In August 2017, the University of Toledo conducted a survey to understand diversity and inclusion on campus.
The survey was modified from its 2016 version “to gain a deeper understanding of the University’s inclusive environment, and in efforts toward continuous improvement”, according to the survey report.
However, a previous article printed by the Independent Collegian titled, “Inclusion survey isn't accurate, students say”, found that students did not agree with the findings.
Many student leaders, including those representing the Black Student Union and Latino Student Union, said they felt that this survey did not accurately represent their experiences.
However, a university spokesperson stated that the number surveyed was an accurate sample size to depict the general student experience.
The survey report stated that out of a population size of 24,642 (based on the count of email invitations to the campus community), a sample of 1,023 was necessary for accurate results.
With 8 percent of the student body responding to the survey, we found that the survey report’s claim is accurate, as that is a statistically significant representation of the UT student population.
However, this is not what the students are asking for.
We have found that the actual contact between student leaders and the general student body, who experience issues with inclusion, is not always there.
On top of that, students who may be experiencing inclusion issues, such as racism, sexism, homophobia or any religious discrimination, do not have a clear avenue to address these problems or to influence wider university policy change.
That's what needs to change.
Right now, a student who is facing racism by a professor in their economics class does not have a route to address this problem, other than filing a complaint against that professor and often they won’t for a variety of reasons.
These students are not the people that took the inclusion survey, but they are the people who need to be addressed and student leaders are the best way.
While leaders of student organizations representing marginalized groups do not and should not be considered representative of the entire group, these student leaders are more aware of the specific issues experienced by their community.
If, once a month, these student groups were encouraged to bring lists of issues, cases of discrimination or suggestions to changes at UT, to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we may see a change.
Dr. Willie McKether, the vice president of Diversity and Inclusion, has stated that his door is always open to those who wish to talk and, from our experience, it really is.
McKether has done a wide range of things to help influence diversity and inclusion at UT, including the creation of the Diversity Dialogues, which are discussions run by student leaders about various divisive issues.
However, leaders of marginalized groups are leading these events, not sitting in on them and expressing their opinions.
There needs to be a clear chain of communication for student leaders and the general student body to safely express issues of inclusion and to influence university policy to address them.
The inclusion survey may be statistically significant, but statistics mean little to those facing discrimination every day. To make real change, we need to listen to student experiences and act on them.