Penn State Community Survey findings, dashboards available

September 13, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A summary report, findings and public results dashboards for the Penn State Community Survey are now available for students, faculty and staff members to review. In February 2020, Penn State launched the University-wide survey as part of ongoing efforts to promote community, inclusion and diversity across campuses, and to support strategic planning priorities in these areas.

All students, faculty and staff members at every campus location were invited to take the survey and asked to share their feedback and experiences related to diversity, equity and inclusion in key thematic areas, which were identified by the survey’s working group. In total, more than 20,000 individuals participated in the survey, yielding an overall response rate of 17%. In total, 58% of survey respondents were students and 42% were employees.

Survey findings show areas of strength and areas for improvement and growth across the themes of belonging and inclusion; institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; engaging across difference; cultural competence and knowledge; experiences with stereotyping, microaggressions, and harassment; and off-campus contexts.

“I am so appreciative of everyone who took the time to complete the survey and to share their feedback and personal experiences on our campuses. While much has changed in our country and world since the survey was administered and some views and feelings may have shifted, these findings are an important piece of understanding the conversations we need to have and where we must focus our work moving forward,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “It is clear there is work to do and areas we need to continue to tackle as a community to address dissatisfaction and inequity. I have commissioned several groups in the past months that are dedicated to these topics, and I am eager to see the progress that also stems from this survey as we continue to build a community of support and inclusion.”

Survey results come during a time when the University is engaged in a variety of diversity and equity initiatives stemming from Action Together and the Select Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety. In addition to unit leaders, individuals and groups from across Penn State — including student leaders, faculty and members of the Presidential Commissions for Equity, Faculty Senate, Disability Access Initiative Working Group, and Select Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety — will also be part of ongoing conversations, planning, and the development of new programs and other identified actions to benefit students, faculty and staff.

To build on and address survey findings, leaders across Penn State’s units, colleges and campuses should view the survey report and dashboards and begin the process of creating action plans that address needs and feedback of their communities, in alignment with foundational priorities of Penn State’s Strategic Plan. In addition to the public dashboards, leaders will have access to their unit, college or campuses’ specific dashboard. Action plans should be developed by the end of February 2021.

To support unit leaders and budget executives during this process, the Office of Educational Equity will provide guidance and support via equity consultants who can help answer questions, discuss programming ideas, make connections with other areas and groups, and more. In addition, a website is available for Penn State students and employees with a variety of helpful planning resources, including action plan FAQs and templates, articles, and videos.

While unit leaders and budget executives will be tasked with creating action plans for their areas to improve on existing strengths and address gap areas, individual students and employees should also review the report and dashboards. Individuals are encouraged to be creative and to incorporate their learnings and takeaways into their own daily interactions and activities on campus, as well as to get involved in their unit, college, or campus’ follow-up survey activities as they are developed. Students and employees can make suggestions using this form.

While the survey summary report offers insight into University-wide findings, the data collected are extensive and are intended to be further explored using the online dashboards, which break down findings across respondents’ roles at the University, their unit and/or campus, race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, political affiliation and more.

“Survey findings at this level are intended to promote a deeper understanding of the communities and subgroups that make Penn State a vibrant university and to offer an opportunity to identify areas and needs that deserve more discussion and action,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity. “There is much that is good here to build on, but there are substantial differences and concerning data points for some individuals and groups. Along with leaders who will develop action plans, it will be the work of all of us to dig down, ask hard and unsettling questions, and think strategically about ways to address these findings.”

Overall findings

The following provides a high-level snapshot of findings, with more granular information available in the online dashboards based on respondents’ role at the University, race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation and more. To protect the privacy of respondents, the number of individuals who answered a particular question are not shared, and questions with less than 20 respondents are not included.

Campus climate, experience, environment and belonging:

  • 79% of respondents reported being satisfied with the overall climate on their campus; 8% were dissatisfied. 17% of Black respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the overall climate on their campus, as did 22% of non-binary, gender nonconforming and genderqueer respondents.
  • 69% of respondents expressed satisfaction with the experience or environment regarding diversity on their campuses; 12% were dissatisfied, including 45% of Black employees and 32% of Black students.
  • 70% of respondents reported being satisfied with the extent to which they personally experience a sense of belonging or community on their campus, while 13% were dissatisfied. 27% of non-binary, gender nonconforming and genderqueer respondents reported dissatisfaction.

Rating institutional priorities

  • 53% of all respondents agreed that their campus environment is free from tension related to individual or group differences; 38% of all women employees disagreed.
  • 56% of respondents agreed that the recruitment of marginalized students, faculty, and staff is an institutional priority; 13% disagreed.
  • 52% agreed that the retention of marginalized students, faculty, and staff is an institutional priority. 35% of Black respondents, 20% of Latinx and 22% of multiracial respondents disagreed.
  • 65% of respondents agreed that Penn State senior leadership demonstrates a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. 

Interactions with others on campus and in the community

  • 68% of all respondents reported having daily interactions with people of racial/ethnic backgrounds different than their own over the last year; 95% expressed comfort with such interactions.  
  • 82% reported interacting at least monthly with individuals from a country other than their own, and 94% said they were comfortable doing so.
  • 60% reported interacting daily with individuals across religious backgrounds; 93% said they would be comfortable with those interactions.  
  • 56% reported daily interactions with people holding different political affiliations, philosophies or views, and 93% expressed comfort doing so.  

Attitudes about diversity, equity and inclusion

  • 88% agreed that diversity on campus improves experiences and interactions in the classroom, workplace and the overall community. 
  • 76% agreed they feel welcomed in the community surrounding their campus. 
  • 82% agreed they feel safe in the community surrounding their campus.  
  • 90% agreed they enjoy working with people different from themselves. 
  • 76% agreed they are aware they hold implicit or unconscious biases. 

Respondents who experienced discrimination and harassment

  • 79% of respondents reported that they had never been discriminated against or harassed on their Penn State campus, at an off-campus residence or at an off-campus program or activity.
  • For those who experienced discrimination or harassment, between 52% and 59% of respondents cited gender or gender identity, physical appearance, political affiliation and views, or age and generation as the reason and 43% percent identified racial or ethnic identity as the reason. 
  • 63% of respondents indicated that their experiences of discrimination or harassment had occurred within the last year.

Next steps

Using insights and results from the Penn State Community Survey as a baseline, units should move forward to create actionable plans designed to improve on existing strengths and address areas where there are identified needs.

Whitehurst and Lance Kennedy-Phillips, vice provost for planning and assessment, are available to meet with unit leaders and budget executives to discuss their area’s survey findings and offer guidance on resources available for developing action plans. Additionally, Sonia DeLuca Fernández, associate vice provost for educational equity, and Karen Vance, associate vice provost for institutional research, will provide updates and conduct presentations with groups across the University that have provided feedback and been involved with the survey over the past year.

Representatives from the Office of Educational Equity have connected with units and offered to support their action planning this academic year. Equity consultants will be available to advise, coach and help units draw connections between their Community Survey results and their unit’s strategic objectives.

“Units, colleges and campuses across the University are encouraged to support one another and collaborate where there they have commonalities through the development of creative efforts and enhanced programming,” said Kennedy-Phillips. “Our hope is that community members across the University will pull their collective ingenuity to bring people together on next steps and future endeavors that help foster positive campus environments.”

For example, Educational Equity is creating a resources toolkit and connecting units with shared interests in faculty recruitment best practices. In addition, a group of deans are collaborating to develop unified programming efforts to meet common needs across groups, and Human Resources is exploring the creation of new University-wide employee resource groups.

Moving forward, Penn State plans to administer the survey every three to four years to support long-term efforts and to measure change over time. Additionally, the two offices are collecting suggestions for additional analyses and dashboards to be considered in phase two of the Community Survey, which will include analysis of the open-ended questions from the survey. Suggestions may be submitted to this form or addressed to

Questions about the dashboards or reports can be directed to Karen Vance ( Inquiries about the equity consultants or diversity, equity and inclusion inquiries can be directed to Sonia DeLuca Fernández (

The Penn State Community Survey

In the fall of 2018, on Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones’ behalf, Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity, and Lance Kennedy-Phillips, vice provost for planning and assessment, charged a working group to lead the survey effort. In spring 2019, opportunities took place for students and employees to provide feedback on the survey and its potential themes and questions, leading up to the selection of the survey instrument and administration of the survey in spring 2020.


Last Updated September 14, 2020