Frequently Asked Questions

Aerial view of campus

What is campus climate, and how do we define it?

At UMass Amherst, campus climate is defined by:

  • Perceptions of the inclusiveness of the campus community overall
  • Experiences and interactions within classrooms, schools/colleges, workplace environments, and the surrounding community
  • Experiences and interactions shaped by social identity
  • Perceptions of the university’s response to unfair treatment
  • Changes needed to make UMass Amherst a more welcoming and inclusive place for all

It is the state of the atmosphere at our campus, and is influenced by individual experiences by students, staff and faculty from all backgrounds.

What is our aspirational climate?

Our aspirational climate tells us where we want to go; it’s our ideal UMass Amherst environment. We define this as an environment that protects intellectual exploration, advances mutual respect and promotes inclusivity in the classroom, workplace and on campus.

We have described an aspirational environment as one where all members of our community can thrive. This can happen when:

  • Everyone feels respected.
  • Everyone believes they are valued.
  • Everyone believes their contributions matter.
  • Individuals choose to be in their role daily and take ownership of their contributions.
  • Individuals perceive their work or classroom environment as fair.

What is the Campus Climate Survey?

In November 2016, UMass Amherst conducted a Campus Climate Survey, a web-based questionnaire that asked students, staff, and faculty about the attitudes, perceptions and standards of the UMass Amherst community. We wanted to assess whether our values were reflected in the daily experience of members of the campus community in order to better understand the challenges of creating an environment that is respectful and inclusive for all.

What is the timeline of the campus climate study/survey?

The Campus Climate Survey and Study is ongoing. Here is an overview of some of the major events that have taken place thus far.

  • In November 2016, the Campus Climate Survey was distributed.
  • In May 2017, the preliminary Campus Climate Survey results were released. This included an executive summary [PDF] and an abridged report.
  • In February 2018, we released the Campus Climate Unit Reports, which highlighted areas of strength and weakness for each school, college and executive area.
  • In February 2018, we also announced the creation of Campus Climate Improvement Grants, which fund projects and activities—created by students, staff and faculty—that actively foster engagement and build community. 
  • In February 2018, we announced the development of a Campus Climate Ambassador Team who also helped reshape the campus climate both within units and across the institution. The teams include faculty, staff and students who engage with their peers in purposeful conversations about areas for improvement and meaningful ways to make change and help the community build skills around respectful dialogue and active listening.
  • In March 2018, the fist cohort of recipients for the Campus Climate Improvement Grants were announced. Grants have been distributed every semester since March to new cohorts.
  • In April 2018, the final Campus Climate reports were released for undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff. These reports review data that is unique to each population (undergraduate students, graduate students, staff, and faculty) and provide the opportunity to learn about the daily experiences of our campus community in their own words.

What’s a climate advisor?

Climate advisors are individuals who have been selected for a one-year appointment to work with unit leaders on next steps of the Campus Climate Survey and Study. Climate advisors ensure that units meet campus objectives on time. Each unit has one climate advisor.

What’s a campus climate ambassador?

Campus climate ambassadors are individuals who volunteered and were vetted centrally to help lead conversations about steps the institution can take to improve its overall campus climate. More than 40 ambassadors received training in facilitation by Workforce Learning and Development as well as the Ombuds Office. The training prepared ambassadors to lead structured discussions within assigned areas on campus. Ambassadors facilitate or co-facilitate small, peer group conversations—called climate conversations—with students, staff and faculty within schools, colleges and executive areas.

What is the relationship between the climate advisor and climate ambassadors?

  • The climate advisor has the important task of facilitating the discussions with the units and to engage as a partner with the unit leader in the communication of those discussions. The climate advisor is appointed by the unit leader.

  • The climate ambassador program is administered by the Office of Equity and Inclusion. They will receive training from Human Resources and the Ombuds Office on facilitation. They will work to engage their peers on learning their ideas for improving climate in their units as well as the university at large. They will share their learning with the Chancellor, the Associate Chancellor, and in a campus-wide report-out in May.

What are climate/community conversations?

Climate and community conversations are small, facilitated, peer group discussions about the challenges we face individually and institutionally in the UMass community.

In spring 2018, they were structured in a way to help identify unit goals by enabling groups to reflect together on what needs to happen at the unit level to move the university toward its aspirational climate. These conversations took place during the spring 2018 semester. Learn more about community conversations.

In spring 2019, community conversations explored ideas around dignity and respect, the challenges and fears we face when having difficult or sensitive conversations, what this means for us individually and collectively, and how we can work to create a campus environment that rejects hate and embraces our ideals of respect, dignity, and inclusion. This model of climate conversation will continue in fall 2019 and spring 2020. 

How can I participate in a climate conversation?

Details of dates, times, and locations of your unit’s climate conversations will be made available when scheduled in the fall and spring. Registration will be required.

What’s a unit and unit leader?

Units are the term we use to refer to your school, college or executive area. Examples include the Commonwealth Honors College; University Relations; and Research and Engagement.

Your unit leader is your dean or vice chancellor.

How can I apply for a Campus Climate Improvement Grant?

Campus Climate Improvement Grants fund projects and activities—created by students, staff and faculty—that actively foster engagement and build community.

Grants will be awarded on an annual or bi-annual basis, beginning with the 2018-19 academic year.