Exploring Campus Climate
Campus climate refers to the institutional environment's inclusive nature in relation to diversity efforts. Through messages, symbols, actions, events, hiring practices, organizational structure, retention efforts and more, campus climates may range from welcoming to hostile. According to Berger and Braxton (1998), campus climate is made up of the following dimensions; Actions of the institution, Teaching and researching, Interaction between groups, Structural multiplicity or diversity and the historical as well as social context of the campus.
The objective of this study was exploring campus climate and its effects on students of Nairobi University, Chiromo Campus (Sjoberg, 1999). This objective was achieved through answering the following specific research questions:
i. Do the actions of the institution affect campus climate?
ii. Does teaching and researching method affect campus climate?
iii. Do interaction between groups affect campus climate?
iv. Does historical and social context of the campus affect campus climate?
v. Does structural diversity affect campus climate?
Significance of the study
The study was significant in that it helped identify both the positive and negative effects of climate on students and facilitated addressing the needs of multiple student populations, such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, students with disabilities just top mention but a few. Generally, assessing campus climate to facilitate action that creates and sustains a healthy climate is an important step while considering an environment that maintains the primary goal of the university i.e. to teach, researching and other services.
Review of literature
Campus climate refers to the institutional environment's inclusive nature in relation to diversity efforts. Through messages, symbols, actions, events, hiring practices, organizational structure, retention efforts and more, campus climates may range from welcoming to hostile (Weidman, 1989).
Campus climate is the determinant of the environment of the campus in relation to professional relational, personal relations and academic relations. In a climate that is conducive in the University, the university fraternity experiences a sense of welcome, respect and having value (Steele, 1997).
Campus climate is considered to be multi-dimensionally reflecting and manifesting multiplicity or diversity. According to Hurtado (2007), campus climate goes past numbers; persons from different locale give rise to diversity. The experience of different groups of individuals on the campus and its broadness on the other hand is the climate.
According to Berger and Braxton (1998), campus climate is made up of the following dimensions; Actions of the institution, Teaching and researching, Interaction between groups, Structural multiplicity or diversity and the historical as well as social context of the campus.
Categories of campus climate
Actions of the institution
In giving climate issues a priority, institutions must take deliberate action that is institutional on top of enlisting students, staff and faculty that is diverse (Hurtado and Milem, 1999). These deliberate actions must be dependent on unequivocal commitment of the institution in order to emphatically deal with climate issues. Also, these institutional actions must lead to the victory of the entire campus fraternity. Institutions take action through; provision of services, provision of programs and provision of support mechanisms, also another way of expressing institution action is through messages delivered by leaders (words and actions)
Teaching and researching
The major activity of the university is teaching and research hence scholarship adversely affects and also reflects the campus climate. A campus climate that is healthy is characterized by promotion and reflection of inclusiveness of cultural perspectives in the curricula and research in all the faculties.
Interaction between groups
According to Allport (1954), pessimistic interaction of intergroup is fundamental in determining the climate of a place. There must be a purposeful interaction within the campus diverse group to avoid silo mentality.
Diversity in the structure refers to the real depiction of varied groups on a campus. The being of diversity imparts on climate in significant and primary ways. Diversity in the student fraternity for instance, can draw more students of color that gives rise to a "vital group" of students that perceive their value and impact on the campus basically due to being represented in greater percentage. Likewise, the occurrence of a vital group underrepresented marginal school frequently helps draw and maintain new underrepresented marginal school.
Historical and social context of the campus
The social and historical context is a dimension that is much informed by policies and laws, values that are expressible, educational beliefs and philosophy and expenditure patterns (budgetary concerns).
Procedures for assessing campus climate
Both staff employees (part time and full time - 500) and students (2000) from Chiromo campus were invited in an online assessment of Campus climate through the electronic campus portal for the faculty, staff and students. During the survey no enticement was used in order to take part in the study. The subsequent analysis was based on the five dimensions of climate given by Conley and McLaughlin (1999). The questionnaire also included background information questions and also demographic questions.
Findings of the Survey
Fully answered responses from the survey were received from 200 members of staff (a response rate of forty percent- 40%) and 1000 students (a response rate of fifty percent-50%). Majority were female (fifty five point two percent -55.2%), citizens of Kenya (ninety five percent-95%), Black (Eighty percent - 80%) and Christians (seventy percent -70%). The percentage of respondents with disabilities was very small (two percent- 2%). Concerning the age, only twelve percent (12%) were above fifty years, majority of the respondents were between the age bracket of twenty to forty five yeas (20 - 45 years) with a mean of forty seven point three (47.3) and standard deviation of nine point five (9.5) The sexual orientation of the respondents was eighty percent (80 %) heterosexual.
There was difference in the response across the ethnic divide on dimensions of campus climate; three dimensions were significantly different between the different ethnicity; Opportunities in the diversity of for getting admitted and getting employed, being committed to Diversity, and getting treatment that is fair by the group. The marginal group of respondents reported less perceived experience in the above three mentioned dimensions.
On the scale of employment assessment, perceiving a diversity opportunity with regards to advancing career (perceptions) regarding opportunities for career advancement and being represented in essential committees recorded the least positive value among the minority. Only six percent (6 %) of the minorities attested there being sufficient racial representation among the numerous and vital campus committees.
Eighty percent (80 %) of the blacks agreed that the administration having been authentically devoted to increasing diversity at the campus, only forty percent (40 %) of the minority responded with an agreement that the administration was authentically devoted to increasing diversity at the campus.
Fair treatment by the groups was absent in majority of the minority respondents. Eighty percent (80 %) of the minority group were not expected to recognize their being any fair treatment from the school (faculty), the senior members of the administration, students and the entire Chiromo community.
Differences basing on Disability
Though small percentage of respondents was noted to have a disability, noteworthy difference was established between those with disability and those without any disability. For the respondents that had disability forty percent of the respondents showed a pessimistic regard towards unfair treatment that was based on individual characteristics, those without any disabilities indicated non exposure to any form of treatment that was unfair. Unfair treatment based on age and socioeconomic status was forty percent (40 %) and thirty percent (30 %) respectively.
The two classifications used were: Christianity which included all those in the catholic and protestant denominations where as others included none Christians. Only significant difference was noted on the dimension of ethnic interaction. Christians who responded indicated a positive illustration for the dimension; they were highly probable to acknowledge the fact that the minority group was well represented in all the important committees in the campus with a proportion of eighty percent (80 %) compared to twenty one percent (21 %) from the other religion.
Regarding comfort and belonging to Chiromo campus, Christians were more probable to indicate a high perception of comfort and sense of belonging that their counter parts with a portion of ninety one point seven percent (91.7 %) compared to thirty three point three percent (33. 3 %) for those in other religion (Hammarth, 2000).
There was no relevant difference based on sexual orientation. However, it is worth noting that a low rate of less than on percent (>1 %) of response for those in the group of sexual minority deters us from observing any difference.
Overall results have an implication that twenty two percent (22 %) of the respondents have a perception of hostile climate when it comes to the sexual minorities and thirty percent (30 %) indicated on occasion perceiving materials that are insensitive when it comes to the sexual minorities (Cohen, 2003).
Where as no difference on the campus climate dimensions was established basing on gender, nineteen percent (19 %) of the women indicated an experience of unfair treatment that was gender based compared to ninety nine percent (99%) of men who indicated no experience of unfair treatment that was gender based.
Though the study indicated majority positive rating on the dimensions of campus climate, deep analysis unveils significant difference when data is analyzed on the basis of individual characteristics. More emphasis is on the disability status of the individual, the religion, and ethnicity background. Negative views on the dimensions of campus climate are held by individuals from those individuals with disability, racial minorities and those recorded to belong to other religions other than Christianity.
A part from the difference indicated between different groups of individuals' perception on campus climate, the study also shades light on the different experiences perceived on comfort levels and the sense of belonging to the larger Chiromo community (Cabrera, 1994). For instance it's only those from racial majority that experienced fair or good treatment and overall a perception of good emphasize on comfort and belonging to the community.
The major importance of these findings is to assist Chiromo campus in its ability to admit/ recruit members and retain them at the same time in an integrated society. Emerging from the study is the sensitive nature of factors such as racial, religion and disabilities which must be bone with care in order to have a healthy campus climate.
This study highlights the following steps that the campus can pursue to ensure a healthy climate (Carroll, 1989).
I. Auditing should be done in all the important committees to ensure representativeness of all the sub groups of the campus environment.
II. The campus must expand (recruit) its members with special attention being paid to discrimination.
III. There is need for development that is professional oriented with regards to discrimination, civility and awareness of cultural factors.
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