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Students report more acceptance among their peers than with faculty, staff

Riley Hannon

Though many Columbia students feel they have at least one place on campus where they’re “seen and affirmed,” more than half of the participants in a DEI Survey reported some harassment and discrimination during their time at the college.

Of the 448 students, or 7% of the student body, who responded to the survey this spring, 62% reported experiencing discrimination, bias or a microaggression, the survey found. Of those who reported the incident, 61% were not satisfied by the outcome.

The survey was sent to students on Jan. 29 to hear the thoughts and experiences of students with diversity, equity and possible discrimination in their time at Columbia, according to the email the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion sent out along with the survey. 

Michelle Sogge, staff member at the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, said they found it important to make the difference between gender and sexuality clear in the survey, giving students room to express their experiences in both.

“The LGBTQIA group and community as a whole is extremely diverse and multifaceted,” she said. “When we did this survey, we wanted to provide students with options to identify not only how they felt in terms of gender, but also sexuality.”

SDI and the Anti-Racism Transformation Team held a discussion forum on Friday, May 3 to review the survey results. 

Growth and affirming spaces was first addressed, where Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Charee Mosby-Holloway invited students to discuss the results. Students at the forum shared that it has helped to have peers who celebrate their identities. 

Of those surveyed, 84% agreed that Columbia values diversity, and 90% feel they can express their identities on campus. But only 59% agreed that this value aligns with the faculty and staff. 

The survey also addressed accommodations for students with disabilities, where students think their needs have been ignored, even with an official accommodation letter.  

“We especially wanted to dig into the experiences that have happened,” said Rachel Horton, Director of the Student Persistence. “When someone has worked with Services for Students with Disabilities and how does it look when those students are getting supported with those accommodations, and how does it look when it’s not happening.” 

What students are saying: 

Thaddeus Jones’ experience attests to the survey results, implying the impact a professor has on the classroom culture. In some classes, the senior graphic design major found his approach to his craft misunderstood, causing apprehension to express his art.

“Certain professors have certain criteria of work for themselves that they put in their head, and they kind of expect everyone to meet that,” he said. “But, everyone’s style of work is going to be different, and sometimes professors don’t understand that. In one situation I had with my professor, he didn’t understand the work and the extent that I went to, to work on it, so that might be a difficult thing sometimes.” 

At other times, Jones appreciated that in his graphic design classes, along with a poetry class he took, the professor took time to get to know each student and their style of work, matching the comfort he finds with his peers.

“I mainly went to school here because of the people,” he said. “Or that’s the reason I stayed. I really do love the people here; they are very genuine and kind. We all do have each other’s back.”

Joshua Patino, junior fashion studies major, finds his hour and a half commute to school worth it, as he aligns with his on-campus peers more than those in his hometown. 

“It’s empowering seeing people that do the same thing you want to do, and I feel comfortable with the people that I’m here with,” Patino said. 

His positive experiences in his business classes have led him to change his major to design management next year. In his business self-management class specifically, he said the class’ group work creates an environment that makes him feel comfortable to share with his peers.

“We’re all artists trying to do freelancing and learn how to manage portfolios,” Patino said. “In that class, I feel it’s very easy to open up and I feel comfortable.” 

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About the Contributors
Sofía Oyarzún
Sofía Oyarzún, Bilingual Reporter
soyarzun@columbichronicle.com   Sofia Oyarzún is a sophomore photojournalism and journalism double major. Oyarzún joined the Chronicle in January 2024.   Hometown: Glenview, Illinois
Riley Hannon
Riley Hannon, Illustrator
rhannon@columbiachronicle.com   Riley Hannon is a junior illustration major, minoring in game art. Hannon joined the Chronicle's Creative Desk in January 2024.   Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri