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Minority students report strong support from veterinary schools, but racism and sexism remain, study says

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May 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff
Washington — One in five female veterinary students has heard faculty members use sexist language, according to a new report from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

Two-thirds of veterinary students reported that "underrepresented veterinary medical students" receive high or very high levels of support from their schools.

“Overall, the results are good, but there are some reasons for concern, and there are pockets of information and bits and pieces that cause us to raise our eyebrows and ask why,” says Lisa Greenhill, AAVMC’s associate executive director for institutional research and diversity.

While nearly 83 percent of veterinary students said there was a strong support system within their school, 35 percent said they did not have a faculty of staff member to confide in, the report adds. The numbers are higher for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, AAVMC says.

“The data don’t reveal why these students do not connect with faculty or staff in this way like their student colleagues,” Greenhill says. “LGBT students may not feel safe with faculty and staff for some reason.” AAVMC notes that while 81 percent of veterinary students who completed the survey said they knew an LGBT student, while only 6.7 percent of survey respondent reported being a member of the LGBT student population. AAVMC is planning a follow-up, more qualitative study on LGBT students in veterinary colleges to make sense of some of the discrepancies in the initial campus climate study, Greenhill says.

In addition, 21 percent of female students reported hearing sexist comments from faculty members. While fellow students were the primary source for harassing comments, AAVMC notes that faculty members had the second highest incidence of making sexist comments.

Overall, 14 percent of the students who participated in the study said they had experienced some form of harassment, with 77 percent of those students reporting the harassment occurred on campus. Nearly 90 percent of those students said they did not report the harassment to anyone.

AAVMC says the study, which surveyed more than 5,000 students at the nation’s 28 veterinary colleges in April 2011, identifies “developmental opportunities” for veterinary schools. The full study will be published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.”