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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Task Force Strives to Save SBU’s Failing “Campus Climate”

    Approximately one-third of SBU employees do not feel like part of the family or team at Stony Brook, according to a 2004 campus climate survey.

    The same survey says that almost one-fourth of the campus community has observed sexual harassment over the previous two years, and that more than 40 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered respondents reported that they observed harassment based on sexual orientation by faculty or staff over the previous two years.

    These statistics, and many others like them, sparked the formation of the Campus Climate Task Force Steering Committee in 2004. Recently, the committee released the first draft of their plan to improve SBU’s campus climate.

    Campus climate, according the report, is, ”hellip;both policy and practice that refer to behaviors within a workplace or learning environment that can influence whether an individual feels safe, listened to, and treated fairly and with respect.’ It also refers to ‘an organization’s structures, policies, practices; the diversity of its faculty, staff and students; the attitudes and values of its members and leaders; and the quality of personal interaction and communication.’

    The 61-page report outlines strategies for alleviating a wide variety of interpersonal issues at all levels of the university. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, SBU employees attended an open meeting that allowed them to voice their opinions of the report to the chairs of the task force committee.

    ‘Their experience here was that sometimes they didn’t feel as safe as they wanted to feel,’ said Carolyn Peabody, a vice co-chair of the committee, of SBU employees in general. She said that employees complained, historically, of being outside of communication loops and not feeling like a part of the university. She also said that employees have complained of different types of harassment. The other vice co-chair, besides Peabody, is Christina Vargas Law, from the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action.

    The task force committee went through every survey since 1987 that pertained to campus climate, said George Meyer, a co-chair of the committee and a deputy to President Shirley Strum Kenny. A lot of the report’s proposed solutions are low-cost and easy to implement, said Meyer, at the meeting.

    The employees at the meeting spoke mostly of Newsday’s recent coverage of Stony Brook University. ‘Right now, I’m defending Stony Brook. Why do I feel like this is my job?’ said one employee.

    Other employees said that different departments must maintain better contact with one another, that employees need to be retained longer, and that managers and bosses need to be more responsive and patient.

    Often, managers are promoted and not properly trained, said Aldustus Jordan, a co-chair of the committee and the associate dean of the School of Medicine. The committee’s report addresses this issue.

    The task force also contains representatives from the Undergraduate Student Government, the Interfaith Center, Disability Support Services, university faculty, and hospital staff, among others.

    The task force was divided into subcommittees: Building Internal Community, Participation and Empowerment, Hiring and Employment, Building External Community, and Mandated Employee Education. The subcommittees are indicative of the types of changes the committee hopes to implement. The final draft of the committee’s plan will be complete in January.

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