Volume 79 | Issue 6
November 2011

Survey projects investigate diversity and inclusivity

Recently, related to ACUI’s strategic direction to “be recognized by our members as a multicultural organization,” the Association conducted a two-part investigation into diversity and inclusion within the Association. The first survey asked members to self-report demographic information (ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and educational level), which would provide a baseline of information on how our members identify themselves. The second survey asked members to provide feedback on diversity and inclusion and how these topics should be addressed within the Association.

Members of the Diversity and Inclusivity Work Group helped analyze and compile the responses. The themes that emerged from the data include:

  • Transparency – Members expressed a desire for the Association to be transparent in hiring practices, leadership opportunities, and selection
  • Educational programs, services, and resources – Members would like to see workshops, speakers, webinars, forums, and articles geared toward diversity and inclusion
  • Be intentional and inclusive – Members want to move the conversation from diversity to one of inclusion and celebration of everyone

These data will prove useful in determining where the Association goes from here. The Diversity and Inclusion Work Group members will be reviewing the results and preparing recommended action steps tied to the Association’s strategic plan. Additionally, an open forum on this topic will be offered during the 2012 annual conference.

Demographic Survey

The demographic survey was sent to 5,346 members, and 985 responded for an 18 percent return rate. In each question, individuals were only permitted to select one category response. The following data provide an overview of responses from our membership.

Out of the 985 respondents, 725 members self-identified as Caucasian, 106 identified as African-American, 50 as Hispanic/Latino, 48 as biracial or multiracial, 45 as Asian, and seven as Native American.

Of the 981 responses in the gender category, 509 identified as women, 470 as men, and two as transgender.

Sexual orientation
Of the 982 responses to this question, 852 members identified as straight, 73 identified as gay, 25 as bisexual, 18 as lesbian, nine as queer, and five as questioning.

Educational level
In responding about the highest degree members had achieved, 71 said they hold a doctoral degree and 74 have completed some doctoral work. The largest population (445, 46 percent of the 961 respondents to this question) said they hold a master’s degree, and 127 members have completed some graduate work. The second largest group of respondents (157) hold a bachelor’s degree, while 21 members have an associate’s degree and 67 have received a high school diploma. Additionally, 20 said they had completed some other form of education. 

Definition Survey

The second survey asked members the following questions:

  • How do you define diversity and inclusion?
  • What programs and services do you feel should be offered to address diversity and inclusion within ACUI?
  • How should ACUI address issues of diversity and inclusion?

The 195 responding members defined diversity and inclusion in a variety of ways. A number of responses focused on the traditional views of diversity (sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, and ability). Many others expressed a desire to have discussion of diversity expanded to include ideas, beliefs, opinions, and institution type and size.

Additionally, many respondents indicated their desire for a definition of diversity that is all-encompassing, that would go beyond “tolerance” and move into acceptance and celebration. Other definitions emerged through the data, which included: creating spaces that are open to all; making people aware of volunteer opportunities within the Association and extending opportunities to all; and ensuring voices are heard.

The second question focused on the types of programs and services ACUI should offer to address diversity and inclusion. There is a desire from many members to do more work with mentoring and recruiting people from diverse backgrounds. Many respondents listed NASPA’s Undergraduate Fellowship Program as a model for recruiting diverse individuals into the Association and profession. Others wanted to expand mentoring to graduate students, new professionals, and women within the Association.

Respondents also provided a variety of tangible projects that would help promote diversity and inclusion. Examples included: representative marketing, online forums, communities of practice, articles, workshops, webinars, videos, presentations, “Steal this Idea” competition focused on diversity programming and events, new professional/student training, an oral history of the Association, and library resources.

The last question asked members to provide ways for ACUI to address issues of diversity and inclusion. Of the 183 responses, a majority asked that diversity and inclusion resources be presented through educational programs and services via social media
and technology.

Throughout the qualitative responses, common threads were the opinion that ACUI has historically and currently does much to support diversity as well as an appreciation of the surveys and strategic plan’s focus on helping the Association improve its efforts in this area.

Questions about ACUI’s projects related to diversity and inclusivity can be directed to Willie Banks, at-large member of the Board of Trustees, at