UW-Madison campus climate survey shows little change, but disparities remain in marginalized groups

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Bascom Hall on April 10, 2022. WISC-TV/Channel3000.

MADISON, Wis. — Roughly three-quarters of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison feel welcome and safe on campus, but disparities remain among those in marginalized groups, initial results from the university’s 2021 Campus Climate Survey show.

The survey, conducted in the fall, saw more than 13,000 students weigh in on their experiences and perceptions of the university. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they felt welcomed on campus, 76% felt respected and 77% felt safe. Students of color, those with disabilities and those in the LGBTQ+ community felt less positively about their experiences by roughly the same margins as in a 2016 survey.

While the results show many metrics remained similar between surveys in 2021 and 2016, some saw significant declines. The percentage of students who reported feeling very or extremely comfortable calling the UW-Madison Police Department fell from 53% in 2016 to 40%, with most feedback citing general concerns about law enforcement.

The number of students who reported strongly considering leaving the university — 15% — was similar to its 2016 level, but those who were thinking of leaving reported the campus climate or culture was a more significant factor; in 2021, 56% of those respondents said it was a reason, compared with 40% in 2016.

Other metrics improved, including the percentage of students who felt positively or negatively about representing the point of view of their identity in class. Those who responded positively increased from 27% in 2016 to 45% in 2021. The percentage of students who felt their questions or comments were extremely respected by their teaching assistants also rose from 24% to 39%.

“With a few notable exceptions, the results overall were stable from five years earlier, the university said in a news release Monday. “The results come against a backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, a disrupted student experience, and social unrest fueled by the murder of George Floyd.”

In the release, LaVar Charleston, the university’s deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion and the chief diversity officer, thanked students for their participation.

“This is important feedback that will drive future decisions,” Charleston said. “I look forward to having more to share once the full analysis is complete and the task force has had time to dig deeper into the findings and make its recommendations.”

A campus task force is set to convene this month to review the results and make its recommendations by August. A full analysis of the results is expected to come this summer.

Read more about the survey here.

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