Opinions, Editorials

Student Experience Survey De-emphasizes Important Questions

Boston College released its Student Experience Survey, which aims to measure how supportive and inclusive the BC community is, on Oct. 29. Students have until Dec. 20 to complete the survey. According to the FAQs, the survey launched as a result of a collaboration between the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and the administration after the “racist social media post and the defacement of several Black Lives Matter signs in a University residence hall” last year. More generally, the stated goal of the survey is “to gain a better understanding of undergraduate students and their experiences at Boston College.” Individual results of the survey remain confidential, and completion is not mandatory.

The survey seems well-intentioned, especially if BC takes the results seriously. In order for the survey to actually affect change, however, it is imperative that all results are released, regardless of their reflection on the University.

Some questions on the survey should have been better developed. With only two open-ended questions on a questionnaire with over 100 questions, the space for open-ended feedback is limited. The arrangement of the survey seemed more like an overall experience survey, as the description would imply, rather than a survey designed to directly address the results of racism on campus, which the University cited as a catalyst for the development and release of the survey. A poll-style section asks students to rank the importance of certain aspects of the University, all under the same direction: “Please indicate how important the program, service or experience is to you.” Choices ranged from study abroad and intramural sports, to health and counseling services, to financial aid services. These programs are hardly comparable on levels of importance. Another section asked students to state whether they had witnessed or been a victim of a variety of harassment based on things like gender, race, and sexual orientation, and had no apparent follow ups to these questions.

It is unclear why BC chose to group important issues like counseling services and the availability of the financial aid office with other services like bus availability and intramural sports. Other loaded statements, such as “I am concerned about my physical appearance” and “I feel pressure to fit in with my peers” were featured in a poll-style from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree,” and seemed disconnected from some other questions surrounding it. Students need more freedom to fully explain their thoughts given the array of potential answers to these kinds of questions. Leaving students without an opportunity to respond thoroughly could lead to overgeneralized conclusions given the wide interpretability of the questions.

The incentive to complete the survey was a raffle for one of six different Amazon gift cards. Compared to Boston University’s survey offering each student who completed it $5 on their student cards, the incentive could have been altered to produce a higher and potentially more accurate response. BU’s response rate to that survey was 52 percent. When offering no incentive, the University of Chicago’s similar study yielded a 29 percent overall student response rate.

The board applauds the intention of the survey. Results must be released and lead to consequential actions before anything definite can be said about the questionnaire itself. Given that 33 percent of the Class of 2022 identify as AHANA+, it is paramount that BC continues to focus on improving the experiences of all its students, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and (dis)ability.

Featured Graphic by Ikram Ali / Graphics Editor

December 3, 2018

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