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Climate advisory - Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success

 March 5, 2020

Aashir Nasim, Ph.D.
Vice President, Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success
Director and Professor, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation

VCU’s Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success (IES) administered Climatext (pronounced klahy-mat-iks) as part of the university’s proactive monitoring and response plan to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Climatext assessed student sentiment resulting from their information exposure about COVID-19. Sentiment scores ranged from negative-to-neutral (-1.00 to 0.00) and from neutral-to-positive (0.00 to +1.00). The real-time data summary presented below should be used to inform strategic communication efforts and to target support services for student constituent groups.

  • Overall. VCU students expressed negative-to-neutral sentiment (Overall = -0.062; -0.091, adjusted) to their appropriation of information related to the coronavirus. Stated another way, VCU students were concerned-to-indifferent about COVID-19.
  • Age. Students ages 18 to 34 (-0.131; -0.116, adjusted) reported more anxiety about the COVID-19 outbreak than older students (0.118; 0.035, adjusted).
  • Gender. Female students reported more anxiety and concern (-0.072; -0.112, adjusted) about the outbreak than male students (-0.021;  -0.038, adjusted).
  • Race / Ethnicity. Underrepresented minority (-0.138; -0.145, adjusted) and Asian students (-0.010; -0.115, adjusted) appeared more concerned about COVID-19 than their white classmates (-0.028; -0.040 adjusted). For example, a student replied, "I’m more aware of my race as Asian American and I’m preparing myself for the racism and ignorance that will come with recent news."
  • Residence. On-campus student residents (-0.081; -0.139, adjusted), in particular those residing at Grace and Broad Residence Center I (-0.415), West Grace North (-0.441), and West Grace South (-0.138; -0.402, adjusted) expressed higher levels of concern and anxiety than students living off-campus (-0.065; -0.073, adjusted). For example, an on-campus resident replied, "Sicknesses already spread like wildfire in the dorms. If one person gets sick, everyone is going to get sick and fast. It’s not a great thought."
  • Class status. VCU freshmen (-0.058; -0.187, adjusted) reported greater concern than sophomores (-0.051; -0.087, adjusted), juniors (-0.077; -0.068, adjusted) and seniors (-0.085; -0.152). Further, medical school students (-0.210; -0.085, adjusted) had higher levels of anxiety than graduate students (-0.003; -0.033, adjusted).
  • Income Level. Pell-grant eligible (-0.153; -0.165, adjusted) students appeared to be more wary about the coronavirus outbreak than their coevals (-0.025; -0.064, adjusted).
  • Legacy Status. First-generation students were slightly more concerned (-0.096; -0.129) than the remainder of the student body (-0.051; -0.083, adjusted). For example, a first-gen student replied, "I am unsure about VCU’s ability to contain an outbreak. I am strongly considering going home and not finishing the semester."

About survey administration. Climatext was administered on March 3, 2020 to a representative sample of 488 VCU students. VCU students responded to the prompt "Based on what you’re hearing, reading and seeing about the coronavirus (COVID-19), how is this affecting you as a VCU student?" There was a 49.8% response rate within 24-hours. Data were collected and coded using proprietary software conceptualized and developed by Sam Yerkes, Jim Yucha, and Aashir Nasim. Both actual and adjusted (re-coded) scores were presented in the results summary.