The following news release was distributed March 12, 2012 by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.
Washington, D.C. – The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) on Saturday released the results of a highly anticipated, first-of-its-kind campus climate study, which examined the comfort levels of students from underrepresented groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, those with impairments and/or disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students at the nation’s schools and colleges of veterinary medicine. A total of 5,268 students from 28 schools participated in the 50-question survey, which the AAVMC conducted in April 2011.
Some major findings include:
• About two-thirds of all students reported that underrepresented veterinary medical (URVM) students receive high to very high levels of support from their schools.
• Students themselves were most likely to make comments revolving around race or sexuality.
• Negative “heard on campus” comments were most likely to focus on race or sexuality.
“Overall, the results are good, but there are some reasons for concern, and there are pockets of information and bits and pieces that cause us to raise our eyebrows and ask why,” said Lisa Greenhill, the AAVMC’s associate executive director for institutional research and diversity.
The survey sought to answer four key questions: 1) What is the comfort level across institutions with respect to differences in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion? 2) What is the perceived level of institutional community support for underrepresented veterinary medical students? 3) What is the relative frequency of intolerant language on campuses? 4) Do students experience harassment in veterinary medical school?
Some campus climate issues of concern include an indication of possible isolation at the colleges for some students, as well as the incidence of negative comments on campus. Although most students indicated a strong student support system within their colleges (82.7%), more than 35% reported that they did not have a faculty or staff member in whom to confide. For LGBT student populations, these numbers are even higher: 42.4% (LGB) and 52.4% (T). “The data don’t reveal why these students do not connect with faculty or staff in this way like their student colleagues,” Greenhill said. “LGBT students may not be out or feel as safe with faculty and staff for some reason.” Also while students were the primary sources of racist, sexist, or homophobic comments on campus, faculty were found to have the second highest incidence of sexist comments around the colleges. “Again, the data do not reveal who the comments are about, but 21% of female students indicated hearing such comments from faculty at some point. This does present some developmental opportunities within the institutions.”
A couple of surprising findings are that students are more likely to be harassed on campus (76.8%), especially in class or in common areas (25.1% and 45.4%, respectively); and the numbers show a striking difference between those who reported knowing an “out” LGBT student (81 percent) and those who reported actually being a member of that student population (6.7 percent).
“We don’t know all of the reasons behind these discrepancies, but there’s something going on beneath the surface,” said co-researcher Dr. Paige Carmichael, associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of pathology at the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine. “There aren’t a lot of reported racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks or behaviors, but there are some findings that merit further study. This is a snapshot that begs for additional research and educational programming.”
In 2011, the AAVMC released Roadmap for Veterinary Medical Education in the 21st Century: Responsive, Collaborative, Flexible, a report compiled by the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC) and available at www.aavmc.org/roadmap. It contains 23 recommendations that will help shape the future direction of academic veterinary medicine, including one calling for veterinary schools to cultivate diversity skills among students. In an increasingly diverse society, students need skills that enable them to meet a variety of needs, no matter what cultural, racial, ethnic, or other differences they may encounter.
Greenhill plans a follow-up, qualitative study on LGBT experiences at U.S. CVMs, and the researchers intend to publish the details of their climate study in the AAVMC’s Journal of Veterinary Medical Education (JVME).
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is a non-profit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Its members include all 33 veterinary medical colleges in the United States and Canada, nine departments of veterinary science, eight departments of comparative medicine, 12 international colleges of veterinary medicine, and three affiliate members. On the Web: http://www.aavmc.org