In May 2021 an email invitation was sent out to 7,140 Stanford undergraduates, inviting them to participate in the IDEAL DEI survey. By the time the survey closed in June, 2,099 undergraduate invitees (29%) had completed the survey.
Demographics of Respondents
Primary purposes of the IDEAL DEI survey included collecting new and more detailed information about who we are as a community and exploring how race and ethnicity shape the experiences of community members at Stanford. For example, the IDEAL survey asked undergraduate student participants questions about gender identity, socio-economic background, disability, and more. Below are several examples of new information about the demographics and identities represented among the undergraduates who responded to the survey. We encourage you to explore the survey data further in the IDEAL Survey Demographics Dashboards. You can also find information for the full undergraduate population on the IDEAL Dashboard, which displays diversity data from university records (and does not incorporate data from this survey).
Undergraduate survey respondents generally resemble the overall racial and ethnic distribution of the student body when comparing the seven broad racial or ethnic categories included on the survey (respondents were asked to check all of the categories that apply from the following list: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Asian American, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino/a, Middle Eastern or North African, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and White or European) to university records (see the IDEAL Student Dashboard). However, this survey approached collecting racial or ethnic identity information differently than the federal race and ethnicity categories used in the IDEAL dashboards and other university reporting. For example, the survey added the category of Middle Eastern or North African to the broad racial or ethnic categories with which respondents can identify. In addition to selecting one or more broad categories, the survey prompted students to write in as much specific detail as they desired regarding their racial or ethnic identities. The survey also asked respondents to provide information about their country of origin and religious identity.
On the survey overall, 20% of undergraduates indicated two or more racial or ethnic identity categories (for example, 132 respondents indicated both Hispanic or Latino/a and White or European identities), and 64% of undergraduates wrote in additional details in addition to checking one or more of the seven main categories listed (for example, Chinese, Mexican, or Indian). You can see some of the most common combinations of racial or ethnic identities in the DEI Survey Demographics dashboards.
Gender & Sexual Identity
When asked to describe their gender identity, 7% of undergraduate respondents identified as at least one of the following responses: gender nonconforming, genderqueer, nonbinary, questioning, or trans. With regard to sexual identity, 34% identified as something other than singularly “heterosexual or straight.” For example, 15% identified as bisexual, either selecting only bisexual or in combination with other sexual identities. When exploring the intersection of gender and sexual identity, 35% of undergraduate survey respondents reported combinations of identities other than a heterosexual/straight man or heterosexual/straight woman.
On the IDEAL DEI Survey Demographic dashboards, you can view additional demographic and identity characteristics of survey respondents, and their intersections, including:
- Religious or spiritual identity
- Parents’ educational background (to designate “first gen” students)
- Self-identified as coming from a low-income background
Inclusion and Sense of Belonging at Stanford
The survey covered several different aspects that might contribute to a respondent’s overall experience of inclusion or sense of belonging at Stanford: feeling valued; finding groups, communities, or spaces of inclusion or exclusion; and general aspects of psychological safety while participating in day-to-day activities associated with a respondent’s role at Stanford.
Inclusion and Exclusion
Among undergraduate survey respondents, 88% indicated having found at least one community, group, or space at Stanford where they feel welcome. This finding was relatively consistent across all racial or ethnic identities. In the follow-up question that asked students to provide places where they felt welcome at Stanford, many undergraduates identified community centers, student clubs, and organizations, as well as other types of identity and activity-based groups.
While 88% of undergraduates indicated they found at least one welcoming space at Stanford, 47% of undergraduates indicated at least one place where they felt marginalized or excluded. More than 75% of undergraduate survey respondents who identified as gender nonconforming, genderqueer, nonbinary, or trans indicated encountering places where they felt marginalized or excluded (see chart below). When disaggregated by race and ethnicity, 61% of Black or African American and Middle Eastern or North African and 56% of Hispanic or Latino/a undergraduates indicated feeling marginalized or excluded in at least one place at Stanford.
(Psychological safety definition may be found on the Definitions page.)
The survey asked a set of questions to gauge undergraduates’ feelings of respect and safety in their classes at Stanford:
- Over 45% of undergraduate respondents who identified as nonbinary (52%), genderqueer (48%), or trans (47%) agreed that they “often feel under scrutiny by the people in my classes.”
- Forty-five percent (45%) of undergraduate respondents who identified as Native Hawiian or Pacific Islander and 42% of Black or African American undergraduates agreed that they “feel as though I have to work harder than my classmates to be treated fairly.”
You can explore these findings in the Belonging and Inclusion dashboards.
Experience with Microaggression, Discriminatory Behaviors, and Harassing Behaviors
The survey asked about individuals' experiences with microaggression, discriminatory, and harassing behaviors. (You can find out more about how the survey asked about these experiences in the FAQ document). Experiences with these behaviors at Stanford were broadly present across undergraduate survey respondents in most majors at Stanford. Overall, 55% of undergraduate survey respondents experienced at least one of these behaviors within the last two years. However, that figure is much higher for undergraduates who indicated particular racial or ethnic identities. The chart below shows the percentage of survey respondents who experienced each of these different types of behaviors broken out by racial or ethnic identity.
Before discussing the prevalence of these experiences it is important to highlight the impact that undergraduate survey respondents indicated that these experiences had on them. Survey respondents could select from a list of possible consequences of these experiences (see the survey instrument for the complete list).
- 76% of undergraduates experienced microaggression, discriminatory, verbal or physical harassing behaviors indicated at least one impact from these experiences.
- 13% of undergraduates who experienced microaggression, 32% who experienced verbal harassing behaviors, and 46% who experienced at least one discriminatory behavior felt their experiences interfered with their academic performance.
- Subsequent to their experiences, 26% of impacted undergraduates felt uncomfortable voicing their opinion, 32% felt ostracized or excluded, and 25% made changes to their daily routine.
“Microaggression” is used as a term for commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups (Sue 2010). Racial microaggressions are “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to people of color because they belong to a racial minority group”(Sue et al 2007).
The word “microaggression” itself never appeared on the survey. Rather, respondents were asked whether they experienced specific types of behaviors during the last two years by someone associated with Stanford, such as:
- Someone invalidated your lived experience due to your racial or ethnic identity,
- Someone assumed you were inferior due to your racial or ethnic identity,
- Someone acted as if they were afraid or wary of you due to your racial or ethnic identity, or
- Someone made you feel othered or exoticized due to your racial or ethnic identity.
Each of these questions also listed several concrete examples of these behaviors. In this report, we use the collective term microaggression to describe any of these experienced behaviors.
The percent of survey respondents that indicated they experienced microaggressions ranged widely across demographic groups - particularly by race and ethnicity. For example, the chart below shows that 66% of Black or African American undergraduate respondents experienced at least one form of microaggression. Of students who identified with racial or ethnic identities other than (or in addition to) White or European, 44% to 61% experienced microaggressions.
When asked about their relationship to the perpetrators of microaggressions, 65% of undergraduate respondents indicated a classmate was a perpetrator. (See this Microaggressions, Harassing, and Discriminatory Behaviors page for more detail). Sixteen percent (16%) of undergraduates who experienced microaggressions indicated that it was a faculty member or instructor who was a perpetrator.
(Discriminatory behaviors definition may be found on the Definitions page.)
Survey respondents were directly asked, during the last two years, “have you ever experienced discriminatory behaviors by someone associated with Stanford?” For example:
- Graded unfairly by a professor or instructor,
- Discouraged from pursuing a particular major,
- Denied or overlooked for a mentorship opportunity,
- Denied necessary accommodations.”
Overall, 19% of undergraduate survey respondents indicated that they had experienced discriminatory behaviors by someone associated with Stanford. 31% of American Indian or Alaska Native, 30% of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 25% of Black or African American, undergraduate respondents indicated that they experienced discriminatory behaviors by someone associated with Stanford.
If a respondent indicated having experienced discriminatory behaviors, they were then presented with the following text:
- Of those undergraduates who experienced discriminatory behaviors, 34% felt it was due to their racial or ethnic identity and an additional 23% were uncertain.
- 59% of Black or African American undergraduates who indicated experiencing discriminatory behaviors felt these behaviors were due to their racial or ethnic identity, while an additional 22% were uncertain.
Of those undergraduate students who experienced discriminatory behaviors that they believed were due to their racial or ethnic identity, 45% indicated that they had been discouraged or denied from participation in a club or social organization, 40% indicated that they had been graded unfairly, and 30% indicated that they had been discouraged from pursuing a major.
Verbal, Written, or Online Harassing Behaviors
Survey respondents were asked:
During the last two years you have been a student at Stanford (or fewer, depending on when you first enrolled), have you ever experienced verbal, written, or online harassing behaviors by someone associated with Stanford? For example:
- Someone made a derogatory remark or gesture in person or online
- Someone sent me a derogatory email, text, or social media post
- Someone defaced property with derogatory graffiti
- I was embarrassed, humiliated, or threatened by someone in person or online
Overall, 23% of undergraduate survey respondents indicated having experienced verbal, written, or online harassing behaviors within the past two years. When breaking out this statistic by demographic:
- Undergraduates who identified as having a disability disabled experienced verbal harassing behaviors at a higher rate (45%) than undergraduates that did not identify as having a disability disabled (20%).
- Thirty two percent (32%) of undergraduates who identified as LGBTQ+, 20% who identified as heterosexual women, and 15% who identified as heterosexual men had experienced these harassing behaviors.
- First generation undergraduates indicated a higher rate of harassing behaviors (28%) than continuing generation undergraduates (21%).
- Undergraduates who identified as coming from a low income background indicated a higher rate of harassing behaviors (30%) than peers who did not come from a low income background (19%).
When asked about their relationship to the perpetrators of these harassing behaviors, 62% of undergraduate respondents indicated a classmate was the perpetrator. (See this Microaggressions, Harassing and Discriminatory Behaviors page for more detail).
Physical Harassing Behaviors
The survey question asking about physical harassing behaviors listed as examples:
- I was threatened with physical violence
- I experienced physical violence
- Someone tried to touch me without my consent
- I was touched in a way that I did not want
For undergraduate students, findings from this survey about physical harassing behaviors largely parallel the findings from the 2019 AAU Survey on non-consensual sexual contact. The 53% of the 521 respondents to the survey that indicated experiences with physical harassing behaviors over the past two years at Stanford were undergraduates. Undergraduates who identified as women and particularly undergraduates who identified as trans and/or nonbinary and gender non-conforming were much more likely to have experienced physical harassing behaviors than undergraduates who identified as men.
- Thirty-two percent (32%) of undergraduate survey respondents who identified as non-binary indicated they experienced some form of physical harassing behavior at Stanford in the past two years.
- Twenty-eight percent (28%) of undergraduates who identified as trans indicated they experienced physical harassing behavior at Stanford in the past two years.
- Eighteen-percent (18%) of undergraduates who identified as women indicated they experienced physical harassing behavior.
- Fifty percent (50%) of undergraduates who experienced physical harassing behaviors indicated they believed it was due to their gender identity and/or trans identity.
- Of these, 94% said that the behaviors were a form of non-consensual sexual contact.
Impacts Among Undergraduates
When asked about the impact of their experiences with microaggression, discriminatory, or harassing behaviors:
- 32% of undergraduates felt ostracized or excluded,
- 26% felt uncomfortable voicing their opinions,
- 25% changed their daily routine, and
- 24% had difficulty concentrating on academics.
When asked about the impacts directly associated with each of the four experiences surveyed:
- Of undergraduates who experienced microaggressions, approximately 60% indicated that they experienced some sort of significant impact as result of these behaviors. The most commonly cited impact was “Created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive social, academic, or work environment.” (28%)
- Of undergraduates who experienced verbal harassing behaviors, approximately 80% indicated that they experienced some sort of significant impact as result of these behaviors. The most commonly cited impact was “Created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive social, academic, or work environment” (53%).
- Of undergraduates who experienced discriminatory behaviors, approximately 90% indicated that they experienced some sort of significant impact as result of these behaviors. The most commonly cited impact was “Interfered with your academic or professional performance” (46%).
For More Information
We encourage you to explore the survey findings by viewing dashboards on:
Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Wiley. pp. xvi. ISBN 978-0-470-49140-9.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice. American psychologist, 62(4), 271.