University of Missouri-Kansas City leaders on Monday acknowledged the mixed results of a survey about the atmosphere on campus.
The majority of UMKC students, faculty and staff rated their campus “comfortable” or “very comfortable” in the most recent climate study.
But 17 percent of those who took the survey last October said they personally had experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct” because of their ethnicity, age, gender or gender identity.
And 34 percent of respondents said they had seriously considered leaving UMKC.
“While we can take comfort in the fact that our survey results mirror those at other universities and those in society, we have to ask ourselves if that is good enough,” University of Missouri System President Mun Choi said at a town hall-style meeting on campus. “I think the answer is a resounding no. We can do better.”
Susan Rankin, one of the consultants who conducted the study, noted that an unusually high number of people participated in the survey: UMKC had a response rate of 25 percent, she said, while most commuter colleges (UMKC remains such a campus, despite efforts to rebrand itself as an urban campus) have single-digit response rates.
Interim Chancellor and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said diverse and inclusive educational institutions attract top students, faculty and staff.
“Diversity is the recognition that every human being is a unique individual who is different and has something to offer,” Bichelmeyer said. “Inclusion is creating an organization that values people and allows them to grow and flourish into the unique individuals they are.”
Students who seriously considered leaving UMKC reported doing so because they lacked a social life or sense of belonging. Employees considered leaving because of low pay, increased workloads and limited opportunities for advancement – bad news as UMKC faces a perilous budget situation due to declining state aid.
Last month, Bichelmeyer announced a hard hiring freeze; that news followed system-wide layoffs in May. Yet her tone at the town hall was optimistic.
“You’re here because you value what UMKC is to this city,” Bichelmeyer said. “I can’t ask you with any good conscience as interim chancellor and provost to work harder. I have to help you work smarter.”
Town halls for the other campuses in the UM System are scheduled throughout the week.
Editor's note: KCUR 89.3 is licensed by UMKC.
Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.