Faculty take survey on AACC’s diversity, equity


Christina Browning

The college’s Chief Diversity Officer Diedra Dennie sent out a survey to faculty about campus inclusion.

Philip Van Slooten, Reporter

Fewer than half of the faculty and staff members who answered a “campus climate survey” this spring said they believe AACC students feel comfortable reporting discrimination to college administrators.

And fewer than one-third agreed that senior administrators and department leaders are diverse enough to allow them to “achieve/sustain strategic objectives.”

AACC Chief Diversity Officer Diedra Dennie said the survey points to a need for more training of managers and for focus groups of members of the campus community. College President Dawn Lindsay has scheduled a variety of focus groups for May 6 and 7 for faculty and staff who are minorities, veterans, younger than 40, LGBTQ, Caucasian and disabled.

Overall, however, Dennie characterized the survey results as positive. She pointed out that 71 percent of the 776 respondents agreed the “college has no tolerance for discrimination against students based on background/characteristics.”

In addition, she noted 67 percent agreed with the statement, “Employees of different backgrounds [are] able to work together at AACC.”

Still, just 41 percent agreed that “senior leaders demonstrate through actions that inclusion is important.”

Dennie said the results reflect “the work AACC has done and continues to do [with regard to] diversity, inclusion and equity.”

But she added: “Over the course of the upcoming year plans and curriculum will be developed and professional development will be scheduled for all managers, new and seasoned.”

Dennie explained the next steps “include creating an action plan to address opportunities [noted by the survey] and a [designing] a scorecard to monitor progress towards goals.”

Dr. Heather Riordan, a math professor who took the survey, said it’s important for the college to “go beyond compliant” and create a better atmosphere on campus.

“I believe AACC has a responsibility to do better than compliance for our students, and so my students inspire me [to do more],” she said.

But she added: “I love the people I work with. My math faculty, I consider …  family.”

Dave Meng, chair of the English Department, said AACC has a “welcoming atmosphere.”

“I’ve been here 25 years, and one of the comments that I hear from former students is how welcoming the environment here is from the moment they stepped onto campus,” he said. “First-time students who come to the campus don’t know what to expect, and it ends up being a nice surprise.”

Steven White, chair of the Computer Information Systems Department, agreed.

“A climate survey [assesses] a feeling that a climate feels ‘right,’” he said. “Students and employees feel at home; they feel safe around administrators, in the classroom and around their peers.”

Dennie said the purpose of the survey was “to make sure that we are welcoming and that you are valued as an employee … and that we offer an environment where you can grow. We work in education, so you should always have an opportunity to learn and grow as an employee.”

She said a student version of the survey will go out in the fall.

“We haven’t finalized it yet, but we’re looking at questions like: ‘What’s the climate in your classroom? When you go to class, do you feel welcomed, do you feel engaged, do you feel committed? Do you feel valued? Is there space for learning and growth?” Dennie said.

“I would say the experience outside the classroom is a huge part of the college experience,” Meng stated. “Because it’s fun. You get to meet people and there’s lots to do.”

Riordan agreed.

“Experiences outside the classroom will shape your college experience,” she said. “Some of my favorite moments from college, some of the best memories that I have have nothing to do with my classroom experience.”

White said campus climate surveys can help identify and support student needs, so it is important for students to complete them.

The college reported that 43 percent of AACC employees responded to the survey, and Dennie said she hopes a lot of students will participate this fall.