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North Bay / Marin | Education & Student Activism

Group Op- Ed for Sociology Class
by Lyndsay Tedrow
Monday Apr 29th, 2013 8:14 PM
this is a summary of a semester long project we did for our Sociology Class at SSU we examined diverstiy and personal comfort levels on campus.
For my Investigative Sociology class at Sonoma State University, we did a semester long project regarding diversity on campus and personal comfort levels by race on campus. Sonoma State has been notorious for years now for being a primary white student bodied campus. We examined a 2007 study conducted by previous Sonoma State students who wanted to examine whether Sonoma State was still a primarily white campus or not in comparison to three other campuses. Using this survey as a guide for our project, we conducted a qualitative study to examine for ourselves if we are a predominantly white campus still.
We composed 50 surveys with students on campus which had open and closed ended questions. We also interviewed faculty members and evaluated previous research through doing a literature review to understand campus climate and diversity at our campus. We used the previous research in our literature review to compare to our current and past results. Something that really benefited our group was that right as we began our project our Black Student Union had a poster be vandalized with words of hatred towards to those students of color. This benefitted our group because we felt our responses were much more passionate and students became much more aware of diversity and prejudice issues on campus.
A good example to show a comparison of our results back to the 2007 survey could be seen when we saw that 32.4% of students felt very comfortable and now in 2013 our results were 37.5%. So that number actually increased a bit, some students that answered to being comfortable most of the time were 47% in 2007 and 39.6% in 2013 which shows a decrease. Mixed comfort levels in 2007 were 17.6% while 16.7% in 2013, so relatively similar, and somewhat uncomfortable in 2007 was 3% while 6.25% in 2013 and in 2007 we had 0% of the interviewed students who were very uncomfortable and now inn 2013 it still remains at 0%. We asked many other similar questions pertaining to race on campus, and were able to conclude that diversity levels have not changed on campus and that many people feel a similar amount of comfort levels as we can see from the previous example. We asked a few open ended questions based upon if the interviewees have ever witnessed or heard of accounts of discrimination on campus, and I was actually very surprised at how many participants answered that they had witnessed discrimination on campus.
Some of the faculty we interviewed were Mark Fabioner who is in the Multicultural Center on campus and the Director of Diversity Elisa Velasquez. They were able to give us an insight to what our campus does to prevent and address incidents of discrimination on campus. We learned that Sonoma State is trying to implement policies such as a “big 8 program” which promotes campus diversity, as well as doing speed dialogues in classes to prompt students to interact with other students about diversity issues.
In conclusion, our semester long project has shown that diversity levels have not changed much from the results in 2007, but it is promising to have found out how institutions like Sonoma State University are trying to implement policies to better our diversity and personal comfort levels on campus.