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Qualitative data released from 2021 DEI survey

Findings include firsthand accounts of discriminatory, harassing, and other harmful behavior that are consistent with previously released quantitative data. Beginning this summer, a series of focus groups and community forums will be held to discuss the survey results and next steps.

Today, the university is releasing the findings from qualitative data received from Stanford’s first-ever campus-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) survey. The quantitative data were released in November 2021.

“I want to thank the nearly 7,000 people who took the time and expended the emotional energy to both share their stories and experiences, and help convey what we are doing well and how we can improve,” said Patrick Dunkley, vice provost for institutional equity, access, and community.

He added: “What we see in this report from the community input is consistency between the quantitative and qualitative data. The qualitative findings include firsthand accounts of discriminatory, harassing, and other harmful behavior, such as microaggression and experiences where community members felt isolated, marginalized, or excluded. We hope these accounts will serve as learning opportunities of what harmful behaviors look like, and the impact they have on members of our community so they can be avoided in the future. This information will also prove to be extremely valuable as we plot our course toward improvement.”

“Hearing the voices of our community is both powerful and distressing,” said Provost Persis Drell, who commissioned the DEI survey. “Although we understand that seeing this information may cause added pain for many members of our community, particularly given recent events on our campus and in our world, we want the entire Stanford community to understand how and where this kind of harmful behavior manifests itself in our university. Only by confronting this problem head on will we make improvements in our campus culture.”

The DEI survey

Conducted in May 2021, the DEI survey focused on the individual experiences of community members, and included questions about inclusion and belonging, as well as questions about experiences with harassing and discriminatory behavior. The survey also collected data about race/ethnicity and other identities. Nearly 15,000 students, postdocs, faculty, and staff took part in the survey. Stanford released the quantitative findings in November 2021.

The DEI survey included three open-ended questions, where community members could provide feedback to the university and share their own experiences with issues of belonging, discrimination, harassment, and other harmful behavior. The questions were as follows:

  1. If you would like to tell us more, please tell us about your experiences and perspectives on these and other issues that are important to you.
  2. We would also like to know what is working well at Stanford. What efforts, initiatives, or policies have you seen, experienced, or participated in that have had a positive impact on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stanford?
  3. What else would you like to tell us?

A total of 6,886 responses to those questions were received. In order to preserve anonymity and privacy, a third-party contractor convened a team with extensive experience in analyzing qualitative data. The analysis involved systematically reading and coding open-ended survey responses to identify common themes across the content.

The report contains representative quotes, presented without compromising individual privacy, that illustrate major themes of the challenges that Stanford community members have experienced. The quotes provided in the report are representative of many other very similar comments.

Themes include: interpersonal interactions/harmful experiences; experiences of isolation and lack of voice; and university structures and status hierarchy.

Suggestions from the community and next steps

Many respondents to the second question – “What’s working well?” – commended Stanford leadership for making diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging a top priority. They also identified recent successful efforts to increase diversity among the Stanford faculty and student populations. Some respondents appreciated the regular collection and release of data to improve transparency and accountability, and many cited DEI efforts that were taking place in their individual units and programs.

Respondents also offered suggestions for how to improve the current campus climate. Among those were increasing diversity across all populations; improving support for those among marginalized identities; access to more DEI education and learning opportunities; improving reporting and accountability; and a call for more centralized DEI resources.

Dunkley said, “We made a commitment when we launched the survey to use the results to inform our work going forward. Since we released the survey results in November, we have been actively engaging throughout the community educating on the importance of these data. We will now expand that engagement to working on solutions that refine or enhance efforts already under way, and we will also be exploring all new approaches.”

He said that, beginning this summer, a series of focus groups and community forums will be held to discuss the survey results and next steps.