Post Classifieds

Faculty seek answers in discrimination survey

By April Jackson
On April 25, 2012

Discrimination may seem like a thing of the past, but recent events on campus have brought the issue to light.

Two faculty members leaving based on claims of discrimination has prompted the creation of a survey designed for students, faculty and staff.

Though Donna Dillingham-Evans, vice-president of academic services, did not identify the faculty members or the department they left, she said the faculty members did have concerns regarding discrimination. She also said there was surprise at the circumstances of the departure, but it was too early to tell how much discrimination may exist on campus, which is why the survey was created.

Dannelle Larsen-Rife, assistant professor of psychology and the chair of the social sciences department, along with Kristine Olson, an assistant professor of psychology, are the authors of the survey. Larsen-Rife said nobody knows how much discrimination exists on campus.

The survey addresses discrimination toward varied groups, including gender, ethnicity, race, religion, economic status, parental status, veteran status, physical disability, physical appearance and social orientation. Larsen-Rife also said the survey will ask students about intentional vs. non-intentional discrimination. It will also be distributed this summer and next fall, with the results released next spring.

Students can find the link to the survey in their Dmail accounts, and it should take 25 to 30 minutes to take. Participants in the survey will be entered for the chance to win one iPad, two Kindles, and a gift certificate from the bookstore, as well as other DSC items.

Larsen-Rife said embracing diversity and eliminating discrimination are key in providing the best possible learning environment for students.

"Having classes and a community where there are people with different kinds of backgrounds enhances the learning experience," she said.

Larsen-Rife said studies in psychology have shown that being around different people helps increase acceptance.

"In the classroom, it enhances critical thinking," she said. "It can help promote effective communication."

A diverse campus will also help students prepare for the real world, Larsen-Rife said. She pointed out different instances where understanding different communication methods in different cultures could be vital. For example, some cultures cultures greet each other with kisses on the cheek as opposed to handshakes.

"We're living in a global and multicultural society," she said. "We're helping to prepare our students to enter that society successfully."

Larsen-Rife also said another goal of the survey, which is aimed at students, faculty and staff, is to look at possible discrimination at every level of campus, as well as in the wider community.

"We want students and faculty to feel comfortable on campus and in the community," she said.

As for discrimination at Dixie, Larsen-Rife said the first step was to understand the data and what's really going on.

"[There] may be people on campus who don't know there's a problem," she said. "The first step is really awareness."

However, some students on campus believe people have the responsibility to educate themselves.

"People know when they feel uncomfortable," said Shirlee Draper, a junior pre-social work major from Colorado City, Ariz. "If they get uncomfortable, that should be a sign they're close-minded."

Yvonee Chen, a senior nursing student from Alhambra, Calif., said her international student friends often receive strange attention.

"People will drive by them and yell, 'Hey Asians!'" she said. "They feel like they're looked down on.

Draper said people need to make the conscious effort to open their minds, while for Chen, it all boils down to respect.

"Even if you lack the resources to be educated about other cultures, you can still be respectful," she said.  

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