Chancellor's MessagesRonnie D. Green, Ph.D.
A Note from Chancellor Green on the Campus Climate Survey
UNL Students, Faculty and Staff –
During our nearly 150 year journey, our university has remained focused with purpose on our mission of accessible education, cutting edge research and creative activity, and service to Nebraska and beyond.
Recently, there has been considerable national dialogue questioning whether freedom of speech and inclusiveness have been suppressed in higher education. These questions have also manifested themselves locally in various ways.
In response to these issues, Gallup was asked to conduct an NU system-wide survey, which included asking hard questions of ourselves on these and other topics surrounding campus climate. I want to thank all of you who took the time to participate in this important effort. The results of that survey were shared with you earlier today by University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds, myself and the chancellors for UNK, UNO and UNMC.
The results of the survey largely indicate that our broad community of faculty, staff and students believe that the learning environment within the University of Nebraska is robust, positive, healthy, and vibrant. In most cases, we find ourselves very much within the national norms of comparative data.
The results of the survey further affirm that we collectively believe in freedom of speech and academic freedom as fundamentally held values of the University.
The survey also shows some areas where we must seek to better understand and to improve.
We need to ensure that everyone in our university community feels free to express their views – regardless of perspectives shaped by race, gender, political ideology, religious belief, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. Whereas white, Asian and Hispanic members of the broad university community were above national averages in rating our racial climate, it is concerning that ratings from our black students, faculty and staff fell below national averages. There is also a perception that politically conservative members of our community feel less free to express their views, as compared to political liberal members. While our system fares much better in this respect than universities nationally, this is something we need to understand and address.
We need to foster greater personal engagement for our students. Discussion of differing views shouldn’t occur primarily on social media. We want our students to feel free, and to be encouraged, to have these conversations in person – in the classroom and among themselves.
So what are we going to do?
We’re going to dig deeper to better understand the extent of these issues at UNL, and what can be done to address them.
This engagement will be most meaningful if it takes place closest to where the work of our university’s mission occurs. The best ideas, and the best opportunities, will come from the ground up.
I have asked the University’s leadership to immediately review the results of the survey with their colleagues in their units, and be prepared to discuss their ideas in our next leadership town hall meeting. I will then ask them to lead direct conversations in their colleges, departments and divisions – with their faculty, staff and students. And, by the end of 2018, to develop actions to directly address specific areas where improvements are warranted.
I look forward to the opportunity to have constructive conversations about how to further elevate our learning environment in my previously planned visits this fall with our academic and auxiliary units.
The survey results also re-affirmed the importance of several of our ongoing efforts.
- We have been hard at work with the Nebraska Commission of 150 to focus on eight specific areas of our academics and campus life and to chart a long-term, clear strategic plan for our university. That work is being finalized and will be unveiled early next year.
- We developed a “Commitment to Free Expression” and have undertaken many efforts to underscore the importance of free speech, civil discourse and academic freedom. This includes training, workshop and task force opportunities for faculty and staff – of which, many faculty and staff have already participated. It also includes innovative student-led efforts such as the new ConvergeNebraska work that will be kicked-off by ASUN next week. We had our third successful year of Husker Dialogues last week, which have involved more than 3,400 students led by 339 faculty, staff and student volunteers.
- Based on the intensive work across the campus done by Halualani and Associates in 2017, we are implementing important steps to enhance diversity and inclusion. In one such effort, more than 150 faculty and staff engaged over the summer in work groups and have developed concrete recommendations on improving diversity.
- The results of the Gallup survey underscore the need for a Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion. The national search is being conducted and we look forward to having this new cabinet-level leader on campus by next semester.
I am incredibly proud of this university, and humbled every day by the extraordinary people who make up our UNL community. Your tenacity, intellectual curiosity and tremendous achievements inspire us to be even better and bolder. Thank you for your commitment to UNL and, through our learning from this survey, your efforts to make our university all it can be.