By Sarah Siock
To address issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion on campus, the Rider community was asked to complete a climate survey whose results will help determine programs necessary to support the retention of underrepresented students.
According to Rider’s Chief Diversity Officer Barbara Lawrence, the survey which was emailed to students, faculty, administrators and staff on Feb. 14 — was made possible in part due to a grant from the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.
“That grant is really designed to create programming and support for the retention of underrepresented students… The campus climate survey falls under that grant. That allows us to find out how people here on this campus… feel they have a sense of belonging. Do they feel that they’re included? Do they feel that we are being intentional around diversity, equity and inclusion? And also, experiences on campus,” said Lawrence, who began her role as Rider’s first chief diversity officer in 2021.
The anonymous survey asks questions surrounding the campus’ environment and Rider’s commitment to diversity and equity on campus. Additionally, the survey asks how often campus members have experienced discrimination or harassment and if they know how to report these situations.
Surveyees also provide specifics about their identity such as their race, gender and sexuality. Lawrence said analyses of the survey’s results will be completed by the spring and then shared with the community.
“We are going to examine and follow up on what type of strategies and approaches or programming that we can actually engage in to address some of the results. … If we find that certain groups of individuals report that their experiences are different, then now we have an obligation to address that,” said Lawrence.
Student Government Association (SGA) Equity and Inclusion Committee Chair, Naa’san Carr said he felt the survey supported Rider’s Inclusive Excellence Plan.
“ I thought it was a really good move to improve diversity here, to really get the numbers. Because if you don’t have the numbers, you really don’t know what to change or improve here,” said Carr, a sophomore political science major.
Carr also spoke about Rider’s decision to hire a chief diversity officer.
“It’s a great step in the right direction, especially when talking about diversity here on Rider’s campus. The hiring staff for more people of color here and diversifying Rider as a whole…we are really improving upon that. Having Barbara Lawrence here to help us lead and really help with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and all the other efforts, it really brings us together,” said Carr, who is also a student worker for the CDI.
Lawrence believed the grant from the government may have been created due to the disproportional effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people of color.
“I think that that also was an impetus for the grant, the impact that COVID-19 had on college students. They looked at the data, and they saw that there was a disparate impact on historically underrepresented groups, their success, in college, in life and so on and so forth. It’s designed to continue to provide access and equity to groups who normally and historically are still challenged,” said Lawrence.
Carr said he is hoping to see more opportunities for students of color to express their experiences on campus. Lawrence echoed Carr’s comment by saying that diversity and inclusion efforts are collaborative tasks that require student involvement. Lawrence added that there will be several opportunities for academic affairs to partner with SGA in the future.
“We often look to students to give us the information. Even though that survey is for the entire community, we really pay close attention to what students are saying, because we are here for students primarily, as well as faculty, staff and other support staff. We’re all in this together, ” said Lawrence.