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Campus Climate Warming?

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Alex McGillis may be in some trouble for creating a stir on campus, but before that, students and faculty at Idaho's largest university were more sanguine.

McGillis, who started off a chain of events last November by telling police he'd been attacked for being gay, has now been charged with a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report. He has until January 10 to set up a court date for a trial. If found guilty he faces a maximum penalty of $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

But well before McGillis's acts inspired rallies, protests and name-calling on campus (BW, News, "BSU's Nasty November," 11/29/2006) the Boise State administration was looking for answers about the campus's social climate.

Last year, Boise State Provost Sona Andrews asked a 21-member committee to develop a "campus climate" survey. Members of the organizing group included students, faculty, staff and administrators. The survey was begun in November 2005 and interviewed 3,220 students (that's about 17 percent of 18,500 students), 366 faculty members, and 364 members of the professional staff.

After the events last month, with McGillis's alleged beating and associated protests, Boise State students could be forgiven for feeling unsettled. But the campus survey shows that overall, students and faculty at Boies State are satisfied with the atmosphere on campus.

In the Campus Climate Survey, released earlier this month, 80 percent of respondents said they were "treated fairly and equitably." But there are some notes of caution for administrators: 15 percent of the campus community disagrees with that conclusion. And surveyors found that the students, faculty and staff who disagreed came from the groups campus leaders hope to attract to the school, including women, minorities or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students.

While over 90 percent of students, staff and faculty said they were aware that Boise State has anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, there were some questions as to whether such policies were actually enforced.