Opinion Asks: Community Study

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 10/27/15 8:48pm

We asked our opinion staffthe question: "How useful will the College’s Community Study be? What do you think of the questions being asked and the survey’s setup?"

The problem with sending out a campus-wide survey is that it will not return data from the campus that it intended to gauge. Rather, because of self-reporting and the self-selection of survey takers, the results will likely be incomplete and not representative of the range of opinions and feedback from the entire student population. This is a problem with collecting survey data in general, but if Dartmouth really wants responses from all students, survey completion should be made mandatory to view online grades, much like course assessments are. Sure, many students will not fill out the survey with diligence if they are forced to do it — but that is better than using a distorted sample.

—Reem Chamseddine ’17

The Community Study is the first of its kind in the College’s history. This fact certainly will make completing the survey and seeing the recommendations by Rankin and Associates worthwhile, despite issues of self-reporting and lack of identity verification. This problem could only be remedied by reneging on the promise of anonymity, which is extremely important to those students who would not share their experiences otherwise. While I would assume students who have more critical or negative perspectives to share would, in general, be more likely to complete the survey, I do not believe this is necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, these critical perspectives, coupled with anonymity, will allow Rankin to formulate actionable recommendations to administrators so they can remedy some of the issues faced by respondents. Rankin has conducted similar studies for many renowned universities, including the University of California system. Undoubtedly, they will provide the College with excellent recommendations — if students are willing to take the time to complete the survey.

—Anmol Ghavri ’18

I believe the Community Study will shed light on some basic flaws in the Dartmouth community’s current state. The survey takes 15 to 30 minutes to complete, however, and a session cannot be saved for later. Moreover, the results of the study will not be available until next Spring — and even then, substantive changes in response are unlikely to follow immediately. With all this in mind, it is no surprise that most students find the survey irrelevant — and if not irrelevant, then, at the very least, low on their list of things to do.

—Ben Szuhaj ’19

Despite receiving a couple of reminders from a campus-wide blitz sent by Provost Carolyn Dever — who happens to be one of the section leaders for my Humanities I course — I was not motivated to take this survey until now. When I finally opened the survey, the first thing I noticed was the lack of authentication to verify my association with Dartmouth. Though I doubt students will jump at the opportunity to disseminate the link to a survey they may or may not know about, if Xfinity On Campus can set up an authorization method, then so should a study conducted by the Provost’s Office, especially since it is intended to gauge campus climate. Without a way to confirm the survey respondent’s affiliation with the College, the survey loses a bit of its credibility.

—Hansa Sharma ’19

I will be honest — I had not taken the survey before now and had to dig through my inbox to locate the email. As a ’19, it is jarring to continually analyze and reanalyze the life I have just entered. When my family and friends back home ask, I tell them — truthfully — I love it here, but you would not be able to tell from my survey responses. This leads me to wish there had been more questions about the positives of Dartmouth. What we are doing right is just as important as what we are doing wrong. In some cases, it might be even more enlightening.

I doubt we will be surprised by the results of the survey. We were asked what is wrong with Dartmouth, and we will probably hear about problems we have suspected all along. The data will spur no immediate change. Successful policy changes are how we must measure the efficacy of this survey — and that will take time. This is a dull prognosis, but with systemic campus problems, there is a point at which we cannot rely on outrage to fuel progress. Racism, sexism, classism and other prejudice die slow deaths — the key is to maintain a long-term perspective. I am not expecting great things from the survey, but we should all demand that the College act on its results.

—Steven Chun ’19

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