Climate change is coming and I, for one, am happy about it. Not because my grandkids’ grandkids will inherit a lovely piece of beachfront property in Winter Park when sea levels rise, but because the climate I am talking about is the Rollins climate: the living, learning, and working environment we all share.
The Office of the Provost, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and the Diversity Advisory Council are co-sponsoring a climate survey to learn about the experiences of students at Rollins. Your chief officers for academics and student affairs on this campus have come together to say that they want to make more informed decisions about how to spend money, energy, and time.
Between April 7-18, you will see posters, receive e-mails, and see students wearing buttons talking about how your voice counts. As co-chair of the Diversity Advisory Council (a group that reports directly to the Provost) and a faculty member in the English department, I want to share a few reasons why I need you to fill out the survey and encourage others to do so.
Student stories about your experience on campus are the most powerful evidence I can cite to sway a group of colleagues. In every single meeting I attend, someone will relate something shared by a student—an opinion about a book they have been assigned, or whether they felt prepared for a job interview, or a positive experience with an office on campus. When this happens, the whole room stops to listen. It may show up in different ways, but all of us have made the choice to work on a college campus, especially a highly relational place like Rollins, because we want to support students.
Sometimes, though, I feel lost in trying to capture student experience as a whole, if such a thing even exists. As we change the curriculum in the English major and think about our world literature requirement, for example, I often wonder if a multicultural literature course would serve the same goal of diversifying student knowledge. The survey will ask about the curriculum and how it meets your needs. As we re-imagine general education or reshape majors, we can use this information to direct our efforts.
In committee meetings, I help make decisions about how money is spent and what programs are supported. If students complete the survey and tell us that they feel unsafe on campus because of the threat of sexual assault, we will know we need to spend money and time to train and educate students more effectively. If international students reflect feeling alienated by unthinking assumptions made by staff and faculty, we will spend time there. While we have some educated guesses about what you might say, we really need students to come forward confidentially and relate your experiences.
A strong student voice coming from this survey can make a change during your remaining time at Rollins. For seniors, you will leave a legacy for future classes. Your voice will not disappear—we will report on the results in public this fall, in addition to the many ways we will cite your comments and responses in meetings, when designing syllabi, and scheduling programming.
Climate change at Rollins is in your hands.
Dr. Emily Russell is an Associate Professor of English, who has taught at Rollins since 2007. Russell’s field is American literature with an emphasis in 20th and 21st century fiction, the multiethnic novel, and theories of embodiment. In addition to being a faculty member, Russell is co-chair of the Diversity Advisory Council.