Messages from the faculty

Faculty letter on campus climate survey

May 30, 2018

Dear President Bounds:

We write this letter in response to the Campus Climate Survey administered by Gallup. When the campus survey was administered in early April of 2018, it was not uncommon that faculty and staff would ask one another questions like “Did you see that survey? Did the wording and questions lead you to ask more questions about whether or not you could complete the survey?” Many colleagues in Ethnic Studies and in other academic units expressed discomfort in regard to completing the survey. Since then, some of us have completed the survey while others have not. However, we all have several concerns that include the following:

  • Several of the questions were worded in ways that were vague, leading, and/or could have multiple meanings, and therefore multiple interpretations.
  • Several of the questions were double or triple-barreled thereby covering multiple topics or issues but only allowing one answer or response option.
  • In addition to double-barreled questions, there were response options that were double-barreled, such as the answers or response options regarding whether certain groups of students are free to express themselves. In these cases the double-barreled answer was something like “does not apply/too few persons on campus”. “Does not apply” and “Too few persons on campus” should be two separate response options. But even these choices are problematic as they fail to adequately capture those who are “too few” and the variability in what respondents may consider “too few”. Furthermore, those who are the “many” answering the surveys could obscure or silence the survey responses of those who are in the minority.
  • Several of the questions contained binary “yes or no”, “good place or not a good place”, “support or oppose” options with a third “don’t know” option tacked on. Instead of such binary logic, more gradational options as well as “cannot respond” and/or “unable to answer” and/or “does not apply” options would have afforded a broader range of choices.
  • There were several questions designed to capture attitudinal information related to students, staff, and faculty but few questions designed to capture attitudinal information related to senior leadership at the level of colleges, NU campuses, or the NU system.
  • There were occasions where space for open-ended responses could have given those taking the survey more space to comment. At the very least, there should have been a question at the end that allowed for an open-ended response.

Here are a few more specific examples of the concepts/words/phrases that were vague, leading, and/or could have multiple meanings:

  • The word/concept “violent” needs further definition. Does “violent” mean symbolic violence via words, flags, emblems, symbols? Or physical, bodily violence?
  • “Shouting down speakers” is unclear. It depends upon what the speaker is saying and whether the group targeted by the speaker is dehumanized by the speaker.
  • Like the word/concept “violent”, the word/concept “violence” is not defined. Perceptions of violence  might determine whether one should use “violence” to stop a speech or protest, and what is perceived as “violence” can differ from person to person. Furthermore, one could answer “Never Acceptable” to the question of whether one should use violence to impede a speech/protest/rally, but this could also assume that the speech/protest/rally is non-violent in regard to causing physical harm to others. If the speech/protest/rally is an incitement to hate crimes and hateful, violent actions, then those targeted have the right to self-defense.
  • The question about “attention to protests making college campuses seem less embracing of diversity than is the case” is also confusing. Attention by whom? In other words, who is calling attention to the protests? The person, group, organization, entity, etc., calling attention to the protest(s) could impact how people respond to news about the protests.

The points above are just a few of the concerns raised about the Campus Climate Survey. We respectfully request that someone from the President’s Office address our concerns.

In addition to our concerns about the survey questions, we would like more transparency about and answers to the following questions: 

  1. Were any focus groups conducted to provide substance for the survey?
  2. Who worded and formatted the survey questions?
  3. What methodological approaches or strategies were employed to increase the reliability and validity of survey findings?
  4. Who will be interpreting the results?
  5. What is the ultimate purpose of the survey?

While we support the potential utility of a Campus Climate Survey, the current survey appears to have too many conceptual and methodological flaws to yield viable results.

Sincerely,

Faculty of the Institute for Ethnic Studies

 

In addition to the general signature of the Faculty of the Institute for Ethnic Studies, the persons below have signed as individual faculty and/or staff. Signatures are listed in alphabetical order.

Marco Abel
Professor of English and Film Studies

Christina E Brantner
Associate Professor of German

Stephen M. Buhler
Aaron Douglas Professor of English

Joy Castro
Professor, English and Ethnic Studies

Matt Cohen
Associate Professor, Department of English

Jennine Capó Crucet
Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies

Lory J. Dance
Associate Professor of Sociology and Ethnic Studies
Associate Director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies

Dr. Kwame Dawes
Chancellors Professor of English
Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner
Department of English

Kwakiutl L. Dreher
Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies

Christina Falci
Associate Professor of Sociology

Amanda Gailey
Associate Professor, Department of English

Thomas C. Gannon
Associate Professor of English & Ethnic Studies

Jose Eduardo Gonzalez
Assoc. Prof of Modern Languages and Ethnic Studies

Maureen Honey
Professor of English
Women’s and Gender Studies Affiliate

Jeannette E. Jones
Associate Professor of History and Ethnic Studies

Patrick D. Jones
Associate Professor of History and Ethnic Studies

Alice J. Kang
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science and Institute for Ethnic Studies

Frances W. Kaye
Professor, Department of English
Affiliate Professor, Institute for Ethnic Studies

Tom Lynch
Professor
Dept. of English

Debbie Minter
Department of English

Amelia M.L. Montes
Associate Professor, English and Ethnic Studies
2017/2018 Fulbright Scholar

Helen A. Moore
Emerita Professor of Sociology
Affiliate: Women's and Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies 

Dr. Guy Reynolds
Department of English. Director, Cather Project

Timothy Schaffert
Associate Professor, Department of English

Julia Schleck
Associate Professor, Department of English

Shari Stenberg
Professor of English

Cynthia Willis-Esqueda
Associate Professor of Psychology and Ethnic Studies  

Statement on White Supremacy on Campus

Recently, controversy has grown on our campus over the presence of a student who is an active, avowed white supremacist.  This student maintains an active presence in a variety of online white supremacist networks and was photographed as a participant in the recent Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazi rally that resulted in the killing of one anti-racist counter-demonstrator and the beatings of several others.      

In the context of this campus controversy, the faculty of the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln affirms its historic and on-going commitment to academic freedom, diversity and social justice, as well as its staunch opposition to ideologies of ignorance, discrimination and hate, particularly as those ideologies manifest in a culture of fear and intimidation on our campus and in the broader community, or encourage, threaten or elicit violent behavior. 

Our scholarly work uniquely situates us to understand and mark the dynamic tensions between first amendment rights, disparate power and the real, historic and on-going threat posed by white nationalism and white supremacy on our campus, in our state, across the country and globally.  The historical well of white supremacy in the United States is deep, as is the intimate connection between hateful ideas and tragic outbursts of racist violence.  Faculty research in each of our sub-programs - the African and African American Studies Program, the Native American Studies Program and the Latino and Latin American Studies Program – testifies to the particular ways white supremacy has played out against African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other people of color throughout U.S. history.  Our current predicament is not in isolation from this much longer, tragic story of the American experience.     

We also know that many students, particularly students of color, feel frustrated, angry and scared as a result of threatening rhetoric deployed by this student in a recent video.  These are all understandable and legitimate responses to the presence of white supremacy in our academic community and society-at-large.  The faculty at the Institute for Ethnic Studies remains committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for our students and stands in solidarity with those feeling vulnerable as a result of the current racial climate on our campus.  

We will continue to work with the university administration, students and community members to create an academic community that not only fosters the free flow of competing ideas, but also a community that protects the well-being and safety of all of its members, particularly students of color and those from other historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.  We stand with them against the tangible, imminent consequences resulting from white supremacy and white nationalism.  

DACA

The Institute for Ethnic Studies is proud to stand with DACA students at this university and everywhere they may be. We support their dreams and affirm their beliefs and aspirations for a better life.