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Statement from KU Leadership on the KU Climate Study

Neeli Bendapudi, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Jennifer Hamer, Vice Provost for Diversity & Equity; Mike Rounds, Associate Vice Provost for Human Resource Management
Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 3:18 p.m.
KU Lawrence Faculty, Staff and Affiliates
All KU Lawrence and Edwards Students

Dear students, faculty and staff:

The results of the KU Climate Study survey for the Lawrence and Edwards Campus are both revealing and sobering. The data suggest that most students, faculty, and staff are comfortable with the KU climate. Simultaneously, the results affirm that minoritized and marginalized students perceive greater discomfort and less sense of belonging than their peers. Equally concerning, the findings reveal that, among staff especially, there may be a lack of trust in our processes and decision-making practices.

The report delivered by Rankin & Associates on March 29 identified a number of challenges experienced by our campus community that reflect ongoing conversations at KU as well as other universities around the country. The results will allow administration to sharpen the focus for steps forward and directly inform priorities, develop action plans, and continue the hard work to improve KU’s living, learning, and professional workplace environment.

While a deep analysis of the data continues and will likely reveal additional areas of focus, the survey confirmed a handful of significant issues, the nature of which requires acknowledgement as a priority.

Among the areas in pressing need of improvement:

Exclusionary behavior: Eighteen percent of those who participated in the survey personally experienced exclusionary conduct within the last year at KU. The types of behavior included being shunned or ignored, bullying and harassment, and intimidating or offensive words or behavior. Those students, faculty, and staff who experienced such behavior cited five characteristics that made them a target: gender/gender identity, position status, age, ethnicity, or race. Students were both the top target and the top source of the exclusionary behavior. Only a third of the respondents reported their experience to a KU resource; of those that did, the majority were dissatisfied with our institutional response. 

Retention/turnover: Many student, faculty, and staff respondents say they have seriously considered leaving KU. The percentage of faculty and staff reporting such a consideration is high with 64 percent of faculty respondents and 55 percent of staff respondents having pondered the option. The rates are even higher among respondents from certain racial and ethnic groups and among individuals with disabilities. Staff members report low pay and limited opportunities for advancement as key reasons for their responses. Staff also report concerns about opportunities and about transparency and fairness in evaluations. Faculty members indicated low pay and positions at other institutions as the top reasons for their responses. Undergraduate students said their top three reasons for considering leaving are (in order): a lack of sense of belonging, a climate that was not welcoming, and financial concerns.

Unwanted sexual conduct: A small but meaningful number of respondents experienced a range of unwanted sexual conduct while at KU, and 2 percent, the majority of which were students, reported unwanted sexual contact. Of those students reporting unwanted sexual contact, 72 percent indicated alcohol was involved. The contact was most likely to occur during the fall semester of an undergraduate’s first year. Regrettably, only 12 percent of individuals who said they experienced unwanted sexual contact reported it to KU offices.

Moving forward

The KU Climate Study survey findings make clear that we must become an institution more expressly concerned with the welfare, potential, and success of each and every member of our KU community. The findings also affirm the reality that differences in the Jayhawk experience persist and are most negative for minoritized and marginalized students, faculty, and staff.

KU strives to be a place characterized by openness, fairness, and equal access for all students, staff, and faculty. Yet, words of promise alone will not lead to change.  In recent months and years, the university began to address issues confirmed in the survey results through a number of significant activities, such as student engagement efforts, the classification and market study for staff, and expanded leadership development opportunities for faculty. Across this institution many have participated in diversity, equity, and inclusion related discussions, planning, and implementation, as well as taken part in the Climate Study process and survey. Collectively, these efforts have sought to address KU’s goal to do better by our students, faculty, and staff.

As KU leadership, we can and will transform our university into a better place for intellectual life, learning, and work.

In the days ahead, the Office for Diversity and Equity will work with the Office of Institutional Research and Planning to develop unit-level summary reports of the Climate Survey data, which we anticipate will be available in June. We will reach out to work collaboratively with units — such as the professional schools, the College, and others — to identify priorities, outline action steps, and establish a timeline for implementation and transparent processes by which deans and other administrators can regularly inform their respective communities.

While we all must realize the individual role we each play in creating and maintaining a better university, KU leaders are accountable for directing transformational actions and meeting our collective goals. KU as an institution is responsible for our collective past. Together, we are all responsible for creating the future. 

Neeli Bendapudi
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Jennifer Hamer
Acting Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity

Mike Rounds
Associate Vice Provost for Human Resource Management


Significant KU-Climate Related Activities Established or Underway

  • The Office of First-Year Experience has worked collaboratively with partners across campus to strengthen programs designed to ensure more students feel engaged with campus people and offices, and persist in their college education.
  • The Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center is working to educate students and others about unwanted sexual conduct, the importance of consent, and available resources for victims of sexual violence. 
  • The Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access offers assistance and protective measures to campus community members who experience harassment, sexual misconduct, discrimination and retaliation. The office recently launched a “Speak Up” campaign to encourage members of the KU community to report discriminatory behaviors.
  • The university recently dedicated the Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military Affiliated Student Center in Summerfield Hall. Each year, the center assists hundreds of U.S. military affiliated students with services that help them succeed at KU.
  • Human Resource Management has called upon KU’s own expertise to redesign and launch leadership development and professional development tracks for staff members.
  • Leaders in Faculty Development recently expanded professional development aimed at bolstering administrative experience and leadership pathways for faculty.
  • The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the professional schools have heightened their attention to and understanding of inclusive classrooms and student-focused policies.
  • Videos on safety, counseling, and psychological services and other information that enhance wellness for students, faculty, and staff have been created and will be available by summer.
  • Student Senate has plans to implement cultural competency training as an expectation for student leadership.
  • The College, in collaboration with several university offices, began CLAS Time, a weekly opportunity to bring students together for conversation, lunch, and community building.
  • Faculty, staff, and student senates have each established diversity committees and the Provost Office has established the independent Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Advisory Group.
  • The Office of Diversity and Equity and the Office of Graduate Studies hosted the Diverse Graduate Students Social to encourage community and belonging among marginalized graduate students.
  • A website with information and resources for undocumented students is in development and will be in place by the start of the fall semester.
  • International Student Services and International Programs are revising orientation for international students at all levels to better support their transition to KU.


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