About a quarter of UC students, faculty and staff reported that they had experienced some exclusionary, intimidating or offensive situations on campus and 9% said those incidents had interfered with their ability to study or work, according to a survey released by the university system Wednesday.
Those results in the long-awaited Campus Climate survey elicited mixed responses from leaders of the 10-campus UC system. They said they were pleased that 73% of UC undergraduates reported feeling comfortable or very comfortable in their classes and just about 6% said they felt uncomfortable. But officials are concerned about the reports of discrimination and isolation.
Among the other findings sure to attract attention: About 6% of undergraduates said they experienced some unwanted sexual contact in the past five years.
The study was commissioned in response to several troubling incidents of racial and religious bias in 2010. Among them was an off-campus party held by UC San Diego students that mocked African Americans, and the spray-painting and carving of swastikas at several locations on the UC Davis campus. In addition, campus protests about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raised tensions between some Muslim and Jewish students.
The survey showed some differences, but not drastic ones, between attitudes of whites and minorities. About 84% of white students and faculty said they were comfortable in their classes compared with about 74% for blacks, Latinos and Asians.
UC Regent Sherry Lansing said UC's goal is to reduce the number of people who report feeling discomfort on campus. "We want a welcoming environment. We know that if 1% feels uncomfortable, that's an environment we don't want," she said.
UC system President Janet Napolitano said the university seeks "to create and to nurture an ethos of respect for others and inclusion for all." That effort should not diminish the spirit of free speech and "robust constructive dialogue." But she urged all student, faculty and staff to maintain civility.
More than 386,000 students, staff and faculty were asked to take the survey, but only about 104,000, or 27%, responded. Some regents expressed concerns that the sampling might be too small, but others said the information appeared accurate and useful. The results seem similar to other surveys conducted at other schools by the consultant, Rankin and Associates, hired by UC.