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On Wednesday, minority student groups reached a significant milestone in their push for a comprehensive campus climate assessment with the release of much-anticipated 2006 survey data.

The results, however, weren't entirely satisfying to student leaders.

Associate Provost Andrew Binns presented the data at the last University Council meeting of this academic year. Certain portions of the survey data assessed campus climate, which refers to individuals' levels of comfort at Penn in terms of their gender and gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity.

The survey was the starting point for any future discussions on assessing Penn's climate.

Student leaders, who have been waiting for the release of this data for several months, said they were dissatisfied with the methods and results of the survey.

Out of the 2,137 seniors surveyed in the class of 2006, only 915 students completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 43 percent.

"I think this indicates that the University really needs to find a way to make sure that these results are as representative as possible," said College junior, former 34th Street section editor and United Minorities Council vice chairman Derek Mazique.

The administration was aware of the survey's shortcomings.

"This is not a good rate," said Binns. "We are not happy with it."

Of the respondents, male and Asian American students made up a lower percentage than expected, Binns added.

"Peer institutions have higher response rates than we do," Mazique said. "Whatever instrument we use to assess climate in the future, we need to find a way to increase the response rate."

The survey is administered by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, an organization that conducts standard surveys at its 31 member schools. As a member, Penn was allowed to ask 10 school-specific questions. Two questions directly addressed campus climate, Binns said.

The first measured a student's satisfaction with the sense of community on campus, and the second question measured how comfortable the climate was for minority students on a one-to-four scale.

"None of the questions delved into any of the issues we're facing as a community," said Dennie Zastrow, College sophomore and chair of the Lambda Alliance, the umbrella organization for all LGBT groups on campus. "They only scratched the surface of what needs to be done."

The presentation compared Penn's results to peer institutions' as well as past results from years that Penn administered the survey. The comparison showed that there was significant progress in campus climate over time, Binns said.

Provost Ron Daniels expressed an interest in not only sharing the data with the University community but also engaging student leaders in conversation that will help improve the questions asked on future surveys.

Already, "because of discussions with members of the LGBT community, we've recognized the need for questions that identify concerns of LGBT students," he said as an example.

Daniels also acknowledged the need for a survey that is also administered to assess the graduate student community.

Details on how to proceed will be finalized at future UC meetings in the fall.

"I think yesterday showed that the University is making strides with this issue, but we definitely have a long way to go to see more improvement," Zastrow said.

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