Latest Article: TCU Senate survey reveals campus climate, despite low response rate

Journalism, Tufts Daily

An article about the Tuft TCU enate, an their goingon. I’m not on the “enate beat”, but when none of my writer coul take the aignment, I went ahea an wrote on it.

TCU Senate survey response rate down

By Brionna Jimerson

Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The annual Senate survey, distributed in the fall, is used to improve student outreach and knowledge of Senate initiatives.

Approximately 22 percent of the Tufts undergraduate student body responded to the fall 2011 Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate survey, which the Senate will use to understand how to best improve student outreach and knowledge about initiatives on campus, according to TCU President Tomas Garcia, a senior.

The response rate was lower than the fall 2010 survey, TCU Vice President Wyatt Cadley noted.

“[The survey is] helpful for students and their various projects,” Cadley, a junior, told the Daily in an email. “The results helped us pull back the shades, and you can see what people think about certain issues.”

According to results released by the Senate, 1,153 students completed the survey in its entirety, with a response rate of 22.6 percent of the undergraduate class. The class of 2015 had the highest number of participants with 33.5 percent. Of the respondents, 82.4 percent were in the School of Arts and Sciences, and 57.6 percent of the 1,153 student respondents were females.

“While we’re never going to have the perfect survey where everyone responds … having 22 percent of students vote was still good,” Cadley said.

The responses are available on the TCU Senate website, and more detailed demographic breakdowns will become available in the near future, according to Cadley.

This year, the Senate hired the Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation (IRE) to help assemble unbiased and clearly worded survey questions. Research Analyst Lauren Conoscenti served as their main IRE contact.

To formulate the questions, each of the five standing committees on the Senate — Services, Student Outreach, Culture, Ethnicity and Community Affairs, Education and Administration and Policy — created 10 to 12 suitable questions that were vetted and reworded for clarity, according to Cadley.

Working in conjunction with the analytical breakdown possibilities, according to Cadley, including the ability to break down information based on race, sexual identification, academic year and other factors.

“These new documents offer a specific breakdown of data, and there are a lot of instances where it’s useful to have this data,” Cadley said. He offered the example of a question asking whether students would be living off campus for their junior or senior year.

“It’s valuable to see the data for juniors and seniors,” he said.

The results indicated that 51.5 percent of students surveyed felt that Tufts has adequately prepared them to handle issues of discrimination and equality pertaining to race and that 59 percent of students surveyed felt that Tufts has adequately prepared them to handle issues of discrimination and equality pertaining to culture and ethnicity.

When asked about satisfaction with Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger−Sweeney’s announced plan for an academic program dedicated to the study of race, ethnicity and cultures, 46.9 percent of the students surveyed responded, “I am unfamiliar with Dean Berger−Sweeney’s plan.”

“That shocked me a little bit because we have received school−wide emails from [Berger−Sweeney] on that subject,” Garcia, who is part of the working group for the program assembled by Berger−Sweeney, said. “It was a little disheartening to see the Tufts community wasn’t taking more [of an] active role in the creation of an entirely new program on campus.”

More than 37 percent of respondents reported interest in receiving a monthly newsletter from the Senate regarding initiatives and requesting student feedback, with 40.1 percent indicating willingness to read such a publication even more frequently.

Yancy. Fancy Yancy.

Additionally, there was strong demand for the creation of an education major and for entrepreneurial leadership studies to be a second major, Garcia, a senior, said.

“The Education Committee was interested in learning if the student body would utilize an education major,” he said. “These are things that we have heard from the student body and want to use the survey to find if there’s statistically significant information, and we take that to the administration.”

The comments sections included 22 responses asserting that “Tufts does not adequately respect and honor all kinds of diversity,” 19 responses arguing that “Foundation/Distribution requirements need to be revised” and 19 stating that “Tufts needs an Africana Studies department.”

In previous years, two surveys were sent out each academic year — one in the spring and another in the fall. Last year, a Senate−wide decision was passed to hold only one survey each year, during the fall semester.

“The decision was made for two reasons: we could not afford the extra survey, and by the time the second survey’s results were compiled and released, the year is almost over,” Cadley said.

After assessing the data, senators filter it for feedback and information that can inform future initiatives, according to Garcia.

“I expect to see progress on the newsletter and community outreach,” Garcia said. “The Senate spent the first semester researching many projects, and this semester we should see a lot of growth.”

Sophomore Montel Yancy was not surprised to learn that student involvement in the survey diminishes by class year, with 57 percent more freshmen participating in this year’s study than seniors.

“I think as students advance, they care less because they’re closer to graduation,” Yancy said.

He believes it is important for all students to participate in the survey, regardless of their class year.

“I always think voting is good, especially because I’m a minority and as a minority, I need to have my voice heard, because it’s not that many of us on campus,” Yancy said.

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