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St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud State University

Cultural Audit: Final Report Nichols and Associates, Inc.
Washington, D.C.
October 2002

Qualitative Analysis of Survey Comments

Comments from Students

INTRODUCTION

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.

FINDINGS

Survey Criticisms

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:

"I think that this survey was bogus. I can't believe you wasted $50,000 on this thing. We already know that SCSU is a hub of institutional racism...."

"I think lots of the questions on this survey were loaded or hard to understand. SCSU is a great school that has few problems."

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.

Survey Positives

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.

"I really appreciate this survey because through it, we can express our feelings. Thank-you for this."

"I can recognize that St. Cloud State University is trying to get better. Although I cannot be satisfied with everything, the school is fine, overall."

"This sort of survey should be encouraged and held quite often, it helps the Administration to better understand the student feelings, especially those who are minority or international students."

"I found this survey very useful and helpful, for many ideas for myself to think about. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to voice our opinions."

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.

"The quality of faculty on this campus needs to be re-evaluated. Hiring upstart professors who still need to learn to teach because they are more inexpensive in terms of wages, does not justify the university's motto."

"Some professors at SCSU do not really teach their classes. One of my ex-professors was talking about her personal life, rather than giving her lecture. Some professors treat White Americans better than international students. If International students speak with an accent, they just ignore them rather than encourage them to learn."

"I think the people who are in charge of hiring professors should think twice before hiring a professor who speaks English very poorly. I, as a student, have The right to demand a professor that I can understand when he/she lectures."

"I have found out now, that I have taken a lot of classes here that I did not need at all, and I feel I wasted my money here. I have had a lot of experiences with faculty and profs. who just brush me off and don't have time to help."

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.

"Some professors treat white Americans better than international students."

"I think racism is obvious on this campus. Some teachers and administrators treat Arabs and other international students with disrespect and bad behavior. Some profs refuse to give us assistance with our course work, even during their Office hours because we belong to a different ethnic group. They give all the help needed to white students.

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:

"I do not see a lot of discrimination because I, myself do not discriminate against people. I work with black professors and white professors and do not treat them any differently and they don't treat me differently."

"I haven't had an experiences with racial issues, so I am enjoying my academic and campus life. I don't know of any racial issue on this campus."

"I have to say that the reception of cultural events and minority students is slowly, but surely improving. Educate them, and they'll learn."

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:

"I think EVERYBODY on this campus needs a lesson in tolerance, acceptance, and openness."

Another students wrote:

"White students need to be more open to other cultures and differences. Stereotyping will not help eradicate racism. We all need to work toward Eliminating racism and not just rely on time to help us."

Other Issues

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:

"People of the GBLT have every right to have the same accommodations that non-GBLT people have, and non-GBLT people have the right NOT to like the lifestyle of GBLT people. There is such a thing as white privilege and male privilege, but all too often minority problems are blamed on the "white dominant society. The blame game has to stop at some point."

"Being GLBT is not a lifestyle, it is a LIFE!"

"All this media and bad publicity is only hurting us, the students. Please keep our education standard high, no matter who is teaching us."

"Based on our diversified students and faculty, the culture would allow each person to treat others fairly, no matter what. Most importantly, the culture would encourage the academic environment and value it more than other
aspects. Then SCSU could become a desired place to study and achieve personal academic performance."

Comments from Administrators, Faculty & Staff

INTRODUCTION

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.

FINDINGS

Survey Criticisms

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:

"I am very concerned that the survey does not capture the historical nature of my experiences."

"This survey doesn't really capture the atmosphere here. Nor does it present or allow one to select other viable options."

"This survey appears to be poorly constructed and has too many groups lumped into the questions."

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.

"This university is polarized between bad management and bad instructors who diagnose every problem as an example of some ism."

"I feel that SCSU lacks strong leadership behavior on campus. There have been several situations that the "race or religion" card was used to excuse plagiarism."

"We need effective presidential leadership."

"The leadership of SCSU is poor. There is none, especially when the President is racist and a bigot."

"The SCSU administration, under the leadership of President Saigo is trying to address prejudice and hatred on our campus."

"Decisions made by certain administrators, or the lack of the will to make decisions seems to be a function of whim and personal feelings. I see the problems on campus as related to the lack of trust that permeates the institution. One aspect of the university that exacerbates the lack of trust is the lack of both data and information.. or the poor timing of its dispersal."

"President Saigo is doing his best to rectify what previous admin. have done, but he is being attacked from many fronts. This survey is far too general to assess what is really going on at this institution."

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.

"SCSU has continued to work at being an open and inviting place for ALL people. I have worked at two other institutions and this is the most honest and open place of all."

"SCSU is a wonderful place to work. The institution has the courage to address diversity issues that most campuses would not touch."

"In my 20+ years of experience with SCSU, I have seen SCSU work hard on both improving diversity and the cultural climate of the university."

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:

"Thank you for the opportunity to share my opinion. Frankly, our environment would be improved 100% if a small group of people would quit whining and complaining."

"Please tell the whiners if they don't like it here and don't have an interest in providing a good education to students, they should find somewhere else to go."

"I think that we are all working towards a common goal at SCSU, but we have different ideas of how to get there. Until we compromise on the methods used we will continue to have unrest. Unfortunately, it seems like a small number of people are speaking for the masses, to the media and other outside entities."

"I am distrustful of the loudest voices among minority and female faculty members. They seem intent on causing as much dissatisfaction as they can. The City of St. Cloud is a rural Minnesota town. It is mainly white. So what!"

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.

"This university is a strange place to work for. Diversity issues are very real and racism is a big problem on campus."

"Yes, racism does exist here."

"In my modest opinion, the problems go way beyond gender, race and orientation, and start with cultural peculiarities. I don't have to be black, female, lesbian, or Muslim to be mistreated. The culture here has a long way to go until it starts recognizing people with different beliefs and backgrounds."

"African-American administrators and faculty are not respected and are marginalized. There is considerable mistrust and racial profiling."

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.

"Faculty need to participate in diversity training – staff were required to attend and it's interesting to see that most complaints come from how faculty treat each other."

"My concern is that the university is requiring more and more training to demonstrate efforts in regard to diversity. Meanwhile it does not seem that faculty have the same training requirements. If faculty have the most exposure to diversity, they are the ones who do need the training."

"We need more training in how to deal with customers. The students are our customers, so everyone, faculty and staff need to remember that without students, there would be no need for us."

"Many faculty have already had years of diversity training. Much progress has been made and many people are really trying hard to improve their own behaviors and the climate of the school."

Other Issues

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.

"I feel administration bends over backwards to accommodate minority groups on campus. They get extra chances and special deals that the white faculty do not. I also feel that we are not always hiring the most qualified candidates."

"Until the belief that somehow minorities, women, etc. have an easier time, a better work environment, are not held to the same standards, are not as qualified, the university will be at a loss to change the environment; it will not, no matter what is done."

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.

"Thanks for undertaking the survey. I wish to ask that more strategies for dialogue be undertaken at SCSU. Also more efforts to team faculty students and administrators to address issues. I would like to see more participation by all groups encouraged and supported."

"Thank you for the opportunity to share my opinion."

The need for better dispensing of discrimination cases was also stated. Respondents think the lag time results in undue hardship on people.

"I would like to see clear and consistent policies for dealing with complaints regarding anti-Semitism, racism and other form of discrimination. I would like to see clear and consistent policies for dealing quickly with disputes between individual faculty members and some deans. Even when such faculty members are ultimately retained, tenured and/or promoted, they have suffered unduly for too long."