A majority of the University of Michigan community rates progress made in the campus climate related to diversity, equity and inclusion as being much or somewhat better than at the start of the DEI strategic plan in 2016, according to results from a 2021 survey.

The data show 61% of U-M faculty rated the perception of DEI progress in 2021 as much or somewhat better than 2016, while 59% of staff and 57% of students rated progress as much or somewhat better. In addition, 28% of the faculty, 33% of staff and 37% of students reported the climate as about the same.


The 2021 sample survey results will inform next steps as the university plans its transition to DEI 2.0. Members of the U-M community are invited to further discuss the 2021 survey findings and compare them with the 2016 results at two on-campus sessions:

  • Sept. 27 from 8:30-10 a.m. in the Rogel Ballroom at the Michigan Union.
  • Oct. 6 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Michigan League Ballroom. A light lunch will be provided.

Both sessions will be livestreamed, recorded and posted on the U-M Diversity, Equity & Inclusion website. In addition, follow-up sessions with campus community groups will be available, as needed, in the future.

While reports of U-M’s DEI progress were overall positive, the survey findings also show that survey respondents in 2021 rated the climate more critically than did respondents in the 2016 sample.

For example, when faculty, staff and students were asked in 2016 if they were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall climate at U-M, nearly 70% reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall climate at the university.

The 2021 survey showed a decrease in the percentage of all respondents reporting satisfaction with the overall climate at U-M, and this was consistent across faculty, staff and students. This pattern was similar for respondents’ personal climate experiences, such as feelings of belonging and value at the university.

The surveys were given during the two different years to provide a comparison of campus members’ climate perceptions at the beginning and end of the DEI 1.0 Strategic Plan period. As such, the two survey samples did not come from the same individuals.

The survey team also is considering ways the broader societal context may have contributed to community responses and why some climate experiences were reported less positively in 2021. Factors could include unprecedented elements of COVID-19, the racial reckoning in the United States that was sparked in 2020, and local and national political divisiveness and unrest.

“The feedback we received from the survey will help us understand the diversity of experiences of our campus community, which can further our efforts to support actions and practices that foster an inclusive living, learning and working environment,” said Tabbye Chavous, vice provost of equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer.

“Comparisons between the 2021 and 2016 survey results provide one important indicator of the university’s progress. Coupled with other forms of observable data and community feedback, the survey results will inform the university’s efforts to create an environment where everyone feels welcome, supported and valued, where all have equitable opportunities to thrive.”

The 2021 survey, which launched last fall, is a follow-up to the university’s 2016-17 DEI campus climate survey, which solicited the Ann Arbor campus community’s opinions and experiences related to diversity, equity and inclusion at U-M.

Survey data were collected in two ways. A census climate survey went to all campus members to ensure that each campus unit would have adequate representation. The data described above were drawn from a sample survey of 1,500 faculty, 3,500 staff and 3,500 students who received a slightly longer version of the climate survey, in order to adequately represent the U-M community.

The sample survey produced high response rates, with 64% for faculty respondents, 62% for staff and 49% for students. To safeguard privacy and confidentiality, both surveys were facilitated by SoundRocket, an independent, third-party company.

The campus climate survey data from 2016 was used as a benchmark and helped inform DEI 1.0 planning to support a diverse, equitable, inclusive and vibrant campus community.

The U-M community can expect to review high-level data findings in the public sessions and learn more in depth information about our community’s current experiences compared with the results from 2016.

The sessions also will explore in more depth and provide context on variation among identity groups’ responses to the climate surveys, and implications for supporting an environment that is diverse, equitable and inclusive for all.

The 2021 survey, developed by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in consultation with a faculty advisory committee and the Institute for Social Research, asked questions about demographics, perceptions of the campus and DEI climates, interactions with other members of the university community and experiences of discrimination at U-M.

Additional high-level data points, which will also be shared in more depth at the public sessions, include:

Consistent with findings in the 2016 sample, less-privileged groups report less-positive experiences at U-M than do more-privileged groups.

One facet of the data looked at a student’s likelihood of having reported discrimination at U-M in the past year and found how the less privileged are more likely to experience U-M less positively.

For example, a student multivariate risk model to predict which social identities — including gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability status, and racial and ethnic identities — were more likely to report feeling discriminated against at U-M in the past year found that members of the LGBTQ+ community and those students who reported a disability were more likely to report feeling discriminated against in the past year when compared to their counterparts.

Additionally, African American, Asian American and Hispanic students were more likely to report feeling discriminated against when compared to white students. Similar findings were reported for faculty and staff for other variables related to their experiences at U-M.

A key element behind the value of the data collection is that the survey collected demographic data not collected elsewhere on campus. For example, in the demographic section, information was gathered on religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political orientation and more. Data collected for this initiative expands what is captured in other traditional institution data sources.

Significant proportions of U-M students, staff and faculty self-report significant mental health challenges.

Mental and physical well-being data was collected in 2021 that was not part of the 2016 survey. This unique aspect of the 2021 survey grew out of the COVID-19 pandemic and related societal challenges.

The 2021 results show significant proportions of U-M faculty, staff and students self-reported mental health challenges. The sample survey reported that 55% of faculty, 43% staff and 25% students rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor” in 2021.

Perception of DEI progress compared to other institutions

When looking at how well U-M is doing on DEI issues compared with other institutions, 40% of faculty, 48% of staff and 50% of students reported U-M is best or better than most institutions.

In addition, 53% of faculty, 47% of staff and 44% of students reported that U-M is about equal in DEI compared with other institutions. Overall, a large majority reported efforts at U-M as being best, better than most or about equal.

What is next?

U-M faculty, staff and students are invited to further discuss the findings from 2021 and compare them with the 2016 results at the Sept. 27 and Oct. 6 sessions.

Furthermore, the university is preparing to establish a faculty working group in early 2023 to engage deeper analysis of the campus climate survey results.

The 2020-21 academic year marked the conclusion of the university’s initial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Five-Year Strategic Plan, known as DEI 1.0. It also marked the beginning of a yearlong evaluation process in which central and unit-level content and actions from DEI 1.0 were thoroughly assessed.

Findings from the evaluation period will be shared this fall in conjunction with the annual DEI Summit. The DEI Summit will launch Oct. 12, with the Community Assembly & Discussion, and a special DEI 1.0 Evaluation Report information session will take place Oct. 19 and will help guide a yearlong planning phase for the university’s next DEI strategic plan, DEI 2.0.

The second five-year initiative will launch in October 2023.

This article originally appeared in the Monday, September 26, 2022 edition of The University Record