Pennsylvania State University professor Susan Rankin, the lead consultant on our Campus Climate Study Team, defines campus climate as "the current attitudes, behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential."
Respect is one of the most critical words in this description. It's not just the experience of individuals and groups on a campus; it's also the quality and extent of the interaction between those various groups and individuals that determines a healthy campus climate.
Diversity and inclusion are extremely important aspects of campus climate. According to the UC Regents' Study Group on University Diversity, "diversity and inclusion efforts are not complete unless they also address climate [and] addressing campus climate is an important and necessary component in any comprehensive plan for diversity."
So why does campus climate matter? What makes it so important? Why are respect, diversity and inclusion so critical? That depends on the audience.