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What Is Campus Climate

A campus climate in which everyone thrives is a campus community that demonstrates an appreciation for both the importance of having a diverse faculty, staff, administrators, and student body, as well as an inclusive climate.

Susan Rankin
Dr. Susan Rankin

Campuses that are inclusive take concrete steps to ensure that everyone impacted by decisions and practices are taken into consideration and respected.

Why is it important?

Cal Poly has never done a comprehensive baseline study about its campus climate. As President Armstrong said in his 2013 fall conference speech,


 "If we are going to succeed in meeting our goals, it's vital that we enhance our campus climate. Studies show that faculty, staff, and students who work and learn in a healthy environment feel supported and thus are more likely to be successful. Our goal is to have the healthiest campus climate we can possibly have. Anecdotal information indicates that we have work to do — our campus climate can be improved. … The survey's purpose is to obtain baseline information about how campus constituents — faculty, staff, and students — experience Cal Poly."


With this survey, we will learn what our current campus climate is and we can begin strategically making improvements. We aspire to be the nation’s premier comprehensive polytechnic university and one way in which we will accomplish this is through our strategic imperative to "foster diversity and cultural competency in a global context." We need to understand how well we are fostering diversity. In addition, we need to know how culturally competent and sensitive we are. We need to identify challenges we face with inclusivity to ensure that within the global context, our faculty, staff, and students can succeed, personally and professionally.

How campus climate impacts faculty, staff, and students:

Scholarly research supports the intuitive belief that the environment in which we work and learn impacts our abilities to flourish. Research shows that it can be more challenging for students to meet learning outcomes in environments perceived to be negative and/or discriminatory.

Faculty and staff members are also affected by campus climate. Workplace research suggests that the healthier the workplace, in general, the more likely it is individuals will develop both personally and professionally. Furthermore, research indicates that in the academic environment, the more positively faculty members view their campus climate, the greater the likelihood that they believe their campus organization is supportive of their scholarly and pedagogical efforts.


Cabrera, A. F., Nora, A., Terenzini, P. T., Pascarella, E., & Hagedorn, L. S. (1999). Campus racial climate and the adjustment of students to college: a comparison between White students and African-American students (pdf). The Journal of Higher Education, 70(2), 134-160. doi: 10.2307/2649125


Harper, S. R., & Hurtado, S. (2007). Nine themes in campus racial climates and implications for institutional transformation. New Directions for Student Services(120), 7-24. doi: 10.1002/ss.254


Higher Education Research Institute. Diverse Learning Environments: Assessing and Creating Conditions for Student Success Retrieved August 15, 2010


Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research (pdf). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Rankin, S. R. (2003). Campus Climate for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered People: A National Perspective (pdf). New York, NY: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.


Settles, I. H., Cortina, L. M., Malley, J., & Stewart, A. J. (2006). The climate for women in academic science: The good, the bad, and the changeable. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 47-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2006.00261 » LINK


Silverschanz, P., Cortina, L., Konik, J., & Magley, V. (2007). Slurs, snubs, and queer jokes: Incidence and impact of heterosexist harassment in academia. Sex Roles, 58, 179-191. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9329-7


Waldo, C. (1999). Out on campus: Sexual orientation and academic climate in a university context. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26, 745-774. doi: 10.1023/A:1022110031745

Dr. Rankin is a leading authority in campus climate assessments and in that capacity, she is the lead consultant on Cal Poly’s campus climate task force. To learn more about Dr. Rankin and her associates, visit her web site here:

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