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Courtesy of Bryce Richter / University of Wisconsin-Madison

UW-Madison responds to staff climate survey’s positive, concerning results

Some staff reported experiencing or witnessing hostile or intimidating behavior on campus, as well as sexual harassment in the last three years.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison responded last week to results from the 2022 staff climate survey. The survey was distributed in spring of 2022 to gather staff members' thoughts, experiences and concerns about working at UW-Madison, according to the survey

The survey was distributed to all academic and university staff members, limited appointees who do not hold a faculty position and postdoctoral candidates. In total, approximately 16,800 people received the survey with a 38% response rate, according to a UW news release

“The survey is one tool we can use to understand how our employees experience working at UW-Madison,” said Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Rob Cramer in the release.

Provost Karl Scholz and Cramer explained the importance of UW-Madison deans and directors working with their leadership teams in reviewing the climate survey results. Analyzing and reviewing the results will aid administrators in identifying specific actions to improve the overall staff work experience. 

“The Staff Climate Survey is useful in identifying where more focus is needed to ensure all UW-Madison employees feel safe, valued and that they belong,” said Cramer. “Each UW-Madison employee experiences the campus work environment in a different way and, as campus leaders, we need to understand the survey results and take action to create a community that makes us all proud.” 

Some key findings from the survey include that 90% respondents reported feeling safe, 77% welcomed, 72% respected, 66% included, 66% like they belong and 65% valued. Another key finding is that a majority of respondents — 60% — reported being very satisfied or extremely satisfied with the climate in their department or work unit. 

With the majority of staff respondents showing signs of feeling welcomed and safe, a large portion of university staff — 35% — reported being very likely or extremely likely to leave their current job in the next 12 months.

Disconcerting results 

Despite positive findings, the survey also showed disconcerting results pertaining to staff witnessing and experiencing hostile or intimidating behavior on campus. Overall, 44% of staff reported that in the last three years they personally witnessed hostile or intimidating behavior on campus. Continually, 38% of staff said they had personally experienced this type of behavior on campus in the last three years.

“Hostile and intimidating behavior has no place in the workplace,” Scholz said. “We will continue to work with our partners in the Office of Human Resources to address these concerns and ensure that our campus culture is one that makes UW-Madison a great place to work for all of our employees.”

Compared to the 2021 student campus climate survey, 23% of students reported witnessing hostile or intimidating behavior on campus and 14% reported experiencing hostile or intimidating behavior —  significantly less than staff. 

Staff with a disability, 52.4%, and a chronic physical or mental health condition, 44.9%, reported having experienced more hostile or intimidating behavior on campus. Individuals who identified as nonbinary or another gender, 47.5%, were more likely to witness hostile or intimidating behavior on campus. 

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According to the news release, a group of representatives from the Provost’s Office and the Office of Human Resources’ Workforce Relations have already started to investigate strategies to increase education about hostile and intimidating behavior processes and prevention on campus. 

The survey also highlighted that 6% of staff reported personally experiencing sexual harassment on campus in the last three years. Women and those who identified as nonbinary or another gender were twice as likely to report experiencing sexual harassment compared to men. 

Staff who resonded to the survey were asked to think about sexual harassment at UW-Madison where most respondents, 75.7%, felt that sexual harassment is taken seriously on campus. However, only 51.5% reported knowing which steps to take when a person comes to them with a problem with sexual harassment, and only 39.4% reported that the current process for resolving complaints of sexual harassment is effective. 

The university is in the process of analyzing the qualitative or open-ended responses available on the online dashboard located on the survey website. There are numerous UW-Madison departments and divisions that aid with ongoing discussions about the staff climate survey. 

“This was the first time that a university-wide Staff Climate Survey was done, and we are reviewing when it makes sense to run it again,” said Kelly Conforti Rupp, Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff Affairs. 

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