In an effort to look into student’s academic experiences, what changes they hope to see at the academic level and inclusivity and equity in the classroom, ASUCR’s Student Voice Committee conducted a case study in order to amplify student voices at UCR beyond the scope of surveys they usually conduct as a committee throughout the whole year.
In an interview with The Highlander, Mark Hanin, the director of the Student Voice Committee stated that they wanted to personalize what students believed and thought about certain topics that concerned them. Hanin attributed this as the main motivation for why they conducted a case study specifically aimed on exploring students’ academic experiences and the changes they hoped to see at the academic level. They specifically wanted to focus on the subject matters of inclusivity and etiquette within the classroom since they believed that both these subject matters are instrumental in constructing the academic experience of students. “With academic instruction going remote for the time being due to COVID-19, we believed that the academic experiences of students is undoubtedly a topic of the utmost importance that we needed to most certainly conduct a case study on,” stated Hanin.
He added that he wanted to start an initiative that he felt would engage students through the platform he has as a member of the Student Voice Committee. He stated, “the need to provide students with a creative platform to express themselves through the case study was what inspired my team of select committee delegates and myself to work on the case study as part of our project group within the committee.”
The Student Voice Committee surveyed a total of 139 respondents and had a total of six case study participants who come from different demographics within the university. The case study, which focused on inclusivity and etiquette, resulted in three conclusions regarding the impact it has on UCR students’ academic experiences. They found that UCR students have observed a strong and mutual appreciation for each other and their professors. “This acknowledgement and respect that students give each other, no matter their cultural background nor self-identified identity, is the cornerstone of UCR’s heavily reinforced consideration for its student body,” stated Hanin.
He noted however, that this respect and representation of underrepresented groups can also become a burden for some. Individuals may feel overrepresented, which hinders their opportunity for academic growth and instills a sense of pressure to compare themselves to their peers, according to Hanin. This ultimately leads to a sense of confusion regarding where the student belongs on campus; the spectrum of students and the multicultural environment can be welcoming and show inclusivity, but it can also make it difficult for some students to find themselves and their purpose. “In the long run, this affects their academic experiences because they might be hesitant to apply for internships, club positions and step outside of their comfort zone.
UCR students also noticed and appreciated the accessibility of and number of programs that support minorities and promote inclusivity training. More centers of support for the LGBTQ+ community and awareness of social events are also prime factors in students overall academic experiences. “These support groups and branched movements show how students are interconnected and that everyone at UCR can be a source of support,” stated Hanin. He added that this ultimately prompts the confidence and openness of students to express themselves and their ideas without fear of being oppressed, ostracized, or judged. There is also a mix between how students have received etiquette from professors and teacher assistants. The overall consensus is that there should be a push for inclusivity and etiquette training to accommodate for the students’ identities and cultural awareness stated Hanin.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the effects that it had on UCR students, UCR students reported many changes they hoped to see at the academic level. A common response was that they hoped to have increased accessibility to resources such as textbooks and tutoring at the academic level so that they are able to succeed academically. Specifically, they hope that they have more textbooks available in PDF format due to remote learning and that the feedback provided on iEvals is seriously considered by both faculty and teaching assistants.
Furthermore, they also hope that UCR is able to provide them with the resources they need at the undergraduate level to continue pursuing higher-level education at graduate and professional schools. A couple of the students also hoped that the Mandated Inclusive Language Training that faculty, staff and student employees are now required to undergo is impactful as they have personally expressed excitement about the new possibilities and changes brought forth by both the case study and mandated training. On the other hand, some students also expressed that the training was not necessary since UCR is not problematic in the area of inclusivity. Specifically, those students felt that an overemphasis on inclusivity will not directly solve any problems and may devalue the struggles that students face.
A few students expressed hope that university administration begins to care more about students and not money. They hope that administration places students in more committees on campus so that students can have more of a role on decisions that impact them by the University. Students also hope that they are provided with more opportunities to pursue their interests while on campus and not worry about having budget cuts imposed by the University hindering those interests.
A few students also expressed hope that the university continues to hold inclusivity events in order to celebrate the diversity of existing cultures on the campus. However, they also hoped that such events would come with a renewed respect for indigenous lands and the indigenous people of Riverside.
The Case Study Project Group hopes to have gathered enough information on how students’ academic experiences have been and what changes they hope to see at the academic level in more detail with the results of the case study. They hope that given their results now becoming more personalized and are now designed to be more reflective of the thoughts and opinions of UCR students through this case study, that they would construct a compelling representation of the fellow students that make up our campus.
Through the representation they anticipate to have constructed from the results of the case study, they hope that students feel that their voices are being heard when they read about other students’ experiences and can relate to those experiences themselves. This would hopefully further encourage more students to come forward and share their experiences with us so that we can build a network of trust and support with the student body, according to Hanin.