Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities on Monday launched the first systemwide survey designed to show how welcoming their campuses are to students of color and other groups and how well they respond to complaints of bias.

More than 70,000 students and more than 10,000 employees received emails, asking them to take one of four surveys, depending upon whether they are faculty, students, staff, or in a union.

And they’re getting encouragement to fill it out. Some universities are giving students gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks, while others are handing out T-shirts. West Chester, the system’s largest school, is providing up to three $1,000 scholarships to students.

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“I’m excited to share that we have already more than 1,500 responses and that was in just a very short period of time,” said Denise Pearson, the system’s vice chancellor and chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer.

A thousand of those responses came in the first two hours, she said.

Members of the system’s board of governors heard about the initiative during their meeting Thursday. Also at the meeting, the board discussed the development of a new funding formula to distribute the state aid the system receives to its 14 universities.

Some larger universities have seen funding drop as the system steered more money to struggling schools. The new formula is expected to be largely enrollment-driven, though additional money would go to schools with many students of color or first-generation college-goers who may need additional support.

The system currently receives $477 million in state money, about 30% of its revenue. The new formula will not affect other funding, mostly tuition and room and board.

“Dollars need to go where the students are,” said Michael Driscoll, president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, one of the system’s 14, who is leading a committee looking at the formula.

System officials expect to have a proposal to put before the board in April.

The survey is the latest step by the system to improve conditions on its campuses, particularly for students of color, who have been speaking out about racism. An August 2020 Spotlight PA investigation found the system had recruited more students of color for its campuses but had failed to support them. While the system’s percentage of students of color had nearly doubled since 2008, their graduation rate was nearly 20 percentage points lower than that of white students, the investigation found.

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Since then, the system has set several priorities, including adding more diversity to faculty and students, closing achievement gaps among groups, and diversifying curriculum. The system also pledged to improve campus climate, leading to the survey that has been several months in the making.

“We’ll be looking for themes,” Pearson said. “We’ll be looking for areas for improvement. We’ll be looking for areas we can scale with best practices.”

In a state where about 14% of 18- to 24-year-olds are Black, 9.8% of the system’s students, or 9,253, are Black. An additional 5,872 students, or 6.2%, are Hispanic. The Hispanic share of 18- to 24-year-olds statewide is nearly 11%.

Among the questions, students are asked how responsive their campus is to reports of discrimination and harassment. It also seeks to gauge students’ sense of safety on and off campus. Faculty and staff received some of the same questions and are asked to categorize the level of racial and ethnic integration on campus in places like sporting events.

While the survey will yield systemwide data, it also will be disaggregated by campus and racial and gender groups, Pearson said. Data on experiences of LGBTQ students and staff and other groups also are being sought.

The surveyis anonymous..

The system expects to make some parts of the findings public, but not data about individual campuses, though some university presidents, who will receive reports on their campuses, may choose to release data, she said.