Students and faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno, value diversity on campus and want to see more of it, according to a survey sent out by Dartmouth College. The survey was sent out from Feb. 15 to March 14 to determine the attitudes of students and faculty towards diversity. The results were revealed on Wednesday, April 19, by university Provost Kevin Carman in an email to the undergraduate students.
According to the PowerPoint containing the results, the survey comes at a time where the demand for diversity by students is consistently growing.
“[The] more difficult demands to satisfy are increasing diversity in student admissions or faculty appointments, as these raise issues of whether positive discrimination can/should be used to achieve greater diversity,” said the context of the survey in the PowerPoint.
Students who participated were randomly assigned to the undergraduate admissions or faculty appointments group. From there, students were shown random profiles of hypothetical candidates and they chose the person they felt should be admitted to or hired by the university.
The undergraduate admissions profiles included information about the candidates’ demographics, socio-economic background, scholarly record and other institutional considerations like extracurricular activities and athletic recruitment.
The faculty appointments profiles provided details of their demographics, scholarly record and other considerations such as what research they have done and where they got their Ph.D.
The members of the faculty that participated in the survey were only shown profiles of faculty appointments based on the same criteria shown to student participants.
Diversity was never mentioned in the survey in order to avoid the bias of choosing someone who could be described as more diverse. Over 1,300 students and 200 faculty members participated in the survey.
The results of the undergraduate admissions survey showed that students had a preference to admitting students from minority races or ethnicities, particularly Native Americans. They also slightly preferred female and non-binary applicants over males. They chose the students that excelled academically, leaning towards the ones in the top percentiles of their high school class rankings or that had high SAT scores. Students overwhelmingly chose candidates that came from lower-income or middle-class families.
The results of the faculty appointments survey showed that students also favored faculty candidates from minority or ethnic backgrounds. They also had a slight preference to female faculty members. They also preferred professors that have tenure or are on track for tenure. Students strongly favored faculty that had excellent research and teaching records.
The 200 faculty members that participated in the survey overwhelmingly chose faculty candidates that were from minority or ethnic groups. They also favored female and non-binary applicants. They preferred professors that either had or were on track for tenure and had excellent teaching and research records.
The survey results note that the sample size of university faculty was very small in relation to the population, but they respondents did not differ their preferences regardless of race or ethnicity.
“UNR students place their highest premium on ‘teaching excellence’. They also show preferences for considering race and gender in faculty appointments,” said the survey results. “In contrast, UNR faculty place a much higher weight on qualities such as race and ethnicity, tenure, research record and undergraduate degree in faculty appointments.”
Diversity on college campuses has become a large issue across the country. Patricia Richard, Chief Diversity Officer at UNR said increasing the diversity of student and faculty improves academic achievement and fosters creativity and innovation.
“University, in both faculty and students, enriches the college experience and better prepares students for their careers in a diverse workforce.”
Blane Harding, director of The Center, Every Student. Every Story agrees with Richard and expanded by pointing out that it is important to introduce students to diversity on a college campus because it is a safe environment to explore, ask questions and build relationships with people that are different than themselves so when they graduate they will already know how to approach diversity.
“The more diverse your campus is, the more diverse the classroom is, the more diverse the student body and faculty is, the better education you’re going to get because if your education isn’t grounded in diversity, especially given the demographics of today’s society and how much is changing every single year, then you’re really not prepared to go out and be a productive member of society,”
Right now, the university student population is at 38 percent diverse and increasing every year with new incoming freshman classes. UNR has the potential to reach 50 percent diverse within a few years, which is a large number for a predominately white institution, according to Harding. However, the university can improve diversity on campus by hiring more diverse faculty as they sit at less than 20 percent diverse.
Provost Carman has created the Faculty Advisory Committee to help come up with ways to hire more diverse faculty. Harding said they also need to come up with ways of how to diversify the administration.
“Diversity simply means difference. It’s that our differences make us stronger,” said Harding. “We need to get to the point where everyone understands they are diverse and they have something to contribute, so their diversity is not any better or any worse than anybody else’s diversity.”
Provost Carman will be presenting the results in the Rita Laden Senate Chambers on Thursday, May 4, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Johnathan Haley will also be presenting the results of the first campus-wide LGBTQ study.
Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.