Editor’s Note: Students and employees at 22 of Virginia’s Community Colleges should have received an email Monday, inviting their participation in the VCCS’s first-ever statewide Campus Climate Survey. (NOVA completed the survey last year.)
Our colleges are working with a leading outside vendor to gather information anonymously. The goal is to develop an honest assessment. The survey is open until end of day April 23, but please don’t put it off.
If you have questions, or haven’t received your link to the survey, employees should contact your college’s Human Resources leader. The student links should appear on Canvas. Other questions can be directed to Carla Kimbrough, VCCS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer: email@example.com
An Open Letter to All VCCS Faculty and Employees:
The Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee (CFAC) requests that our fellow faculty members encourage their students and colleagues to complete the climate survey that they received this week.
This past year of COVID-19 has challenged us as no other, but the distribution of vaccines promises a glimmer of hope that we will conquer the pandemic and return to our classrooms. Unfortunately, there has been no vaccine yet devised to counter pervasive discrimination. While the news about COVID offers optimism, we learn everyday of assaults on African American and Asian American citizens. As that is occurring, all too many states are passing restrictive voting legislation that make it more challenging for the poor to participate in open and free elections.
Education is the best vaccine against prejudice. The climate survey seeks the feedback of a broad range of groups including veterans and international students, and examines topics such as whether our colleges foster a community open to religious and political differences. NOVA has already completed the survey and 84% of the 1,620 student respondents indicated that faculty created a safe and welcoming environment in the classroom. Still, as one of the largest majority minority colleges in the nation, NOVA’s retention rate for students of color is too low. As Dr. Nathan Carter, NOVA’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, states, “we cannot fix a problem that we cannot see” and the climate survey helps “unlock the places where more work is needed.”
In the mid-1960’s, the Voting Rights Act abolished Virginia’s poll tax at about the same time that our community colleges were created. Brave leaders like the late Congressman John Lewis, who I had the pleasure to interview as part of a VCCS grant, were brutally beaten in the same year, 1965, that NOVA first opened its doors to students.
Just as the elimination of Virginia’s poll tax opened voting to the long disenfranchised, the community colleges created a safe haven for students who had never before had the opportunity to achieve an education.
Over five decades later, we face new problems that threaten to compromise past accomplishments. The Chancellor’s Summit, “Razing Our Monuments: Race to Equity,” created a much-needed dialogue to help us meet those new challenges. CFAC realizes that faculty are burned out and “zoomed” out. We hope, however, that they will find time to encourage their students and colleagues to complete the climate survey.
Consistent with the new strategic plan, Opportunity 2027, it will help our colleges become an even better place to learn and work.
Charles Errico, Ph.D.
Carla Kimbrough prepared a PowerPoint deck with slides to promote participation in the Campus Climate Survey. You can download it here.
To learn more about the survey, read Carla Kimbrough’s blog post here.