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Press Release

Contact: Debra Humphreys
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs

College Students and Faculty Call for Greater Focus on Personal and Social Responsibility

New National Survey Reveals Perceptions About Academic Integrity, Learning from Others, and Obligations to a Larger Community

Washington, DC -- April 17, 2008 -- The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released today a report on initial findings (pdf) from a national survey administered on twenty-three college campuses as part of its initiative, Core Commitments: Educating Students for Personal and Social Responsibility.  The climate survey -- The Personal and Social Responsibility Institutional Inventory (PSRII) -- was administered in the Fall of 2007 by Eric L. Dey and Associates, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan. It examines perceptions of how well campus environments encourage five dimensions of personal and social responsibility: striving for excellence; cultivating personal and academic integrity; contributing to a larger community; taking seriously the perspectives of others; and developing competence in ethical and moral reasoning.

“We are heartened to see how strongly individuals on these campuses -- students, faculty, and administrators alike -- believe that personal and social responsibility should be a major focus of college learning and life today,” said AAC&U Senior Vice President and Project Director, Caryn McTighe Musil.  “AAC&U is committed to helping all college students achieve a set of essential learning outcomes -- including personal and social responsibility, which is so necessary to being conscientious workers, citizens, community members, and mature adults.  The findings from the survey map new territory where higher education needs to invest in order to meet this goal more effectively.”

Selected Key Findings from the Report, “Should Colleges Focus More on Developing Students’ Personal and Social Responsibility?”:

  • Across all the groups surveyed, a majority believe that personal and social responsibility should be a major focus of attention at their own college or university.  Support for this  view increases to more than 90 percent when those who “strongly agree” and those who “agree somewhat” are combined.
  • Many of those surveyed, however, do not believe that these issue are, in fact currently a major focus on their campuses.  For example, 4 out of 10 students and 3 out of 10 campus professionals “strongly agreed” that “striving for excellence” was a major focus    on their campus.
  • Nearly 60 percent of first-year students, but only 44.4 percent of faculty members and 46   percent of seniors “strongly agree” that helping students develop a strong sense of personal and academic integrity is a major focus of their college or university.
  • Students and campus professionals do believe that students make progress on these issues while in college.  For example, more than half of students surveyed report that students leave college having developed their “capacity to learn from diverse perspectives” and their “understanding of personal integrity.”  Fewer campus professionals (about 40 percent), however, “strongly agree” that students make progress in these areas.
  • Only 33.6 percent of students and 42.7 percent of professionals “strongly agreed” that students leave college having increased their “awareness of the importance of contributing to the greater good.”

“Nearly all colleges and universities publicly profess their commitment to such issue as academic integrity and civic engagement,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider.  “This survey demonstrates clearly that we have much work to do to turn these aspirations into achievements for many more students.  It also shows, however, that students and campus professionals alike want more attention paid to these issues.  They know that the future of our communities and nation depend on how well we create campuses where all students strive for excellence and develop a commitment to civic engagement and integrity in all they do.”

The report released today provides findings from data collected across all the campuses that comprise the Core Commitments Leadership Consortium (see full report for list of Leadership Consortium Institutions).  All these institutions are using their own individual campus findings to spur campus dialogue and action.  The data and dialogues about them will inform the development of programs and practices that expand, deepen, and assess the education for personal and social responsibility they are providing to their undergraduate students.

“The Core Commitments Leadership Consortium campuses are to be applauded for their courage in taking a hard look at themselves with this survey,” said Lee Knefelkamp, senior fellow at AAC&U and co-author of the PSRII.  “All these institutions are, in fact, participating in this project because they are already working hard on these issues, but know that they should be doing better.  Their students and the society they serve deserve no less.”

About Core Commitments

Core Commitments: Educating Students for Personal and Social Responsibility aims to reclaim and revitalize the academy’s role in fostering students’ development of personal and social responsibility.  It is designed to help campuses create learning environments in which all students reach for excellence in the use of their talents, take responsibility for the integrity and quality of their work, and engage in meaningful practices that prepare them to fulfill their obligations as students in an academic community and as responsible global and local citizens.  It is supported by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation ( and is a signature AAC&U initiative designed to advance one of four outcome areas identified as essential in AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.  Over the course of 2008-09, AAC&U will issue additional reports on data collected as part of the PSRII.

About the PSRI Inventory

The PSRII is a campus climate survey developed as part of the Core Commitments initiative.  It is designed to gauge participants’ perceptions about the opportunities for learning and engagement with issues of personal and social responsibility across an institution.  The PSRII was developed in 2006 under the direction of Lee Knefelkamp and Richard Hersh with research assistance from Lauren Ruff.  The inventory consists of three types of questions about the five dimensions, tailored for each of the four constituent groups:

  • Attitudinal items: participants choose the degree to which they agree with a statement about the institution (choosing from Strongly Agree, Agree Somewhat, Disagree Somewhat, Strongly Disagree, No Basis for Judgment)
  • Behavioral items: participants choose the degree to which they experience a particular phenomenon at the institution (choosing from Frequently, Occasionally, Never)
  • Open-ended items: participants provide text related to experiences, programs, and practices at the institution that help students to develop personal and social responsibility.

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises nearly 1,300 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education and inclusive excellence at both the national and local levels, and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.