UMass Amherst Campus Climate Survey 2021: Sense of Belonging Matters in Important Ways
In November 2021, all UMass Amherst students and employees were invited to participate in a Campus Climate Survey (CCS) to help the university better understand the challenges of creating a respectful and inclusive campus environment. The confidential online survey was developed in-house and achieved robust response rates for three of the four target populations: undergraduates (42%), graduate students (39%), and faculty (49%)*. For each of these groups, demographic characteristics of survey participants closely match those of the corresponding target population, suggesting that a high level of demographic representativeness was achieved. (See * below for more information on staff participation).
As illustrated, vast majorities of students, staff, and faculty feel like they belong at UMass Amherst to at least some extent. Faculty were most likely to indicate feeling like they belong “to a great extent,” whereas graduate students were least likely to do so. Without exploring breakdowns by additional social identity aspects, it would be easy to mistakenly conclude that sense of belonging at UMass Amherst is universally high among community members. Later in this report we provide a breakdown by race/ethnicity and explore results for some intersected identity aspects to show how sense of belonging varies among social identities. Follow the links for each population to see results for the four questions related to Sense of Belonging by selected demographics:
*It is important to note that participation among Service/Maintenance (SM) and Skilled Crafts (SC) staff members was very low –10 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Because SM and SC staff constitute more than one-third of all staff at the university, their low participation rates negatively impacted the demographic representativeness of the staff survey results. The CCS research team determined that representation of SM and SC staff in the data set was so inadequate that it compromised the accuracy of staff results for the university overall, as well as for A&F, the executive area in which most SM and SC staff members work. The research team therefore made the difficult decision to exclude A&F staff data from all quantitative reports on the staff results. Because survey participation rates for staff in nearly all of the university’s other nine executive areas were quite robust (e.g., 53% for Academic Affairs and SACL, 48% for Research and Engagement), the staff data for these areas are demographically representative and worthy of sharing. To learn more about the methods and procedures used to conduct the CCS, and obstacles to enlisting participation among SM and SC staff, please consult CCS 2021 Background and Methods.
The 2021 Campus Climate Survey was conducted and analyzed by the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment (OAPA) and was sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion. This report, UMass Amherst Campus Climate Survey 2021: Sense of Belonging Matters in Important Ways was written by OAPA and contains their thematic findings.
For a deeper dive into the sense of belonging by various populations and other themes, please explore the sections below.
Why We Conduct This Survey
At UMass Amherst, diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to our mission, our values, and our success. We conduct the Campus Climate Survey every several years to assess whether our values are reflected in the daily experience of students, faculty, staff, and visitors in order to better understand the challenges of creating an environment that is respectful and inclusive for all. The survey data collected will guide our process for diversity strategic planning in specific and tangible ways, including campus policies, priorities, and distribution of resources.
Backgrounds and Methods
In fall 2021, all UMass Amherst students and employees were invited to participate in a Campus Climate Survey to help the university better understand the challenges of creating a respectful and inclusive campus environment. The survey was sponsored by the university’s Office of Equity and Inclusion and conducted by the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment. The survey included a set of core questions about campus climate perceptions and experiences at UMass Amherst, and items about social identity aspects.
Sense of Belonging Correlates With Overall University Experience
Belonging is widely recognized as an important concept for understanding campus climate. Studies at UMass Amherst and nationally find that individuals’ sense of belonging is tied to their overall evaluation of the campus environment and their institutional commitment.
Commonalities and Differences in a Sense of Belonging
A vast majority across all four populations (around 90%) report feeling like they belong to the UMass community at least “to some extent.” However, the percent who feel like they don’t belong at all exceeds 20% for some social identity groups. This section breaks down the demographics of sense of belonging.
Experiences Associated with Sense of Belonging
Analysis of sense of belonging in relation to survey participants’ experiences with unfair treatment provides insight to this question. Respondents were asked if they had experienced unfair treatment based on a range of specific social identity aspects.
Factors That Relate to a Stronger Sense of Belonging
The survey included additional indicators of “belonging,” including the extent to which individuals have a good support network, have a mentor or role model, and feel like they can openly share their point of view.