University defends $21,500 diversity survey price tag

University of Wyoming is paying an outside firm $5,000 to implement a survey, $6,000 for "Survey Result Data Analysis,” and $3,000 for recommendations.

Participants would be asked to what degree they agree with statements like “Racial discrimination is a problem at the University” and “Men are safer than women on campus.”

The University of Wyoming broke down to Campus Reform on Wednesday the $21,500 price tag on a “campus climate survey” its diversity office will be conducting.

Set to be conducted during spring 2019, the survey will collect “baseline data” on the behavior, attitudes, and experiences of university students and employees, UWyo president Laurie Nichols told the campus community in an October email, which Campus Reform obtained. This data will be used to inform the approach by UWyo’s diversity office to create a “more diverse, inclusive, safe, respectful and welcoming campus community,” as well as to foster strategies for “future diversity and inclusion work” at the school.

Nichols invited students to several meetings, where they could help develop questions for the survey.

UWyo tasked a subcommittee with conducting "targeted outreach to different campus constituent groups” for additional help in developing the survey. In December, the subcommittee will begin working on survey development and implementation with outside consulting firm The NCHERM Group LLC, which "offers systems-level solutions for safer schools and campuses,” with a focus on reducing "age, ability, gender, immigration, racial, religious, sex/sexual orientation, veteran status and other forms of harassment and discrimination."  

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The school justified the $21,500 expense of hiring the firm, which will help keep survey participants anonymous, by asserting that the benefits of the program “will last several years,” as the university will own the rights to the developed survey questions and therefore has the ability to conduct the same survey in the future.

UWyo asserts the importance of anonymity as a reason for partnering with NCHERM, but does not clarify how this anonymity would be achieved with hypothetical future surveys. Both the possibility of these future surveys and the anonymity of the participants in the current survey are touted as a justification of the cost of partnering with NCHERM.

The university provided Campus Reform of a breakdown of the $21,500 price tag, with $7,500 going toward the development of the survey, $5,000 dedicated to its implementation, $6,000 allotted to “Survey Result Data Analysis,” and $3,000 to fund NCHERM’s written recommendations.

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“The survey will assess access, equity, diversity, and inclusion for students and employees and identify areas of strength/successes and opportunities for improvement,” UWyo Chief Diversity Officer Emily Monago told Campus Reform. “Research states that creating a campus climate of inclusion is necessary for an institution to excel in teaching, research, scholarship, employment, and living environments.”

Monago stressed UWyo's desire to eliminate “discrimination and harassment” on campus.

While the chief diversity officer clarified that UWyo has not yet finalized the questions for the survey, she provided Campus Reform with some sample questions to give an example of the types of questions students can expect to see.

The sample questions are presented in the form of statements to which participants would be prompted to indicate their level of agreement. These include statements such as “a student’s race is a negative factor in how that student is treated by University faculty,” “Racial discrimination is a problem at the University,” “Men are safer than women on campus,” and “I feel safe and at ease when I think about the students in our campus community.”

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