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UNR Students Voice Fear About Campus Climate

Screen shot taken by Stephanie Serrano

The University of Nevada, Reno released the findings of its Speak Your Truth campus climate survey during two forums Wednesday. The results come as the campus is grappling with multiple expressions of hate that have recently occurred. KUNR’s Stephanie Serrano was at the forums and brought back some data and insight on how students are feeling.

A little more than 200 university students and faculty showed up to the first forum to hear survey results that have been anticipated for several months.

The big question I heard from everyone was: “What are they going to do with the data?”

The university contracted Rankin and Associates Consulting in 2018 to create and conduct the survey, which had questions related to campus climate overall, unwanted sexual experiences, perceptions of employment practices and work-life balance.

One initial finding states that a large minority of respondents feel significantly less comfortable with the overall campus climate, including women, people of color and LGBTQ+ community members.

“This campus is built for everyone; everyone who is qualified to go to school here should be a student here and be comfortable being a student here,” UNR President Marc Johnson said. “People from all socioeconomic groups, disability groups, ethnic groups, should feel as though they have a place on this campus.”

Johnson supported the request from students and faculty to conduct this survey.

These results are being released around the same time the campus is dealing with white supremacy propaganda posters that were found in school buildings and scattered throughout books in the school library. One residence hall has also been vandalized with swastikas two times already this semester.

Credit Stephanie Serrano / KUNR Public Radio
KUNR Public Radio
White supremacy propaganda posters were found on bulletin boards in more than five university buildings last week.

This week, Johnson sent out an email to the campus community denouncing the behavior.

One student, Lucas Furrer, is an undergraduate double majoring in journalism and political science. He participated in the survey. He also voluntarily took down one of those posters. As for the campus climate, he says it doesn’t feel too great. He says he wishes the university would have more active policing to address hate groups, instead of condemning these actions through a mass email.

“I would say, people are fearful of what's coming next,” Furrer said. “There's been such a steady stream of activity by these groups, by these individuals, that it makes someone scared of what’s going to happen next, and you see some of the worst case scenarios on TV. You just hope that it doesn't happen here.

Taylor Dupree is a Louisiana native and a PHD student in counseling education at UNR. She started in the fall of 2017, the semester that followed the national exposure of a Nevada student who participated in the Neo-Nazi hate riot in Charlottesville.

“The incident at Charlottesville happened, and I had people from the program that I am currently in emailing me and texting me like, ‘Hey, I just want you to know this is not a representation of our campus. Please don't believe that this is the case for us,’ and I believed them. I was like, 'OK, this is an incident where something happened with someone and the university is going to take the steps that it needs to take,' and since I've been here, I've been wrong,” Dupree said.

Dupree was also a part of a focus group conducted by the university before the survey where she described the microaggressions she says she has faced due to her gender and race as one of two African American women in her program.

Dupree has spent the last three years in Reno. She’s had thoughts of leaving each year, but now says she’s worked too hard and wants to be proud of graduating.

According to the climate survey data, 26% of both undergrad and graduate students have seriously considering leaving the university due to a lack of a sense of belonging.

So, we come back to that big question: What is the university going to do with this data?

Johnson says the survey will help guide what committees need to be developed to improve the living and working life of the institution.

As the university starts this work, students like Furrer and Dupree want to know how their safety concerns will be addressed.

“Well, we do everything we can to investigate these incidents," Johnson said, "and then, if we can find the perpetrators, we will prosecute them, but we encourage everyone to take personal responsibility for safety--you walk in groups and you have these conversations, so we are doing education, we are doing investigation, and prosecute, if we can find perpetrators."

Nearly 6,400 surveys were included in the analysis from a campus that has almost 31,000 people.

As a point of disclosure, the license for the station is owned by the board of regents to the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Stephanie Serrano (she/her/ella) is an award-winning multimedia bilingual journalist based in Reno, Nevada. Her reporting is powered by character-driven stories and is rooted in sound-rich audio. Her storytelling works to share the experiences of unserved communities in regards to education, race, affordable housing and sports.
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