Messages to the Community

The Climate Assessment – Frequently Asked Questions


Thank you for you interest in The New School’s Climate Assessment. The Climate Assessment is a public process that will engage students, faculty, and staff across the University. To offer more insight into the purpose and process of the Climate Assessment, to follow are a set of frequently asked questions. We will periodically update the FAQs as more questions and concerns come to our attention, as well as to offer more details as they become available.

Again, thank you for interest, as well as your future engagement. Please contact Melanie Hart, Director of Social Justice Initiatives, with questions or concerns.


Climate Assessment 2018-19

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Climate Assessment?

A Climate Assessment is a process of collecting information on campus climate to identify ways to improve a University’s mission to educate students and support student success. That requires a holistic approach. There are many ways to define “climate” on campus. The American Association of Colleges & Universities has a helpful description of campus climate:

“Although it has long been understood that the campus climate can have profound effects on all members of the campus community, it has been difficult to agree upon a common definition of campus climate. Climate has been defined in various ways throughout the literature on higher education; these disparate understandings, however, share several characteristics. Most importantly, perhaps, is the common understanding that “climate” is multifaceted, includes people’s attitudes and behaviors, and is more malleable than culture. Further, climate interacts with organizational policies and practices. In fact, for some authors (e.g., Petersen and Spencer 1990), organizational climate flows directly from, and is dictated by, the institutional policies and practices.”  Therefore, the Climate Assessment includes the dimensions of the “objective, perceived, and psychological” views of campus climate. The Assessment includes multiple experiences and perspectives from different constituencies on campus, as well governance, policies, practices and curricula that impact the experiences and perceptions of campus climate.

Why is the New School conducting a Climate Assessment now?

The New School’s mission requires that it evaluate our climate – the objective, perceived and experiential aspects of life at the University – in order to meet our mission.  “The New School prepares students to understand, contribute to, and succeed in a rapidly changing society, thus making the world a better and more just place. We will ensure that our students develop both the skills that a sound education provides and the competencies essential for success and leadership in the emerging creative economy. We will also lead in generating practical and theoretical knowledge that enables people to better understand our world and improve conditions for local and global communities.”

Meeting this mission requires that we understand the experiences of our diverse community, including ways to make it more diverse. It also requires that we examine the extent to which our community experiences the University to better understand what can increase, improve and contribute to successful students. We know that we can and must increase our diversity and make the University a more inclusive place. To do that, we need to assess what is working and what can be improved. The Climate Assessment will help us do that.

It is always a valuable exercise, but now it has become more important as we have worked to review and revise our anti-discrimination policies, begun considering questions of affordablility for students, hiring practices, engaged in union contracting with students and, with a look to our future as we approach our Centennial, it’s a good time to know where we are and generate recommendations on directions for a more diverse, inclusive, successful community.

Hasn’t the New School already had Climate Assessments? Will this process look at previous assessments?

Yes and the consultants have received reports from those surveys, including the following:

  • In 2013 the University hired EdChange to conduct a Climate Survey. EdChange conducted a qualitative set of activities including focus groups and interviews. It did not complete the survey for a variety of reasons. There were preliminary recommendations, but they were not final because the research had not been completed.
  • The Lang College Office of Social Justice also conducted a survey related to social justice at Lang that received just over an 8% response rate.

What will be different about the current Climate Assessment from previous assessments?

This Climate Assessment is a public process that will build off of information gathered from previous work and other related surveys, reports and related information.  It will be University-wide and include students, faculty, staff and administrators with an emphasis on the mission of the New School – how the University prepares students to understand, contribute to, and succeed in a rapidly changing society, thus making the world a better and more just place. This will include diversity and inclusion in examining inter-group relations, policies, procedures, curricula and pedagogy. President Van Zandt has appointed and charged student, faculty, staff, academic and administrative leaders in elected and appointed leadership positions from across the entire university. The Task Force members were selected based on roles. Student, staff and faculty senators have been included as well as academic and administrative leadership. A full list is included below.

What is the purpose and role of the Task Force?

The Task Force has four primary functions:

  • To share ideas and input with consultants on methods of engagement of the university community;
  • Provide feedback to methodological design;
  • Help engage the community in the assessment process;
  • Share information and help support the transparency of the assessment process, opportunities to engage and findings.

What will the process look like? How can I engage in it?

It will be “mixed methods” research, meaning it will include interviews, focus groups and an on-line survey. The survey tool(s) will be developed based on interviews and focus groups, as well as previous assessments and surveys and information about the New School.

The consultants will interview and conduct focus groups of students, faculty and staff. They have already begun the process of reviewing materials and will begin reaching out to staff first because staff are available over the break. Students and faculty will be engaged from a cross section of the schools and the Task Force will ensure that the consultants receive information they need to support a representative sample of the campus community.  Review of materials, interviews and focus groups will be complete by February.  Collaboratively and consecutively, the online survey tool(s) will be developed and made available. The Task Force will share updates on the status of the work and opportunities to engage through-out the process.  Consultants will analyze, draft, and present a final report and recommendations to the Task Force. That report will be made publicly available to the entire community.  After receiving the report, the Task Force will collectively consider recommendations to propose a prioritization and action plan to the President and Provost in the Fall of 2019. That document will also be made publicly available to the University Community.

Who are the consultants?

The consultants are a set of highly skilled professionals.  Their bios follow:

Consultant Biographies

Gwendolyn Jordan Dungy
Dr. Dungy has been consulting since 2012. Before that she served as the Executive director of NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education from 1995-2012. In this role she was a spokesperson and national advocate for students and student affairs in higher education.

Before joining NASPA, Dr. Dungy was associate director of the Curriculum and Faculty Development Network and coordinator of the National Diversity Network at the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Previously, she was a senior administrator at the County College of Morris (NJ), Montgomery College (MD), and Catonsville Community College (MD), and a counseling faculty member at St. Louis Community College (MO). Dr. Dungy serves on a number of boards and is licensed as a psychologist, nationally certified counselor and career counselor.

Caryn McTighe Musil
Dr. Musil has a long and distinguished career in higher education. She is the Senior Scholar and Director of Civic Learning and Democracy at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Until November, 2012, she was the Senior Vice President of Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives. Under her leadership, the office mobilized powerful and overlapping educational reform movements involving civic, diversity, global learning, women’s issues, and personal and social responsibility. Dr. Musil has special expertise in curriculum and faculty development, which she applies through a variety of programming.

Dr. Musil is currently directing a multi-project national initiative, called Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. Dr. Musil also leads a new project specifically targeting humanities courses in community colleges as sources for illuminating issues of democracy, equity, and responsible engagement. she has directed a series of campus-based global learning projects, and is currently involved with a Luce Foundation-funded project, General Education for a Global Century. For the past ten years, Dr. Musil has also served on the steering committee of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy in partnership with the Council of Europe. In addition, Dr. Musil serves as Director of the Program on the Status and Education of Women. In 2005, Dr. Musil received the Donna Shavlik Award for Sustained and Continuing Commitment to Women’s Advancement in Higher Education.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education
The Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education (CDIHE) is housed in the College of Education at University of Maryland, College Park. CDIHE serves as a national center for research, policy, professional standards, and consultation for universities across the country and abroad on critical issues related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice in higher education. CDIHE is composed of an executive director, a director, two postdoctoral fellows, an office manager, and a graduate assistant. The Center draws expertise from a large pool of affiliate faculty that includes nationally and internationally recognized scholars, practitioners, administrators, and thought leaders from higher education institutions and national associations.

Roger L. Worthington
CDIHE’s Executive Director, Dr. Roger Worthington is a nationally recognized scholar, administrator, and thought leader on diversity in higher education. He has served as the senior institutional diversity officer for two major research institutions: the University of Missouri, and the University of Maryland. He was a founding member of the board of directors for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE); has received three prestigious Ford Foundation Grants through the Difficult Dialogues Initiative; was the founding board chair for the Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center (DDNRC); editor of the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education; and has conducted or consulted on more than a dozen distinct campus climate studies on seven different college and university campuses. Dr. Worthington is also a measurement specialist, with refereed publications on scale development, psychometrics, statistical techniques, and the development of instruments to measure a variety of diversity-related constructs.

Task Force

Appointed and Convened by

  • David Van Zandt, President
  • Tim Marshall, Provost

Social Justice Leadership

  • Maya Wiley, Senior Vice President for Social Justice
  • Melanie Hart, Director, Social Justice Initiatives

Senior Leadership Representatives

  • Stephanie Browner, Dean, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts
  • Richard Kessler, Executive Dean, College of Performing Arts
  • William Milberg, Dean, The New School for Social Research
  • Mary Watson, Executive Dean, Schools of Public Engagement
  • Sarah Lawrence, Dean of ADHT & Associate Professor of Art History, Parsons
  • Robert Kirkbride Dean of School of Constructed Environment, Parsons
  • Anne Adriance, Chief Marketing Officer
  • Jerry Cutler, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Michelle Relyea, Senior Vice President for Student Success
  • Donald Resnick, Chief Enrollment and Success Officer
  • Tokumbo Shobowale, Chief Operating Officer

Faculty Senate Co-chairs

  • Craig Bernecker, Parsons
  • David Glasser, COPA
  • James Dodd, NSSR

Staff Senate Co-chairs

  • Maria-Elena Grant, Manager of Operations and Special Projects, Marketing & Communications
  • TBD
  • Student Senate
  • Alexandra Letellier, Co-chair (Parsons)
  • Marios Konstantinos Pavlakis, Co-chair (Lang)
  • Zoe O’Loughlin, Co-chair (Lang)
  • Ahad Ali (NSSR, Student Trustee)
  • Didintle Ntsie (SPE)
  • Deja Lee (SPE)
  • Maftuna Tolipova (CoPA)
  • Alexis Perez (CoPA)

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