tenured faculty to say anything the want about anyone, with no repercussions and often make false statements. Such behavior is described as disrespectful. Others also believed that the local union has created operating procedures that usurp and sometimes interfere with the decisions and procedures of the administration.
A few respondents commented that there is a belief that women and minorities have an easier time on campus, a better work environment and are not held to the same standards as everyone else. This perception leads to people being hurt and angry and tired of working on possible solutions. Sample comments are below.
Respondents who are classified as "fixed-term" feel that they are treated unfairly. Some state that they do not get feedback about job performance, while others feel they work hard, do a good job and have no opportunities for advancement.
A few people stated their thanks for the survey and the opportunity to express their opinions.
The need for better dispensing of discrimination cases was also stated. Respondents think the lag time results in undue hardship on people.