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Campus Climate Survey 2021

In fall 2021, more than 13,000 UW–Madison students — a 28% response rate — shared their thoughts, experiences, and concerns about campus in the university’s student Campus Climate Survey. The results will build upon the university’s 2016 survey to help us better understand our students’ campus experience and enhance programs and services that foster a campus environment where everyone feels like they belong.

Early Survey Results

This summary describes some of the early findings and trends from the 2021 Campus Climate Survey, emphasizing core measures of campus climate, and highlights some areas where reported perceptions changed between 2016 and 2021.

All enrolled students (undergraduate, graduate, professional, and special) were invited to participate. The students who completed the survey were representative of the overall student population. Full survey results will be available later in 2022 (see timeline).


Students’ perceptions of campus climate in most areas did not change much from 2016 to 2021. Overall, students continued to report a generally positive experience of campus climate at UW–Madison, with most students feeling welcome, respected, and safe on campus.

Student responses also remained generally the same in the following areas:

  • feeling respected in class by faculty/instructors and other students
  • feeling comfortable approaching teaching assistants and faculty with questions or concerns
  • finding others to study and socialize with
  • experiencing or witnessing hostile, harassing, or intimidating behavior
  • perceptions of UW–Madison’s commitment to diversity

However, results from the survey also reflected some of the same challenges from the 2016 survey. Students from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups consistently responded less favorably.

General Feelings on Campus

  • Overall, students’ general feelings on campus were broadly positive. Most students reported very or extremely often feeling welcome (74%), respected (76%), and safe (77%). About 61% of students reported very or extremely often feeling like they belong, and 57% of students reported never or rarely feeling excluded. This was about the same as in 2016.
  • Students of color, students with disabilities, nonbinary students, transgender students, and other LGBTQ+ students responded less positively than their counterparts. The gap in reported perceptions between these students and other students did not change between 2016 and 2021.
  • There were few differences in student responses by school/college, student level, full-time/part-time status, or students’ religious or political views.

Hostile, Harassing, or Intimidating Behavior

  • In 2021, 23% of students reported ever witnessing hostile, harassing, or intimidating behavior at UW–Madison, and 14% said they had personally experienced such behavior at UW–Madison. These were about the same as in 2016.
  • Students with disabilities, nonbinary students, transgender students, and other LGBTQ+ students were more likely than other students to report ever witnessing or experiencing hostile, harassing, or intimidating behavior at UW–Madison. Students of color were more likely to report experiencing hostile, harassing, or intimidating behavior. These gaps were similar to those reported in 2016.

What Changed?

While student views and experiences of campus climate were often comparable to the first survey in 2016, there were some notable changes in 2021.


  • Student comfort contacting the UW–Madison Police declined significantly. In the previous survey, half of students (53%) reported feeling very or extremely comfortable contacting UWPD if they had a problem. By 2021, that dropped to 40%. Based on a preliminary review, most of the qualitative feedback referenced general concerns about law enforcement and policing issues.
  • About 15% of students reported seriously considering leaving UW–Madison this semester, which was consistent with 2016. However, among those students that seriously considered leaving, the campus climate or culture was more frequently reported as a reason in 2021 (56%) compared to 2016 (40%).


  • Students reported feeling differently about being asked to represent the point of view of their identity in class between 2016 and 2021. In 2016, 41% of students reported feeling negatively about being expected to represent the point of view of their identity in class, while 27% reported feeling positively. In 2021 those percentages flipped: 21% reported feeling negatively and 45% reported feeling positively about the expectation.
  • Undergraduate students reported feeling their comments and questions were more respected by their teaching assistants in 2021. The percentage of students who reported feeling that comments or questions were extremely respected by their teaching assistants in class increased from 24% in 2016 to 39% in 2021.

Survey Details


Oct. 19, 2021 Survey opens
Nov. 8, 2021 Survey closes
Dec. 2021 UW Survey Center delivers raw survey data
Spring 2022 DDEEA reports high-level, preliminary results
May 2022 Campus Climate Survey Task Force begins reviewing results
Fall 2022 DDEEA publishes technical report
Fall 2022 Task Force publishes findings and recommendations
Fall 2022 Implementation Team begins carrying out recommendations


The Office of Strategic Diversity Planning and Research (OSDPR) administers the Student Campus Climate Survey in conjunction with the UW Survey Center. OSDPR staff will produce a technical report with the survey findings.

The Campus Climate Survey Task Force will review the technical report and develop a set of recommendations for ways to improve the campus climate. The Campus Climate Survey Implementation Team will then be responsible for carrying out those recommendations.


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