Conclusive results for Climate Survey? – Editorial

In October and November of 2009, the Allegheny Climate Steering Committee sent out a 109-question survey to the student body.

The purpose of this much-anticipated survey was to gauge how students, faculty and staff feel about our college environment, focusing on our “perceptions of institutional actions, including administrative policies and academic initiatives regarding climate issues and concerns,” according to the Executive Summary.

The entire campus was e-mailed the survey. Fifty-five percent were completed. Of that 55 percent, 71 percent represented the student body with a total of 834 students responding. While 834 isn’t a bad number, it isn’t a good number, either.

Everybody complains about Allegheny from time to time. No school is flawless and the longer you stay in one place, the easier it is to pinpoint weaknesses. The mark of a good institution is its willingness to shed light on the areas in desperate need of improvement. Therefore, the point of Allegheny’s Climate Survey was to approximate what changes need to be instigated in order to combat student issues-some of which are well-known, and others that are equally important but hidden away.

“College campuses are complex social systems,” announces the first line of the Executive Summary. This couldn’t be more true, and statistically speaking we gave the those involved in distributing and analyzing the survey enough data to do their job.

The fact of the matter is, as students we didn’t do ours.

Less than half of the student body stood up and gave voice to their concerns.

Out of every person surveyed, there were 43 People of Color to the 1,102 White respondents and just 173 people “identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, asexual or questioning; 980…identified as heterosexual.”

Is this a good representation of our campus? Does this truly signify our numbers?

How can we know, when less than half of the student body responded, and the numbers stated above include faculty and staff as well?

When we walk through the halls, go to events and club meetings, see our friends, what do we say when we discuss Allegheny? Nine times out of ten, when you fill out your RSEs, are you truly okay with how your class went?

Ninety percent of the students surveyed said they were happy with their educational experience here. Is that true, or are we just unwilling to stand up and say what we really think?

It is true that those who complain are more vocal than those who are content. However, we have personally heard more than ten percent of the student population voice concerns about their educational experience.

The Executive Summary concludes with the “Qualitative Findings” section. The summary states that “[the results] parallel those in similar investigations where People of Color, women, sexual minorities, and people with disabilities tend to feel that the institution is not addressing systemic, structural, and informal issues as favorably as for their White, male, heterosexual, and able-bodied respondents.”

When we are given the opportunity to let our opinions be heard, we should take advantage of it and say what we really think.

In the meantime, we are grateful that the Steering Committee began the process of hearing out the college community’s concerns.