In an effort to better understand the overall campus attitude, SUNY New Paltz faculty and staff are releasing a climate survey concerning LGBTQ issues on campus.
The survey, which will be distributed to all members of the campus community, is set to be available within the upcoming week. Director of Student Activities and Union Services Michael Patterson has been working closely with the creators of the survey in order to make it available as soon as possible.
“Last fall, a group of faculty and staff got together after the death of Tyler Clemente at Rutgers,” Patterson said. “Some of the faculty were concerned and it lead us to talking about the campus climate.”
Patterson said one of the largest concerns of the faculty is that while New Paltz is seen and considered to be an LGBTQ-friendly campus, the conversation about issues concerning the LGBTQ community are never brought to light. According to Patterson, a campus climate that does not talk about the climate of its community is just as hostile.
President of the New Paltz Queer Action Coalition and third-year dual Women’s Studies and sociology major Cody Hill said one problem on campus he hopes will be addressed in the survey is issues concerning transgender students.
“There aren’t a lot of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and there is no gender-neutral housing,” said Hill. “I think that there’s also a lack of knowledge on trans-issues amongst professors. I know a lot of trans students who have encountered professors that didn’t quite know how to deal with them.”
Assistant Professor Ben Junge, Library Research Coordinator Morgan Gwenwald and Lisa Ostrouch all worked on the survey.
“We had a dialogue, and we realized with some shock and embarrassment, this campus has never actually done any kind of climate survey around sexuality and sexual orientation,” Junge said. “So we talked in the spring and did some research looking at similar campuses across the country and looked at what they have done.”
In order to prepare the survey, members on the committee that were tasked with putting together research findings from other colleges and SUNY schools. The process took an “extensive” amount of time, and homework was done to make sure the survey was able to cover the necessary bases of campus concerns.
“It will be a survey for all students and faculty,” Junge said. “For students, it asks questions on campus life, things like participation in student organizations, living in fraternities and sororities. There’s a stereotype that fraternities are homophobic and who knows, maybe they’re not – this survey will help us understand that. This survey is anonymous and at no point are you asked to identity yourself.”
Patterson said that one of the goals of the survey is to open up a dialogue on issues surrounding the concerns of LGBTQ community. The college, according to Patterson, wants to retain faculty and students and it is necessary for campus to have a positive climate in order to keep people in the New Paltz community.
According to Patterson, promotion and distribution for the survey will have both an electronic and paper component.
“It won’t be through my.newpaltz.edu, but everyone will receive an e-mail encouraging them to take it,” Patterson said. “If folks are concerned about the anonymity associated with an online thing, we welcome people to take the paper survey as well, which will be located in campus locations such as the library and the student HQ desk.”
Patterson said he hopes the survey will reach all members of the campus community, from ground-workers to the president and students. His desire, and the goal of those involved, will be to have the results of the survey published before the Thanksgiving recess.
“I really hope that the results are well-publicized so that if there are problems on this campus for queer students, everyone will be made more aware of them,” said Hill. “The problems are very underlying and they’re not very known by people who aren’t directly affected. This will raise a lot of awareness.”